Tag Archives: Trade Dollar

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)

US Philippine Peso – 1905 S Silver Trade Dollar

This silver peso is an unusual coin that is gaining attention among the US numismatic community. It was minted for the US Philippines, and the peso was the largest denomination made. American pesos circulated widely throughout Asia as trade coinage, and they are one of my favorite patterns among all US coins.

On the obverse, Liberty is shown pounding on the forge of freedom. It was designed by Melecio Figueroa and there is some speculation that the young Filipina woman shown on the coin was based on his daughter. She is wearing a flowing dress, similar to the garb of Liberty on other period coinage. The obverse of the coin shows Liberty in the act of one-handedly striking an anvil with a hammer while her other  hand holds an olive branch. In the background is Mt. Mayon, an active volcano with smoke billowing from the crater. On the upper edge of the coin is the denomination “One Peso” and on the lower perimeter is the word “Filipinas”.

The reverse design features an eagle perched on a shield with symbols from the American flag. At the upper rim are the words “United States of America” and at the bottom is the year of issue. To the left of the year is the mint mark (“S” for San Francisco). Coin with no mint marks were minted at the Philadelphia Mint.

US Philippines 1 Peso 1905 S ICCS certified VF-30 : Obverse, showing a scantily clad woman pounding on a forge

US Philippines 1 Peso 1905 S ICCS certified VF-30 : Obverse

US Philippines 1 Peso 1905 S ICCS certified VF-30 : Reverse, with an eagle sitting atop the American Territorial crest

US Philippines 1 Peso 1905 S ICCS certified VF-30 : Reverse

Identification code: KM 168

Date: 1905

Mint Mark: S (San Francisco)

Mintage: 6,056,000 (more than 99.99% of the pesos issued in 1905 were minted in San Francisco – there were only 471 proofs issued in Philadelphia without a mint mark)

Country of origin: United States / US Philippines Territory

Composition: 90% silver

Weight: 26.9568 grams (0.78 oz ASW)

Size: 38mm

Other details: This coin is encapsulated in a sealed myler flip from ICCS and graded VF-30.

This coin was minted in 2 varieties. The 1905 curved serif peso (which this is an example of) is far more common than the 1905 straight serif peso.

How do you tell them apart? In 1906, the tip of the number 1 in the date was changed. One, or at most two of the sixty dies that were being used to produce 1905 pesos was punched with this changed pattern in the short window when both types of coin punches were in use. So, around November of 1905, some pesos were punched with a sharp edged number 1. This is a tricky variety to identify, but if you look closely at the tip of the number one, you’ll see a slight concave curve pointing up and to the left.

This is a Type-I peso (KM 168): it was minted from 1903-1906 and had a higher silver content. The Type-II peso (KM 172) was minted from 1907-1912 and had only 80% silver (for a total silver weight of 0.5144 ounces).

I think conventional wisdom has it backwards about which side of these coins is the front and which is the back. It seems odd to me that the date is on the reverse… the side with the date is almost always the obverse in other coins. Can you think of any other coins where the date is on the reverse?

While pesos were in circulation (1903-1945), they could be redeemed at any time for US dollars at a fixed conversion rate of 2:1. That meant 1 peso was worth 50 cents. Which would you rather have – this crown sized silver coin, or a 1905 Barber half dollar?

Estimated value: $50-65, with some consideration given to the encapsulation due to the number of counterfeits on the market. Ungraded examples are available in the $40-55 price range.

Here is a well written page describing the similar 1906-S US Philippine peso.