Historic "first silver dollar" of the Americas confirmed after 464 years
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(Beverly Hills, CA) - Coin dealer cousins, Ira and Larry Goldberg of
Beverly Hills, California, have confirmed the discovery of a centuries'
old treasure - a (1538) 8 reales of Spanish rulers Charles and Johanna,
the first silver dollar-sized coin minted in the Americas. It is a
numismatic missing link, and the first one publicly confirmed.
Although referred to in 16th century Spanish documents, until now
researchers had not publicly confirmed or published information about any
surviving examples of the coin that links the Old World of Europe and the
New World of the Americas. But the Goldbergs have acquired and verified
the first one in 464 years.
The coin will be displayed at the Long Beach Coin, Stamp &
Collectibles Expo in the Long Beach Convention Center, September 26 - 29.
"Hand-made under Spanish colonial rule in 1538 at the Mexico City
palace formerly used by conqueror, Hernando Cortez, this coin is the first
of the famous 'pieces of eight' produced in the New World," according
to the Goldbergs who are third generation coin collectors and dealers.
At their request, the coin was examined by Lawrence J. Lee, museum
curator of the merican Numismatic Association, and also verified by the
Professional Coin Grading Service which designated it as PCGS XF40.
"It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the
confirmation of the first large silver coin produced in colonial
America," said Lee. "This is one of the most exciting single
finds in American numismatics. That the coin was hand-struck literally in
the former home of Hernando Cortez underscores the point that this piece
is of great historical importance."
"The coin has been struck multiple times. In fact, the technical
problems of minting such a coin using the available technology mentioned
in the early Spanish reports are borne out by the crudeness of this coin
and its planchet," Lee stated.
"Unless the Mexico City mint could be technically more proficient
than this coin indicates, they could never have made a successful 8 reales
coin with the equipment they had; the invention of the coin screw press
being still several decades in the future. It would also have been too
large of a denomination for the local economy."
The coin weighs 26.0872 grams and the specific gravity, 10.2673, is
equivalent to .850 silver, according to ANA measurements.
"This eight-reales denomination coin is about the size of a U.S.
silver dollar, and was just too big and cumbersome to be easily produced
in a colonial mint. Only a few pieces were struck in 1538, and none
previously were known to still exist," explained Ira Goldberg who
acquired the coin earlier this year with Larry, his cousin and rare coin
Although well documented by Spanish officials when it was made, this
historic coin's whereabouts were publicly unknown for four centuries until
the Goldbergs unquestionably confirmed its existence and pedigree this
"This was acquired from an estate where it had been for decades;
never researched and unpublished. With the expertise and consultation of
top Latin American authorities it was recently recognized and attributed.
We acquired it; the 'missing numismatic link' of the Americas," said
Ira and Larry's grandfather started a Los Angeles coin and stamp
business in 1930. Over the years the cousins have bought and sold some of
the world's greatest numismatic rarities including more than $100 million
worth of recovered California Gold Rush sunken treasure from the legendary
"Ship of Gold," the S.S. Central America.
"We've handled virtually everything in the 'Red Book,' but this is
the most exciting single coin we've ever encountered. It was the first of
its kind produced in the Americas, and it symbolizes the enormous economic
and social changes that would unfold in the following centuries,"
said Larry Goldberg.
Although the coin has no discernable date, it was confirmed as minted
in 1538 because documents indicate it was commissioned by the King in late
1537 and also confirmed by prominent design features, explained Ira
Goldberg, a former president of the Professional Numismatists Guild.
"The initials of the assayer, Francisco del Rincon, appear on the
coin, and we know from official documents he only served a short time when
the small mint first opened at the massive home of Cortez in Mexico City.
Also there are other design elements only found on coins struck under the
royal edict of the Spanish King, Charles the First (Carlos), and his
Extensive documentation about the production of the coin dates back to
the meticulous records made in 1545 by the King's emissary, Francisco
Tello de Sandoval. He went to Mexico City to investigate alleged
corruption and theft of silver ore, and conducted extensive interviews
with mint officials and workers. His handwritten notes are preserved today
in the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain, and translated into
English in 1947. A 1955 monograph for the American Numismatic Society by
Robert I. Nesmith, "The Coinage of the First Mint of the Americas at
Mexico City, 1536 - 1572," focuses on Sandoval's detailed report.
While only a limited amount of 8 reales coins were produced in 1538,
Spanish officials made smaller 4 and 2 reales denomination pieces; known
as four bits and two bits. Those coins led to the slang term for today's
quarter-dollars, "two-bits." Eventually, thousands of
"pieces-of-eight" silver treasure coins were made over the
centuries in Latin America and circulated worldwide. They were commonly
used as pocket change in the United States until the mid-1800s.
"Stylistically, the coin is a combination of Nesmith's early and
late styles. The shape of the cartouche and the re-cutting of the letters
to a less gothic shape, as well as other indicators, would place the coin
around 1538. Our consensus is that the coin is a die trial," said
The newly authenticated coin is not for sale; the Goldbergs want to
enjoy the pride of ownership for a while.