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 The “Mesuno Hoard” Revisited 

19 Nov
(First Published April 7, 2009) by Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC.

Shipwreck gold cobs are valuable and exciting items today, but in 1959 you could not give them away for much more than melt value. They had very little public interest until massive quantities of them from the 1715 Fleet off the east coast of Florida started to hit the market in the 1960s. But there was a small warm-up act before that big show, and its name was the “Mesuno Hoard” of 1636.

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Aerial view of the Magdalena River, taken during a flight to Medellin n 2014. (source: AGB)

The first Mesuno coin to hit the market was in 1939, offered by Spink of London as a Bogotá two escudos cob “found at the shores of the Magdalena river” (for the whopping price of about £15), but sales of these coins did not begin in earnest until 20 years later, with public offerings by Schulman and Stack’s Coin Galleries in New York (for about $50 to $75 each), backed up by hundreds of specimens that went directly into jewelry. These were all Bogotá two escudos cobs of 1628-35* (mostly 1635, but usually without the date visible), with mintmark NR (for Nuevo Reino) and assayer A (for Alonso de Anuncibay) or P (for Miguel Pinto Camargo) when visible, and usually in choice UNC grade (what we would call Mint State today) as from a hoard originating in Colombia. It was known that the hoard was found in 1936 at a bend known as “El Mesuno” in the Magdalena River near the town of Honda in Colombia. Also called the Yuma River, the Magdalena is the longest river in Colombia, flowing northward about 950 miles through the western half of the country, navigable by ship through much of its lower reaches but plagued by shifting sand bars at the mouth of its delta. There was a short article about the “Mesuno Hoard” by C.S. Wilcox in 1943 in Stack’s Numismatic Review, republished by that firm in 1959, but little else was said about the hoard, and still in 1959 no one but hardcore numismatists cared about these lumpy cob coins.

The 1960s changed everything, however, with the introduction of thousands of 1715-Fleet coins to the general public and the publication of important studies by X.F. Calicó and A.M. Barriga-Villalba finally establishing a knowledge base about the early Colombian cob coinage. It soon became clear that the 1636 “Mesuno Hoard” had compelling numismatic significance, since it had provided virtually the only known specimens from the first decade of production at the Bogotá mint. When properly researched by Leopoldo Cancio starting in 1959 (culminating in a series of articles in the 1970s), the discovery of the hoard was shown to have been sloppily reported in the 1930s, mostly due to intentional obfuscation by the finders. In addition to studying hundreds of the coins from the hoard personally at the Banco de La República in Bogotá, Cancio conducted some general interest research and ferreted out the names of the finders and distributors of the coins in Colombia, among other things. But as we shall see, there was much more to the story.

In November of 2007 the Colombian newspaper El Nuevo Día published an article about the “Mesuno Hoard” with some interesting and rather dramatic revelations, which we summarize here. Entitled “Así se despilfarró el tesoro de El Mesuno,” meaning “This is how the Mesuno treasure was squandered,” the article tells how three fishermen brothers by the name of Guzmán found the hoard and rapidly depleted their profits from sales of the coins. It is basically an interview with 89-year-old Don Alfredo Gutiérrez, who in the 1930s was the best friend of the youngest of the three brothers, and it reads like a Latin American novela.

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“Tesoro del Mesuno” exhibit: Casa de Moneda – Coleccion Numismatica del Banco de la Republica. Bogota, Colombia. 2014. (source: AGB)

Gutiérrez relates that on August 22, 1936, at about noon, his friend Domingo Guzmán went down to the river to check on fishing lines. While there, he noticed something bright in the water, like the sun reflecting off a metallic surface, and jumped into the river to investigate. There he found the remains of a small iron box, inside which were more than 1600 gold cobs as well as gold chains and diadems (ornamental headbands). Domingo immediately grabbed some of the coins and then buried the treasure box on land and placed a rock to mark the location (hence the enduring myth that this was a “land hoard”). Screaming something like “We are saved! God sent us these coins!,” Domingo ran to inform his two older brothers (identified by Cancio as Aristóbulo and Jorge), who apparently thought he had been eaten by a caimán (big alligator), since he had taken so long to return from the river.

