Spanish 8 Reales | 1806 Pillar Dollar with Chopmarks

If you’ve ever seen a pirate movie with a chest full of gold, this is probably the style of treasure coin that was shown. Spain minted huge numbers of these silver dollars from the 1500s through the 1800s, and they were wildly popular worldwide.

This coin shows signs of extensive use. It is not only worn, but it also has strange markings that seem to have come from a hole punch. These are called chopmarks – they were made by silversmiths who tested the coin and then put their mark to vouch for the authenticity of the silver. Chopmarks were most commonly used in Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The obverse of the coin shows the portrait of Carolus IV (Charles the Fourth) of Spain, with the legend “Carolus IIII * Dei Gratia * 1806”. The portrait shows a rather well-fed man wearing a wreath and ribbons in his hair. He has a rather smug smile and a boxer’s nose.

The reverse of the dubloon shows the coat of arms of Charles IV of Spain. It is a shield topped with a crown, divided into four quadrants. On the shield, 4 symbols are marshalled, representing his paternal grandfather (a 3 turreted castle), maternal grandfather (a lion, rampant to the left), paternal grandmother (the same 3 turreted castle), and maternal grandmother (another lion, rampant to the left). This repetition of symbols suggests that the the family tree of the Spanish Royal was more of an inbred bush. This coin is often called a pillar dollar because of the two columns alongside the Hapsburg family shield.

Spain 1806 8 Reales Silver Coin : Obverse with Charles the fourth looking to the right

Spain 1806 8 Reales Silver Coin : Obverse

Spain 1806 8 Reales Silver Coin : Reverse with light chopmarking

Spain 1806 8 Reales Silver Coin : Reverse

Identification code: KM-109

Date: 1806

Mint Mark: M (with an “o” over it, often written as “Mo”): Mexico City

Mintage: unknown, but large

Country of origin: Colonial Mexico (Spanish Empire)

Composition: 89.6% silver

Size: 40mm in diameter

Weight: 27.0674 grams (although this coin is worn to about 26.5 grams)

Other details: The coin has approximately 40 chop marks on it. Some of the chopmarks appear to be multi-character, while others have been marked over with more recent hallmarks. This suggests many years of use, perhaps as long as a century in circulation.

I learned something interesting about Spanish Heraldry while researching this coin. The shape of the crown varied based on the title of the person represented. This crown is clearly the Sovereign Crown, but there were other distinct crowns used to represent the heir apparent, the infantes, duke, viscount, and other senior royals.

Also, the symbol that we use for dollars ($) may have come from the banner woven around the pillars on this Spanish coin. Coins like this were widely used in the Wild West due to a shortage of American silver in the 19th century.

Estimated value: $40-60 at the current silver market (~$30/ounce)

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