Ecuador 1844-MV 8 escudos

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from the Stack's Bowers 2018 NYINC sale, lot 11365
Ecuador SB118-11369r.jpg
This specimen was lot 11369 in Stack's Bowers NYINC sale (New York, January 2018), where it sold for $456,000. The catalog description[1] noted,
"The Unique 1844 Ecuador 8 Escudos. The King of the Onzas. ECUADOR. 1844-MV 8 Escudos. Quito mint. EF-45 (PCGS). One of the landmark rarities of all of Latin America and one of the most noteworthy large gold type coins struck worldwide over the last two centuries. Abundant luster survives across both sides, especially bold at the peripheries. Both obverse and reverse are richly toned in deep orange gold, flashing in areas with luster. The fields are peppered with tiny marks, none individually severe. The shallow abrasion that appears behind the portrait on the Hammel plate is not as severe in hand. A shallow lamination is noted after the final A of REPUBLICA on the reverse. The centers are not fully struck up on either side, owing to the excessive relief of the Bolívar portrait. The portrait is similar to that found on the "ugly head" 4 Reales of this year, suggesting they were accomplished by the same hand, though significant variations are apparent.

There is no rarer type coin among the onza series, incorporating all the 8 Escudos of the former Spanish dominions, than this one. This design was coined for only one year, 1844, combining this awkward right-facing depiction of Simon Bolívar with a reverse that was modified for use on the Ecuadorian 8 Escudos of 1845. The national insignias are incorporated into a rectangular shield, flanked with two flags on either side. The internal details of the shield show significant variance from the reverse of 1845, but the difference between the condors is even more evident. While the bird looks like a condor in 1845, it more closely resembles a skinny eagle here.

The Bolívar portrait is what has made this rarity so famous. The head is crude, lacking in detail and topped with a mop of combed hair. The bust truncation is rounded at the shoulders and straight at base, where BOLIVAR identifies the person whose visage is intended. It is crude but charming, while being memorably distinctive.

This coin has every appearance of being unique. Another specimen was said to have existed in the famed Enrique Maulme Collection, authenticated by Henry Christensen and referenced in his 1981 Maulme catalog, which noted that coin and four others had "been kept in Ecuador as part of the National Patrimony." After being deposited in the Banco del Ecuador, the coin was apparently stolen and is currently untraced. This is the most famous specimen, with provenance to the 1921 Lord Grantley sale, held in Amsterdam by J. Schulman. It appears on an inventory of the Waldo Newcomer Collection, built in Baltimore in the 1920s before being sold in 1931. The piece apparently stayed in the United States, as it was next seen in the 1982 Mortimer Hammel sale, where the piece was purchased for a record $32,000 at the nadir of the coin market. It has remained in this collection from that day to this one.

No collection of 8 Escudos is complete without this coin. No collection of Ecuador, by date or type, is complete without it. No specimen of this coin resides in any institutional collection, nor in any other private one. For many seasoned numismatists, both amateur and professional, this will be their first time even seeing this coin. An entire generation of numismatists came and went before 1982 without ever knowing with certainty that this coin even existed. We acknowledge with thanks the generous assistance of Carlos Jara with determining the historical details of this lot. From the Eldorado Collection of Colombian and Ecuadorian Coins."

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specification: 27.07 g, .875 fine gold, .761 troy oz AGW.

Catalog reference: Fr-5; KM-28.


  • [1]Ponterio, Richard, Kyle Ponterio, John Kraljevich and Cris Chatigny, The January 2018 NYINC Sale: Ancient Coins, World Coins & Paper Money, featuring the Eldorado Collection of Colombian and Ecuadorian Coins, Santa Ana, CA: Stack's Bowers LLC, 2017.
  • Cuhaj, George S., and Thomas Michael, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900, 7th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2012.
  • Friedberg, Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, Gold Coins of the World, From Ancient Times to the Present, 7th ed., Clifton, NJ: Coin and Currency Institute, 2003.

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