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Bogota, Colombia, cob 2 escudos, (16)28 assayerA, from the “Mesuno Hoard”

The three brothers then rushed down to the river to the place where Domingo had buried the treasure. They divided the coins into three even parts and put them into metal cans of a type used for butter. Then they also divided the chains and diadems three ways. Gutiérrez made a comment that back then greed and jealousy were not an issue; nevertheless, before telling the news to his brothers, Domingo had secretly set aside a few cobs that he later gave to their mother.

 The first thing the Guzmán brothers did with their new-found wealth was to start frequenting a casa de citas, literally translated as a “dating house,” a euphemism for brothel. One of the most famous brothels in an area of Honda known as the zona tolerancia (“tolerance zone”) was located on Quebrada Seca street and was owned by Tulia Manzanares (the “madam”). Every time the brothers visited the brothel, the madam called out something like: “Girls, the coin doctors are here!” As the girls sat with the brothers drinking and dancing, the brothers paid for the favors with their gold cobs, up to five per girl—about a $10,000 value to collectors today!

As the main river port in its time, and the only means of transportation between the Caribbean coast and the inland capital city of Bogotá, Honda was very prosperous and was an obligatory stop for merchants distributing goods. Englishmen, for example, could always be found there trying to negotiate the price of tobacco that was cultivated in the Department (State) of Tolima (which contained the town and municipality of Honda). The substantial foreign presence there attracted the most beautiful prostitutes from all over Colombia and around the world (particularly Italy and Cuba) to work in Honda.

 So it seems most of the gold-cob fortune was wasted on luxuries, girls and liquor. But the article also relates a couple more subtle tales about the brothers and their gold. For one, in the middle of town the Guzmáns opened a puesto de carne (butcher shop), which at first sounds like a legitimate and prudent use of the money; but the truth was that, according to Gutiérrez, they sold libra y media por el precio de una libra, meaning 1½ pounds of meat for the price of one pound, with the presumed intention of attracting their female friends. The second “new rich” tale involved the requisition of a dozen custom-made suits for each of them to use on—wink wink—special occasions.

 Of course not everything was drunken, carnal fun for the Guzmán brothers. The last story we hear is that they bought a car, probably with their final few Mint State “bogeys,” and drove to Medellín for more fun. Domingo eventually returned to Honda penniless and so desperate that he stole some chickens, got caught, and landed in jail for a few weeks. Still despondent after his release in the first week of February 1937, Domingo Guzmán committed suicide in dramatic fashion during the celebration of Santa Lucía by blowing himself up with a stick of dynamite in the center of town. Nobody seems to know whatever happened to his older brothers.

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Bogota, Colombia, cob 2 escudos, 1635 assayer A, from the “Mesuno hoard”

For this article the newspaper also contacted the Banco de La República in Bogotá, which had eventually acquired most of the gold cobs, presumably from the people who had been paid with them by the Guzmán brothers, but also from other lucky fishermen who had found some loose coins that had spilled from the original chest. (The ones found by the Guzmáns, it should be noted, were in choice condition compared to some of the loose coins.) Cancio identified two of the fisherman as José Ardila and Manuel Valdés, who sold hundreds of coins to wealthy locals Victor Guillén and David Londoño, with the bank’s permission, as it was not otherwise legal to sell the coins within the country. The Bank confirmed that today its numismatic collection still publicly displays some 500 of these gold cobs. The other 1100 or so cobs went out of the country, with the majority of the coins ending up in New York, as we have seen.

 As for why the hoard was in the river in the first place, Angélica Araújo, vice director of the numismatic collection of the Banco de la República, commented that archives mention the loss of a champán (a large boat used in river navigation) in the Magdalena River at the time, and she believes these coins may have been a shipment to Cartagena to finance the construction of the castle of San Felipe. Since that would mean a whole ship, and not just one chest of coins, it is believed that the bulk of the treasure is still in the river, yet to be found. Perhaps of more importance to collectors now is that we can and should refer to the coins as true “shipwreck treasure,” in the sense of Spanish doubloons from a Spanish ship, and not just a “hoard” with no specific record of loss or intent. Even if we do not have a name for the ship that yielded these coins, the “Mesuno hoard” will always be important as one of the world’s largest single sources of gold cobs, and practically the only source for early Bogota two escudos.

