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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

 


Culture:Mexican (New Spain)
Title:coin: Spanish dollar or ocho reale
Date Made:1770
Type:Coin/Numismatic
Materials:silver
Place Made:Mexico; Mexico City
Measurements:Overall: 1 9/16 in x 1/8 in; 4 cm x .3 cm
Narrative Inscription:  Obverse: VTRAQUE VNUM / M / 1770 / M Reverse: CAROLVS - III - D - G - HISPAN - ET IND - REX
Accession Number:  HD 2018.17.3
Credit Line:Hall and Kate Peterson Fund for Minor Antiques
2018-17-3_side-1t.jpg

Description:
Perhaps no other single object represents global connections in the 18th century better than the Spanish dollar or eight reale coin. Approximately one ounce in weight and 1 ½ inches in diameter, these coins, also known as “pieces of eight,” or more accurately "pillar dollars" were first minted in the Spanish Empire beginning in 1497, as an imitation of the Hapsburg Empire’s popular thaler coin. By the 18th century the Spanish dollar had become widely accepted throughout Asia, the Americas, and Europe as an international currency because of its availability, uniform size and weight, high purity and milled edge which discouraging clipping. A chronic shortage of specie existed in Britain’s North American colonies before 1775. The colonies had no mines that produced precious gold or silver, and Britain banned the export of silver bullion to the colonies. Because the cost of imports always exceeded the value of exports, most of the specie that entered into the colonies flowed back out to pay for British imported goods. Efforts to create a circulating currency were closely regulated by Britain, so early Americans often traded readily available commodities such as lumber, flaxseed, potash, and other agricultural products as substitutes while maintaining complicated ledgers of debits and credits. In the absence of locally struck coins, many different coins minted by rival imperial powers circulated as legal tender in the British colonies. Merchants and tradesmen, especially silversmiths, developed familiarity with a wide variety of international coins including Portuguese “joes”, French guineas, and Spanish pistareens. Spanish coins, most of them minted in Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia and acquired through trade with the West Indies, eventually predominated, especially the dollar. While goods were officially valued in British pounds, in their day-to-day transactions colonists more commonly used the Spanish dollar as their unit of account. Spanish dollars represented a universally understood and accepted currency that superseded the complicated monetary systems set up in each colony. On the reverse (back) of this coin there are crowned twin conjoined hemispheres flanked by the Pillars of Hercules with their Latin motto Plu Ultra or More Beyond, below is the land and sea, on the edge is the following: "VTRAQUE/VNUM [Both are one]/Mo/1770/ Mo" Mo is the Mexico City mint mark. And on the obverse (front) is the crowned Royal Arms of Spain, flanked on the left by "MF" [initials of the assayers] and on the right by "8" [the denomination of 8 reales] and on the edge, " REX/CAROLUS/III/DG/ HISPAN/ ET/ IND" [King Charles III, by the grace of God King of Spain and the Indies]

Link to share this object record:
https://museums.fivecolleges.edu/detail.php?t=objects&type=ext&id_number=HD+2018.17.3

Research on objects in the collections, including provenance, is ongoing and may be incomplete. If you have additional information or would like to learn more about a particular object, please email fc-museums-web@fivecolleges.edu.

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