|Gold and Silver of the Atocha and Santa
Tuesday, June 14 and
Wednesday, June 15, 1988
Christie's New York
THE ATOCHA RESEARCH COIN COLLECTION
A Unique Representative Collection of
237 New World Spanish Coins recovered from the shipwreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha
In the knowledge that the overwhelming windfall of sixteenth and seventeenth century New World Spanish coins recovered from the Atocha would prove to be one of the most comprehensive single—source collections in numismatic history, Treasure Salvors specialists decided early on to reserve all unusual and exceptional coins for inclusion in a special research collection which would preserve a representative group of every type recovered. Most of the 237 silver coins which comprise this collection have been identified by painstaking research into existing sources.
As identification of the coins as they were recovered progressed. Certain facts came to light, notably the incidence within the larger collection of coins which had been struck over fifty years before in Lima, and the unexpected bounty of four distinct die designs which could only be attributed to the early (1621—1622) period of the mint at Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Previous discoveries had yielded a few two-reales pieces from the last period of the Lima mint (1577-1588) by assayer "D" (Diego de Ia Torre). They were immediately distinguishable as something unusual, with their carefully forged round and flat shape and their elegant die cutting. However, because they were found as singles or in small dumps in a sandy area of the ocean floor where they had been subjected to serious erosion. most of them were ragged and missing many details. But on examining the 7,000 odd coins contained in one intact chest recovered in 1985, researchers were gratified to find in the center of the aggregate well-preserved examples of coins by every assayer at the Lima mint from its opening in 1565 through 1588, the year of its closure.
The Lima coins alone would have made an invaluable collection. But as recoveries and discoveries continued, three new die designs never seen before appeared, matching in every respect the criteria previously developed for an attribution to Santa Fe de Bogotá.
In addition to the Limas and Santa Fe de Bogotá's, the collection includes representative strikes by every known assayer at the Mexico mint from the first Charles and Juana series down through dated examples up to 1620 examples. Including anomalies, from every assayer at the Potosi mint from its beginnings through 1620, including two, four, and eight reales examples of every date from 1617 (the earliest dated Potosi coins found on the Atocha) through 1622. Also included are examples of several types of period counterfeits.
Coins of the Atocha and Margarita
More than 180,000 coins have been recovered from the wrecks of Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita. This collection has given us an opportunity to see at first hand a selection of representative strikes from all the known New World mints operating from the time the Mexico mint was opened in 1535 to the time of the 1622 shipwrecks. Four reigns are covered: Charles and Juana, Philip II, Philip III, and Philip IV.
In order to understand the larger significance of this unique group, it is necessary to regard it as a gestalt—a microcosm in which is reflected all the essential elements of Spain’s conquest and early exploitation of the New World. The enormous range of different strikes horn different assayers from different periods in five separate New World mints gives us an opportunity to view, through the early exuberant development and comparatively rapid decline and degradation of die designs, the essential attitude of the seventeenth century Spaniard towards the wealth of silver available from the mines of Potosi.
A word on minting procedures. Coin blanks were cut from a planchet and struck with hand-held dies, which often caused a part (and sometimes a large part) of the original design of the cut surfaces of the dies to be missing on the coin. In addition, if the coin was overweight, portions were trimmed from the edge to bring the piece to standard weight, causing an even more irregular edge. The mint master, or assayer, responsible for the purity (930) and weight (28.73 grams for an eight-reales coin) purchased his office from the Spanish crown and was required to show his initial (usually the initial of his Christian name) on each coin he produced, so that short weights and irregularities could be traced.
The majority of the coins bearing Lima mint marks were recovered from a single chest, which when the conglomerate was broken down and cleaned, was found to contain some 7,000 coins, mostly of the 2-reales denomination. Of these coins, researchers have been able to identify numerous distinct die designs for each assayer, so that in very few cases will two coins be identical in design on both obverse and reverse. All the coins from this early period of the Lima mint are classified as rare. Those of assayers "R" with the early Charles and Juana shield, and assayers "M" or are listed as very rare in most catalogues.
