Specialists in the colonial coinage of Spanish America as well as shipwreck coins and artifacts of all nations. In addition to publishing several catalogs per year, Mr. Sedwick is a regular vendor at major international coin shows, including FUN, CICF, and ANA.

 The Hearts of Potosí 

(Updated April 2014 - to be updated)


Silver cobs come in all shapes and sizes, most by chance—but a few not. The ones that are deliberately shaped come in three types, all special presentations from the mint: round “Royals,” haphazard zoomorphic shapes and grandiose “Hearts,” the latter two types only from the mint of Potosí, Bolivia. Determining whether a “Heart” (corazón in Spanish) is authentic can be difficult, and there are certainly more counterfeit Hearts than genuine pieces. But while a counterfeit is just a mutilated cob, the real thing, in any denomination, can be worth tens of thousands of dollars (or more).


The Hearts of Potosí were minted in five denominations: ½, 1, 2, 4, and 8 reales (though half-real Hearts are so rare that only a handful of pieces have been confirmed), and apparently only from the very late 1600s (the reign of Charles II) to the mid-1700s (the reign of Philip V). The outline of a corazón can vary significantly, but it is basically Valentine-style yet with a wide, tall stem and a long, tapering tail. Predictably, almost every confirmed Heart has been holed at the top of the stem. Unlike most holes in cobs, these may have been mint-produced holes.       


We don't know for sure why cobs were cut into heart shapes at the Potosí mint, but given their scarcity, their usually careful execution, and their tendency to be holed, they were most likely produced for special use as religious pendants known as “ex votos.” The prevailing theory is that they were intended to be used by church officials, as the heart was known to be a sacred symbol of the Roman Catholic Church. It is also believed that women sewed these images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ into their blouses, a custom which is still observed in remote Andean villages today.    


[Note: The Catholic Sacred Heart symbol, as demonstrated in ex votos and other manifestations, is in fact a flaming heart, usually with a long, curved tail. This matches the Potosí Heart cobs precisely, their prominent stems at top apparently representing flames.]    


With all the minor variations in heart shapes, counterfeits would seem impossible to detect given that anyone outside the mint could simply carve up a silver cob into the desired configuration at any time. But such mutilation removes significant amounts of the prescribed weight of the cob and, for that reason, the most reliable authenticating aspect of a genuine, mint-produced Heart is its full weight. A genuine specimen can still be slightly underweight or overweight, so other attributes must be examined:


1. Does the planchet extend beyond the imprinted design, including the legend, of the coin? Whereas fake Hearts are cut down from regular cobs, the authentic pieces are struck on intentionally oversized planchets to make up for the subsequent loss of metal while filing them down to the heart shape.


2. Is the design carefully executed? Most Hearts appear to be struck from “Royal” dies which were also used to strike special round presentation pieces purportedly produced for the king of Spain.


3. Are the cross-side and pillars-side axes aligned? Most genuine Hearts show straight-up-and-down orientation on both sides, with the stem at the top, an alignment that seems to indicate that they were made to be worn as pendants.

These criteria are by no means definitive, but they may serve as guidelines for the novice collector or student.       



Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC - Treasure Auction #6

Once you know that your corazón is genuine, you also know that you have a rare and very valuable cob. (For example, in 8 reales there are only about 30-35 pieces known—see table below.) The worth of a Heart is, of course, greatly dependent upon its beauty, and a range of values exists for all denominations except the ½ real, which is too rare to evaluate. The most common, or rather least scarce, denomination of Heart is the 1 real, whose value can range from about $2,000 to $4,000. Two-reales Hearts are next in value from about $3,500 to $11,000. Then the price jumps to about $8,500 to $27,500 for a 4 reales, and no cheaper than $25,000 and as much as six figures for an 8-reales Heart.


Hearts are not for everyone. The prices are understandably restrictive, and one could easily spend a lifetime (and a fortune) assembling a decent 1-2-4-8 reales set of Hearts. But to the avid collector, nothing brings out the primitive beauty of a cob like a Heart, regardless of the cost.





Total known population of publicly traded or published specimens of 8-reales Hearts.