 ———-

* The dates 1627 and 1636 are also possible from this hoard. Prior to the revelation of stylistic differences (particularly the size of the fleurs in the quadrants of the cross) between the early 1630s and the mid-1630s, it is likely that coins formerly attributed to 1630 were actually 1636, as in so many cases just the bottoms of the digits of the date are visible. And while no 1627 specimens are officially recorded for this hoard (or known so far),[2009] that date is clearly possible, as there is record of the Bogotá mint having received enough gold in December of that inaugural year to make about 750 two escudos, and also Calicó mentions the existence of an assayer-P specimen with overdate 1628/7.

Shipwreck artifacts and coins top Sedwick auction 22

14 Nov

Winter Park, Florida – Nov. 8, 2017 – Spanish colonial rarities set high prices in Daniel Frank Sedwick’s Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction 22, held Nov. 2-3, 2017. The event combined high-class material and international bidders with educational talks and social events. Across 2,341 lots, the sale realized $2.45 million in winning bids.  All prices listed include a 17.5 percent buyer’s premium.

Jorge Proctor giving his lecture “The Forgotten Mint of Colonial Panama”

Three large silver bars recovered from the Atocha shipwreck, sunk in 1622 off Florida, made impressive showings in the sale. One bar (lot 217) weighing in at 89 pounds, 0.5 troy ounces was the top lot in the auction with a price of $47,587.50. Another bar r (lot 216), slightly larger than the first at 89 pounds, 11.68 troy ounces, came in at $30,550. Finally (lot 218), a smaller, yet higher grade 43 pounds, 4.4 troy ounces bar earned $23,500.

Lot 1473 This Madonna brooch is an impressive survivor from the shipwrecked 1715 Fleet.

Another high-performing piece was lot 1473, an ornate gold-and-pearl “Madonna” brooch recovered from the “Rio Mar” shipwreck site of the 1715 Fleet. After heavy bidding both on the floor and online, the brooch sold for $47,000 on an estimate of $15,000 and up.

The top coin sold in the auction was lot 9, a Lima, Peru, 1697H gold cob 8 escudos “PVA” variety graded NGC MS 62. In addition to being the finest and only example listed on the NGC census, the coin also came from the 1715 Fleet. The coin brought in $38,187.50 on a $20,000- and-up estimate.

A finest-known, 1732F Mexico City-minted gold escudos denomination set (lots 144-146) consisting of the 4, 2 and 1 escudos garnered intense bidding. The 4 escudos, graded NGC MS 60 and designated as being from the 1733 Fleet, brought in $28,200 on an estimate of $20,000 and up. The 2 escudos, graded NGC AU 58, did even better and ended up selling for $30,550 on a $15,000-and-up estimate. Finally, the 1 escudo, graded NGC MS 61, surpassed the others and sold for $35,250 on an estimate of $15,000 and up.

Lot 745 Panama, cob 2 reales, Philip II, assayer oX at 4 o’clock, mintmark AP (Atocha 1622)

Strong prices were seen on early Mexican and Panama silver cobs. A very rare “Early Series” Charles-Joanna Mexican cob 3 reales with Gothic assayer “R” and three-dots denomination (lot 517) flew past its $10,000-$15,000 estimate to sell for $25,850. A Panama cob 2 reales with assayer initial X recovered from the Atocha shipwreck (lot 745) brought in the same price, this time on a $5,000-and-up estimate.

Other highlights from the sale include:

  • Lot 27: A Lima, Peru, 1713/2M cob 8 escudos graded NGC MS 64 and from the 1715 Fleet sold for $31,725.
  • Lot 209: A gold “oro corriente” cut ingot piece weighing 80.1 grams from an unidentified early 1500s Caribbean shipwreck sold for $19,975.
  • Lot 678: A Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales Royal, 1652E Transitional Type I/A, with crowned-600 countermark of Brazil sold for $8,812.50.
  • Lot 744: A Panama cob 4 reales, Philip II, assayer oB to left with mintmark AP above error denomination sold for $17,625.
  • Lot 986: A Le Cap, Haiti, 1 escalin with anchor countermark on a cut-down Lima, Peru, 1696H cob 1 real sold for $8,225.
  • Lot 1293: A Panama “Constancia de Panama” silver oval medal, Ferdinand VII, pedigreed to the Richard Stuart collection sold for $14,100.
  • Lot 1410: A Panama series 1941, 1 balboa “Arias” note graded PCGS Choice About New 58 PPQ sold for $6,462.50.
  • Lot 1476: A 24-inch-long, gold chain weighing 66.54 grams sold for $15,275.
  • Lot 1684: A France (Lyon mint) 1723-D gold Louis d’or, Louis XV, from the Chameau shipwreck (1725) sold for $3,290.