Of all the coins discovered, the most beautifully designed and carefully struck are undoubtedly those which can with near certainty be attributed to the mint at Santa Fe de Bogotá. Documentation uncovered in the Archive of the Indies in Seville proves that one Alonso Turillo de Yebra was granted permission to open a mint in Cartagena in 1621. On going research into the collection begins with the theory that Turillo, who had encountered extreme resistance from the Governor of Cartagena in setting up his mint there and had removed with his staff and equipment to Santa Fe de Bogotá, was determined to demonstrate the excellence of his coinage, and in attempting to do so had prepared a variety of die designs of ‘presentation’ quality in order to solicit approval of Philip lV. Although standard in all other respects, neither the eight-reales "RN" nor the four-reales "S" pieces show a denomination. This omission is unexplained but has been observed in certain "pattern dies" from other mints. This would explain the extraordinary quality of these coins in comparison with those being minted at Potosi or Mexico. It is now known that Turillo was a passenger aboard one of the surviving ships of the 1622 Tietra Firrne fleet and was forced to return to Havana after the storm, where he waited until the following year for passage to Spain for his anticipated audience with the King.
By the end of 1986, the Atocha had yielded four distinct die designs on coins attributed to the Santa Fe de Bogotá mint, sortie examples of each dated 1622. To our knowledge, no coins minted in Santa Fe de Bogotá during the period 1621-1622 exist apart from those recovered from the Atocha and Margarita.
Turillo’s original charter
instructed him to
the mintmark RN on
minted in the NUEVO REINO, or
recovered from both the
this mintmark and the assayers initial "A." In 1986 a few four-reales coins
|Fig. 34 One of Alonso Turillo de Yebra’s coins minted at Santa Fe de Bogotá, lost on the Atocha, Turilic, a passenger on another ship of the fleet, survived and succeeded in reaching Spain the following year but lamented the loss of his specimen coins, on another ship of the fleet’ which probably included this superb four-reales example (lot 310).|
Shortly after the discovery of the main cargo hold of the Atocha in 1985, coins with a distinct "S" mintmark left, and assayer initial "A" right were found. All the coins attributed to Santa Fe de Bogotá are distinctive in that they bear the arms of Portugal. seen on no other coins minted in the New World, although this feature was common on Peninsular coins, An additional feature on the "S" four-reales pieces is the presence of the arms of Granada at the bottom of the shield, an unusual location seen only on coins minted in Seville during this period and at Santa Fe de Bogotá during the next decade.
Twelve two-reales coins showing the mintmark "S" over "F" but no assayer's initial were found late in 1985, for the most part in two chests. The reverse design is identical in every important respect to the four- and eight-reales examples.
Certain allusions in the documents of the period have it that Turillo took with him dies from Spain when he went to New Granada to set up his mint. Silver coins like these do not appear in any of the Spanish mints of the period. although the shield on the four-reales "S" coins and the two-reales "SF" pieces is almost identical to those of the dies used for minting gold coins in Seville. In the ease of the four-reales pieces, the "A" assayer mark, shown in the unusual location at the right of the shield, is identical in style to that of the eight-reales "RN" pieces. Also identical are the designs of the lions and castles shown on the reverse of all denominations, and the shapes of the letters and numerals. suggesting that they were done by the same die cutter.
Dies brought from Spain also seem to have been used to produce the few handsome gold coins from this mint that have been recovered from the Atocha. In view of the fact that they pre-date all other gold coins minted in the New World, the example presented here (lot 113) can truly be called the first gold coin of the Americas.
There was no "F" assayer in Seville during this period, and in view of the fact that later dies from the Santa Fe de Bogotá mint used the mintmark "SF." These coins seem clearly to have originated from the Bogota mint. We know that Turillo did mint all three denominations during the period 1621-1622, and that according to his own statement in a letter to Philip IV received in Madrid in September, 1623, he had minted 'coins of gold and silver with much more perfection than that which is minted in some of the ether mints’ and that the bulk of the coins he had minted during this period were lost on ‘one of the ships’ of the fleet that included the Atocha.
