Cartagena 2021 Conference Report

13 Dec

Our company attended the Third International Convention of Historians and Numismatists on December 1st to the 5th in Cartagena, Colombia. This must-attend event for Latin American numismatists brought together many experts and dealers for several days of presentations, exhibits, and discussion as well as sightseeing and excellent Colombian cuisine and drinks. Our own Agustín García-Barneche served as the convention’s Vice President of International Relations for the Northern Hemisphere.

Background on Cartagena & its numismatic history

Cartagena, also known as Cartagena de Indias, is an important Colombian port city founded by Spanish explorers on June 1, 1533. It rapidly grew in prominence due to the flow of gold and silver from the New World into the Spanish fleet ships that would haul the treasure back to Spain. In 1574, King Philip II declared Cartagena to be a city; the following year, he added the title of “the most noble and loyal” to the city.

Numismatically, it bears several important distinctions: as a Spanish colonial mint that operated from 1621 to 1635 then again in 1655; the second to last port of call for the Atocha and Santa Margarita in 1622 during the ill-fated Tierra Firme Fleet; the site of the the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in 1741 erroneously commemorated by the English Admiral Vernon medals; and the location of several bancos and the state treasury that issued paper money in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

We attended a naval ceremony to Admiral Miguel Grau Seminario (1834-1879); a life size bronze statue to Colombia’s Admiral José Padilla (1778-1828) stands prominently in the courtyard of naval heroes.
The Museo Naval del Caribe (Naval Museum) featured numerous exhibits to Cartagena’s naval history including this one on the San José shipwreck
The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas cuts an imposing figure in the middle of the bustling city
Construction of the castle began in 1536 to protect the city both by land and by sea; its importance led to much more construction over time
Numerous original cannons can still be found on the ramparts of the Castillo as well as the walled fortifications around Cartagena
General Don Blas de Lezo (1689-1741) led a successful defense of the Castillo de San Felipe despite being outnumbered nearly 10 to 1 versus Admiral Edward Vernon’s force

After visiting the Castillo de San Felipe, we took a tour of Cartagena’s old city. Given the city’s nearly 500 years of history, some buildings are designed in the colonial style while others were of a more modern republic style construct.

The Convento de Santo Domingo was founded by Dominican friars and went through many periods of disuse and reconstruction.
The narrow streets of the Old City are often flanked by street vendors.
Colombia is the top producer of emeralds, accounting for some 70 to 90 percent of the world’s trade.
The Old City becomes quite vibrant at night.
Dancers in traditional Colombian dress at the Plaza de Santo Domingo.

After a busy day of travelling and sightseeing, the conference began on Thursday. Numerous presentations were given on a wide range of numismatic topics, many related to Cartagena and Colombia history.

We were honored to have Dr. R. Duncan Matthewson III, the chief archaeologist for the Atocha salvage work, share our table and sign copies of his famous work The Treasure of the Atocha translated in Spanish
Our friend Jorge Proctor conducted his presentation on Alonso Turrillo de Yebra while dressed in Spanish colonial garb.
Daniel Frank Sedwick’s presentation on Colombian gold cobs delved into the many design and assayer changes seen on gold cobs from the Bogota and Cartagena mints
The importance of the Cartagena Mint is still seen today with the naming of the street where it is located.
The courtyard of the Casa de Moneda in Cartagena, where cob coinage was struck from 1621 to 1635 and again in 1655.
In conjunction with the conference, the Colombian government issued postal stamps commemorating Colombia’s numismatic history.
The official medal for the Cartagena 2021 convention, slabbed by PCGS.

We were all very honored to attend the convention and see many of our friends in this business, many of which we haven’t seen in person over the past two years. The chance to explore Cartagena and see the places that made numismatic history made this a memorable event for all. Our thanks goes out to all those who coordinated the event, especially to the convention’s organizer, Andrés Felipe Cortázar.

We now look forward to the fourth convention that will be held in 2023 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic!

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