Cobs and Macuquinas from Potosi, Bolivia coins

Silver Cobs of Potosi, 1574-1773

Bolivian silver cobs

Potosi, BoliviaWhen it comes to silver cobs, no mint was more prolific than Potosi, Bolivia, where an entire mountain of silver was discovered in the early 1500s. It took a little while before authorities figured out that a mint was needed on site, where the silver was being mined, even though the extreme remoteness and elevation presented major problems that were never fully resolved. The most egregious problem, perhaps, was an almost lawless environment where silver barons controlled the government and took full advantage by owning and profiting from mint offices and even by debasing the silver itself, causing a major scandal that put the entire world on its financial ear in the mid-1600s. Up to that point Potosi struck shield-type cobs, some of which were then recalled and either melted or countermarked (to attest to proper fineness) in 1652. To rectify the whole system, a new design was begun in that year, starting with some "transitional" issues and culminating in the pillars-and-waves design that became a global mainstay again throughout the rest of the 1600s and most of the 1700s. In 1773 the last cob ever struck came off the press in Potosi, long since superseded by milled coins (begun there in 1767).

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Shield type: 8 reales | 4 reales | 2 reales | 1 reales | 1/2 reales | 1/4 reales

Pillars-and-waves: 8 reales | 4 reales | 2 reales | 1 reales | 1/2 reales

 

 

Potosi, Bolivia

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Shield type 8 reales

Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1650 O, with crowned-arms (Mastalir Asb) countermark on cross, rare, Mastalir Plate. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1650 O, with crowned-arms (Mastalir Asb) countermark on cross, rare, Mastalir Plate. S-P35; KM-19b; Cal-1488. 28.06 grams. Scarce type with finer-style shield details, as well as an improved castle and corrected spelling of king's name as PHILIPPVS with an I instead of an E, within which this is a rare subtype with modern 5 and dots between digits of date and single large dot after the date (here visible as just 5-dot-0-dot), also rare as non-salvage, with full but slightly doubled shield with clear P-O to left and 8-O to right, nearly full but off-center cross with deeply impressed countermark unusually somewhat removed from the edge, nicely toned VF. Pedigreed to the Roberto Mastalir Collection of Countermarked Potosi Cobs, Plate Coin (page 92 in Part A and page 62 in Part B) in his book The Great Transition at the Potosi Mint, 1649-1653, The 1649-1652 Crowned Shield Coinage and the Countermarks of 1652 (2021). g112104191017 $950

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Shield type 4 reales

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 4 reales, (1649) O, crowned-? countermark on cross. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 4 reales, (1649) O, crowned-? countermark on cross. S-P35; KM-17b; Cal-1105. 12.18 grams. Full P-O to left of full but off-center shield, bottom half of cross visible (also off-center) with deep but unidentifiable countermark above and what appears to be a reverse impression of same on shield side, VG with deep toning all over, small edge-split. i112104191053 $325

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Shield type 2 reales

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 2 reales, Philip III, assayer R (straight leg, no king's ordinal). Potosi, Bolivia, cob 2 reales, Philip III, assayer R (straight leg, no king's ordinal). 6.70 grams. Full shield and cross, interesting early version of assayer-mark that looks like a P-punch with straight, pointed leg added (a scarce but known variety, missing in Sellschopp), also no ordinal in legend after king's name, which ends in a retrograde S, VF with light toning and dark encrustation in crevices. g092013031006 SOLD

Shield type 1 reales

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1/4 reales (Cuartillos)

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/4 real, Philip II, assayer R (Rincon) to left, mintmark P to right, rare. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/4 real, Philip II, assayer R (Rincon) to left, mintmark P to right, rare. Broad flan but with small pieces of edge missing, AVF with full castle and R-P. good full lion (tall, standing), richly toned. g081504146019 $595
Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/4 real, Philip II, assayer B  (5th period) to left, mintmark P to right, border of boxes on obverse, rare.

Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/4 real, Philip II, assayer B (5th period) to left, mintmark P to right, border of boxes on obverse, rare. Lightly corroded surfaces (salvaged) but with clear B and lion.

g081504146026 $495
Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/4 real, Philip II, assayer B  (5th period) to left, mintmark P to right, border of boxes on obverse, large castle, rare. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/4 real, Philip II, assayer B (5th period) to left, mintmark P to right, border of boxes on obverse, large castle, rare. Thin from salvage but with bold VF details (castle and lion, B-P), darkly toned. g081504146024 $495

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Transitional type

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Pillars-and-waves 8 reales

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1741 P, NGC AU 53, finest known in NGC census. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1741 P, NGC AU 53, finest known in NGC census. S-P48; KM-31a; Cal-1580. 26.78 grams. Very chunky with rather crude edge (as made), but with very well-defined tops of full pillars and full cross indicative of its choice grade, two dates and assayers, parts of all three mintmarks, light toning and sedimentation. NGC #6271297-008. g112104191019 $895
Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1742 C. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1742 C. S-P49; KM-31a; Cal-1583. 26.75 grams. VF with surface corrosion on the cross side, struck on a very uneven and crude planchet though nicely detailed with full pillars and partial cross plus two clear dates. g112104191054 $695
Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1763 V-Y, NGC AU 50. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1763 V-Y, NGC AU 50. S-P57; KM-45; Cal-1139. 26.99 grams. Bold and choice details on a typically chunky flan with parts of edge crude (as made), two dates and assayers, three mintmarks, deeply contrasting toning, second finest in NGC census behind the previous lot. NGC #6271297-011. g112104191020 $795

Pillars-and-waves 4 reales

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 4 reales, 1759 q. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 4 reales, 1759 q. S-P54; KM-39; Cal-416. 13.13 grams. Bold date above waves, with most of pillars and cross but both sides plagued by the usual surface roughness of this era (exacerbated by dark toning in crevices), crude edge as made, Fine+. g112104191022 $325

Pillars-and-waves 2 reales

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 2 reales, 1755q. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 2 reales, 1755q. 5.71 grams. Clear date, bold assayer, toned but very worn (AVG). g071513031012 $65

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Pillars-and-waves 1 reales

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1 real, 1684V. Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1 real, 1684V. 2.89 grams. Good full pillars and cross, VF+ with hairline edge-split, three assayers. g061604191135 SOLD

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Pillars-and-waves 1/2 reales

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Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/2 real, (1654), P•H at top, 1/4R flan (unique). Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1/2 real, (1654), P•H at top, 1/4R flan (unique). Good cross, full crown above P•H but monogram off the flan (poorly centered), very small flan (thin) that appears to be for a 1/4 real (which did not exist this late), VF with light toning. g081504146031 $395

  

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