Guatemala 1751-G J escudo
"Early Guatemalan Portrait Coin Ferdinand VI gold Escudo 1751/0 G-J, AU53 NGC. A coin of incredible significance to collectors of Spanish Colonial coinage, as it is among the earliest portrait-type Escudos from Guatemala and is only significantly pre-dated by several Felipe V 8 Escudos and a single Philip V 1 Escudo that are all of great rarity. Engraved locally in Guatemala with a crude bust of Ferdinand VI similar to the one used in his proclamation medals dated 1747. The reverse, more refined in its depiction, holds the crowned arms of Spain with the "J" initial of assayer Jose de Leon y Sosa (not to be confused with his uncle and Director of the Mint Jose Eustaquio de Leon) between rosettes at left with the "I" numeral between rosettes at right. While traditionally considered a hammered issue, we believe the present piece was among the first milled gold coins produced in Guatemala. The trail of evidence to support this claim begins in 1739 with correspondence between the Guatemala Mint and the king requesting instruction on how to strike "round or spherical" money. The 2011 sale of a round milled-edge Pillar 2 Reales dated 1742 confirms that by then, Eustaquio de Leon had either made or bought a coin press, and was able to strike milled-edge trials. Later evidence of such capability includes the aforementioned proclamation medals of 1747 which are uniformly accomplished with a better strike and rounder flans than their hammered counterparts - all with ornamental edges similar to the later Pillar type.
Furthermore it is undeniable that Eustaquio de Leon had ensured, since the mint's first issues in 1733, to issue gold coins that were in the closest possible accordance with the Seville 1728 Royal Ordinance (establishing the milled coinage for the Spanish American mints): indeed, all the early Guatemala gold coins are hand struck but nevertheless still have round planchets with an edge design. It is therefore natural to assume that he may have used the new technical capabilities of his mint in improving his gold coinage: as opposed to the silver issues issued on comparatively large numbers, the gold issues had always been very limited due to the meager gold bullion amounts that entered the mint. Their small issued mintages would, therefore, not stretch the new machinery beyond its stress capabilities.
Despite obviously extensive research, Carlos Jara's recent reference work (2010) on the Guatemala Mint lists a single example of this issue (see pages 91-93): that piece sold in an April 2009 Aureo & Calico auction, and is the Ex: Peltzer-Newcomer specimen, also used as the Calico plate coin. That example was, much like the present specimen, off-centered; it was struck from the same pair of dies, as one would expect from the small mintage of 279 pieces. That piece had been used in jewelry at one time, and a repaired hole above the bust left the surfaces unnatural, but nevertheless, it hammered at 14,000 Euros. Given the present specimen's vast superiority, it's difficult to even speculate on a value, but one thing is clear - it's a very special coin. A unique opportunity to obtain what is the certainly the finest of Guatemala's first milled Escudos."
Recorded mintage: 279.
Specification: 3.38 g, .917 fine gold.
Catalog reference: KM-A6, Fr-3, Calico-194.
- Bierrenbach, Cristiano, Stuart Levine and Bruce Lorich, Heritage World and Ancient Coins Auction 3029, featuring Selections from the Eric P. Newman Collection, Part III, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2013.
- 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.
- Michael, Thomas, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800, 7th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2016.