Date Pedigree O/R alignment Shape Planchet Top detail Other
1704Y Vidal-Quadras; Dasí; Yriarte ↑↑ round/balanced/perfect wide no flames superb
1704Y Renaissance 12/00 ↑↑ not very round/balanced wide no flames  
1704Y Lázaro #320; Sedwick 2nd ed; private collection ↑↖ round/balanced wide no flames doubling, no hole
1704Y Calicó cover; Sedwick 11/13 ↑↑ round/balanced wide no flames  
1706Y Cayón 2011 ↑↗ teardrop/balanced normal no flames doubling, plugged 
1706Y Christensen 1981; Renaissance 12/00; private collection ↑↑ round/balanced wide no flames notch in planchet
1706Y Lázaro # 321 ↑↑ triangular  normal no flames no hole
1706Y Lázaro # 322 ↑↑ round/balanced wide no flames choice
1708Y  Medina; Yriarte; Dasí; Burzio ↑↑ teardrop/balanced normal no flames  
1708Y Lázaro # 323 ↑↗ oval/balanced small no flames doubling
1708Y Lázaro # 323A ↑↑ teardrop/balanced normal no flames  
1709Y Almazar; Renaissance 12/00; Jeus Vico 3/03          ↑↑ teardrop/balanced normal flames  
1709Y Lázaro # 324 ↑↑ round/balanced wide no flames  
1710Y Stack's Bowers Ponterio (1/14)  ↑↑ teardrop/balanced normal no flames gilded
1710Y Ponterio (Karon) 3/90 ↑↑ teardrop/balanced normal no flames  
1711Y Louis Hudson 1986 ? ? ? ? ?
1715Y Lázaro #325; Ponterio 6/93 ↑↗ mushroom shape wide no flames rough 
1716Y  Karon (private sale); Cayón 1991; Sedwick 05/14 ↑↑ round/balanced wide flames  
1716Y Lázaro #326; Yriarte ↑↑ turnip shape normal no flames doubling
1721Y Renaissance 12/00 ↑↑ round/balanced wide no flames  
1721Y Lázaro #327 ↑↗ round/balanced wide no flames  
1722Y Lázaro #327A ↑↑ round/balanced wide flames  
1726Y Almanzar 3/73; Kagin's 1983; Sedwick 4th ed cover; Calicó Trigo 1985; private collection round/balanced wide flames Louis I
1726Y Lázaro  #331  ↖↗ teardrop/balanced normal flames Louis I
1729M Christensen 6/77, 10/81 ↑↓ round/balanced normal flames  
1729M Ponterio 1/02; Goldberg 5/07 ↖↑ chunky small no flames  
1729M Almanzar 11/81; Jovel ←↑  teardrop/balanced normal no flames Guatemala Type I countermark (1838)
1729M Lázaro #329; Dasí; Burzio ←↑  round/balanced wide flames  
1734E Freeman Craig 12/77; Peña collection  ↑↑ chunky small   no hole
1734E Ponterio (Karon) 3/90; Cayón 2/12; Herrero 5/12 ↑↑ chunky small no flames  
1734E Lázaro #330 ↑↑ round/balanced wide flames choice
1734E Cayón 2005 ↑↑ chunky small flames  
1737E Lázaro #331A ↑↑ chunky small  flames last date


Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC - Treasure Auction #14

Potosí, Bolivia, cob 8 reales Heart, 1704Y, rare, Calicó cover coin (dust jacket), 27.11 grams.

Sold for $56,400 in Sedwick Auction #14, October , 2013.


Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC - Treasure Auction #14

Potosí, Bolivia, cob 8 reales Heart, 1716Y, 26.56 grams.

Sedwick Auction #15, May, 2014.


Cover of The Practical Book of Cobs, 4th edition (2007), showing a

Potosí, Bolivia, cob 8 reales Heart, Louis I, 1726Y.


Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC - Treasure Auction #6

Potosí, Bolivia, cob 2 reales Heart, 1759q, 4.9 grams, last known date of Hearts.

Sold for $11,250 in Sedwick Auction #10, October 26, 2011.


Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC - Treasure Auction #6

Potosí, Bolivia, cob 2 reales Heart, 6.1 grams, 1712Y.

Sold for $6,500 in Sedwick Auction #9, April 27, 2011.


Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC - Treasure Auction #6

Antique ex voto (Catholic “Sacred Heart” symbol).




Special acknowledgements for the May 2014 update : Augi Garcia, Carlos Jara and Kent Ponterio (also notes from the late Louis Hudson).


References cited:

Burzio, Humberto. La ceca de la Villa Imperial de Potosí y la moneda colonial (1945).

Calicó, Xavier. Numismática española (2008).

Dasí, Tomas. Estudio de los Reales de a Ocho, 5 volumes (1950-1).

Janson, Hector Carlos. La moneda circulante en el territorio Argentino, 1574-2010 (2011).

Jovel, Roberto. Las monedas de necesidad de Guatemala, siglos XVII a XIX (2001).

Lázaro, José Luis. Los redondos de Lima, Méjico y Potosí y otras acuñaciones especiales (1996).

Medina, José Toribio. Las monedas coloniales hispano-Americanas (1909).

Vidal-Quadras y Ramón, Manuel. Catálogo de la colección de monedas y medallas de Manuel Vidal Quadras y

Ramón de Barcelona, 4 volumes (1892).

Yriarte Oliva, Jose de and Leopoldo López-Chaves Sánchez. Catálogo de los reales de a ocho españoles, (2nd ed, 1965).


Auction companies cited (note these are the ONLY modern auction companies ever to offer 8R Hearts): Almanzar, Aureo, Cayón, Christensen, Freeman Craig, Ira and Larry Goldberg, Kagin's, Herrero, Ponterio (Stack’s Bowers Ponterio), Renaissance, Sedwick, Vico.  


Original article by Daniel Frank Sedwick (July 8, 1991), first published in PLVS VLTRA newsletter.




-Reproduction of this article in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without written permission of the author/s.



Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC Professional numismatists specializing in the colonial coinage of Spanish America, shipwreck cob coins and artifacts of all nations. Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC Professional numismatists specializing in the colonial coinage of Spanish America, shipwreck cob coins and artifacts of all nations.


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