Sabara 1814 gold bar Fr-105

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Heritage sale 3040, lot 29419
photo courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries
Brazil 1812 sabara guia H3026-23978.jpg
This specimen was lot 29419 in Heritage sale 3040 (Long Beach, April 2015), where it sold for $82,250. The catalog description[1] noted,
"João VI Prince Regent gold ingot of Sabara 1814 AU, Sabara Casa de Fundicao, Essentially Mint State with only slight handling evidence and most attractive.

The Minas Gerais (literally "General Mines") gold rush at the turn of the nineteenth century is the first such notable movement of population. The first recorded discovery of payable gold was made in 1693 by a bandeirante (literally "followers of the banner", Portuguese settlers and fortune seekers at the time) exploring the area surrounding the present town of Ouro Preto ("Black gold", an allusion to the dark color of the alluvial soils from which the gold was extracted). The discovery caused such a stir that by 1697, a significant portion of the Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Bahia population had rushed to the site of the discovery while the government in Lisbon had to implement legislation to prevent an en masse emigration to Brazil. The gold production in Brazil in the 18th century was such that it rivalled the entire Spanish Colonial one. By 1725, half of the population in Brazil resided in Minas Gerais.

Initially, the Portuguese central government allowed the mining operations provided the quinto (20% tax) was duly paid and this legislation was effective between 1700-1713 but, understandably, not popular. The law of February 11, 1719 authorized the much needed creation of new casas de fundacao (foundries) in the New State and restablished the quinto for dust gold while forbidding the circulation of gold that was not melted and processed in the casa de fundacao. These measures aiming to tighten the control of the crown over the exploration resulted in the 1720 uprising in Vila Rica. Among the casa de fundicao, that of Sabara (the actual name was Casa de Intendência e Fundição do Ouro da Vila Real de Nossa Senhora da Conceição do Sabara) stands out based on its continuous operations since its early establishment (a letter of February 1731 testifies it was active then). The operation of gold melting and creation of the ingots was crafty and careful, each ingot accompanied by a detailed certificate or Guia, while the ingot itself also provided all relevant information: thus the present piece from Sabara (the bifacial punch to the left of the obverse) - identified by its year 1814 and its individual number N(umero) 1609 - was the 1609th bar produced in 1814 at that foundry. The indicated fineness is of 22 carats and 2 grains (Toque 22 **) and the theoretical weight is of 1 ounce, 2 eights and 6 grains (indicated as 1 " 2 " 06) or 36.1548g (actual weight is 36.30 grams, within the tolerance). All of this is certified by assayer Jose Pinto Pereira (his monogram JPP is found at the top right on the obverse). One can hardly imagine a more romantic item from this era, since the story told by this ingot is remarkably clear and vibrant.

Few of these iconic ingots survive, especially considering the aforementioned mind-boggling gold production of Colonial Brazil: the description of the specimen in our 2013 Long Beach Signature Sale (Heritage Auctions 9/2013, lot 23798) included the detailed census of all currently known specimens, namely 219 pieces. Undoubtedly among the most desirable items in all the Brazilian series, any of those 219 surviving gold ingots will invariably - and rightfully - take center stage in the cabinet that is fortunate enough to house them. The present one shall be no exception, and the next owner will be delighted when looking at its legendary - and royal - pedigree.

Ex-Farouk collection (Sotheby's 2-3/1954, lot 22), ex-Matarazzo collection (Sotheby's Geneva 11/1987, lot 445)."

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specification: gold, this specimen 36.35 g.

Catalog reference: Prober-1814-S1609 (this ingot). Fr-105.


  • 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.
  • Pimentel, Alvaro Mendes, Catálogo de Moedas Brasileiras de 1643 a 1962, 9a Ed., Rio de Janeiro, 1962.
  • [1]Bierrenbach, Cristiano, Warren Tucker and David Michaels, Heritage Signature Auction 3040, featuring the Santa Maria, the Alan Dean and the Valley View Life Collections, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2015.

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