In addition to large quantities of common types, the 180,000 coins from the Atocha and Margarita have yielded other rarities apart from those Lima variations mentioned and the unique group of Santa Fe de Bogotá pieces. Included in this catalogue are a number of rare and unusual examples, including a small group of gold coinage. Also included is the Research Collection, a carefully selected grouping of the best of every type and variation recovered from the Atocha, This is discussed in greater detail on page 254. Together, the coins of the Atocha and the Margarita present us with one of the most comprehensive single-source collections in numismatic history.
Permission From The Bill & Dr Susan Pearson Research Collection Catalog
COINS OF ATOCHA:
The research coins of the Atocha were 237 of the very best coins that were found on the wreck. They were compiled as a study set. Never before has such a diverse set of coins come from one shipwreck. They were the best of the best that Atocha had to offer. Below are 22 of those 237 research collection coins, 22 of the best coins from Atocha! This is the largest group of these coins ever offered for sale at one time (aside from the original sale of the 237 coins that were offered by Christies and did not sell). These were all purchased from the original owner of the collection with original Mel Fisher Treasure Salvor's certificates. There are some true rarities here! Most of the coins are either plated in the Christies Research Collection catalog and (or) the October 1986 issue of the Numismatist.
1) #1 Mexico 2 reales 5.70 grams., obv.: MM o/M left; assayer
2) #2 Mexico 2 reales, 6.3 grams., obv.: MM o/M left, assayer "0"
3) #9 Lima Mint 1565-1588 2 reales, 6.5 grams., obv "Carlos &
In none of the sources have we
This coin is one of only two
Atocha coins known to bear
this mark to the right of the shield. All others show it to the left.
Valued at about $150,000.00.
4) #11 Lima 2 reales, 6.6 grams., obv.: MM "P", assayer "R" left,
5) #17 Lima 1 reale, 3.1 grams., obv,: denomination (roman) left,
Alonso Rincon, assayer: circa 1544
6) #57 2 reales, 6.1 grams. Obv.: MM "P" assayer "B" OVERSTRUCK "L"
8) #71 Lima 8 reales,
27.1 grams, P/o/8 (shape difficult to
9) #81 Lima 4 reales,
13.4 grams., obv.: 4/P left, o/D/* rt, very
10) #110 Lima 1 reale, 2.7 grams, obv,: */I left, P___
rt small open
11) #116 Potosi 4 reales, 13.4 grams, obv.: MM "P", assayer
12) #130 Potosi - 8 reales,
26.7 grams., obv.: MM "P", assayer "B"
13) #137 Potosi 8 reales, 26.1 grams, obv.: MM "P" assayer
14) #167 Mexico 2 reales, 6.2 grams., obv.: MM and
assayer "A" left,
15) #169 Mexico 4 reales, 12.0 grams, obv.: MM and
assayer "F" left,
16) #172 Potosi 8 reales,
25.1 grams, obv>: MM and assayer "B" left,
17) #168 Mexico 8 reales,
24.3 grams., obv.: MM and assayer "F" left,
18) #183 Potosi 2 reales, 6.7 grams., MM not
19) #210 Seville 8 reales, 21.9 grams., obv.: MM "S"
20) #212 Toledo 8 reales, 23.8 grams., obv.: MM "I" (Toledo)
21) #221 UNCERTAIN 4 reales, 9.6 grams., obv.: "P"/ "B" /
This coin is rare and extremely
important, being one of the first minted at Potosi. The dies came from Lima
through La Plata. Below the "B" there is a clear erasure, presumably that of
22) #228 UNCERTAIN 8 reales, 25.0 grams., obv.: Unusually
mintmark left, with heavy square below, no assayer visible, probably "T".
Denomination, it shows V over III with large "O" above, typical of assayer
"T" .Flanders and Tyrol have 2 eagles. Rev.: completely degraded lions and
castles. Either lions and castles are tilted 90 degrees, making them appear
to be resting on their sides. (see plate 15)
Gold and Silver of the Atocha and Santa Margarita
Attorney Noel Lippman
Cobs, Pieces Of Eight and Treasure Coins
Catalog De Los Reales DE A Ocho Espanoles