See auction.sedwickcoins.com for all auction results. Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC is currently accepting consignments for their Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction 23 to be held May 15-16, 2018. For more details, please contact Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC at office@sedwickcoins.com. A full schedule of events including consignment deadlines can be found at www.sedwickcoins.com/schedule.htm.

Treasure coins, gold artifacts brighten Sedwick’s November Auction

26 Oct

Unique gold coins and artifacts will draw attention to Daniel Frank Sedwick’s Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction 22. Over 2,340 lots will be up for bidding in the combined floor and live online auction held Nov. 2-3. Online lot viewing and bidding is hosted at www.auction.sedwickcoins.com.

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This large gold disk weighing 1,434 grams was part of the Luz shipwreck treasure find.

One impressive artifact from the sale is lot 213: a large gold disk weighing over 1.4 kilograms recovered from the Luz shipwreck, sunk in 1752 off Montevideo, Uruguay. The Luz was carrying large gold holdings owned by the King of Spain as well as Jesuit missionaries when it was smashed upon the coastline during a storm.

Although contemporary salvage efforts recovered some of the Luz’s cargo, it wasn’t until 1992 that large amounts of gold escudos as well as gold ingots were found. After the disk’s discovery, it traded from collection to collection. It originally appeared in a 1993 Sotheby’s auction and once again in a 1997 Ponterio auction where it was the pictured on the back cover of the catalog. In Sedwick’s sale, the gold disk is estimated at $80,000 to $120,000.

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This Madonna brooch is an impressive survivor from the shipwrecked 1715 Fleet.

Another unique treasure item in the auction is lot 1473: a beautiful gold-and-pearl “Madonna” brooch recovered from “Rio Mar” site of the 1715 Fleet, sunk in 1715 off the east coast of Florida. The large and ornate pendant features a crowned female figure surrounded by ornate framework decorated with many pearls. The pendant is suspended from a moving crown featuring more intricate goldwork and pearl settings. While the female figure has led to a popular reference as a “Madonna” brooch, the female appears to be Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The brooch is an impressive survivor from the wreck, given the ornate gold design that somehow survived 274 years underwater. It was discovered by the famous Mel Fisher salvaging company in 1989 and later pictured in the book Dreamweaver: The Story of Mel Fisher (1996) by Bob Weller. It will be offered with an estimate of $15,000 and up.

Other artifacts from the 1715 Fleet will be offered in the sale including lot 1474: a set of pearl earrings similar in style to the “Madonna” brooch found at the Cabin wreck site, estimated at $6,000 to $9,000. Also, a set of 1715- and 1716-dated London, England Post Boy newspapers reporting on the 1715 Fleet disaster and subsequent recovery efforts is lot 1460 and estimated at $4,000 to $6,000.

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A unique 1750/48 Guatemala cob 1 escudo pedigreed to the Richard Stuart collection.

Beyond shipwreck treasures, a number of very rare coins will appear in the auction. Notably, a unique 1750/48 Guatemala bust-type gold 1 escudo will be offered as lot 130 with an estimate of $25,000 and up. The coin features the bust of Ferdinand VI and was struck by hand using a design intended for machine-struck coins. The hammered gold coins of Guatemala are the rarest of all Spanish colonial gold coins with only four 1 escudos known. Only one, the coin being offered, is dated 1750. It is pedigreed to the Richard Stuart collection and is plated on page 183 in Historia de la Casa de Moneda de Guatemala (2010) by Carlos Jara.

The auction will feature the largest offering ever of Panama cobs, Nicaragua and Honduras imitation cobs, and Admiral Vernon medals, pedigreed to the Richard Stuart collection. A rare, unlisted pairing of a Costa Rican 8 reales with an 1846JB 2 reales counterstamp (Type V) with “8” on a Potosi, Bolivia cob 8 reales dated 1771 is lot 838 with an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.

Another rarity also from the Richard Stuart collection being offered is lot 744: a Panama Philip II cob 4 reales with the mintmark AP above an error “III” denomination. It is a plate coin in both Spain, Portugal and the New World (2002) by Chet Krause and Clifford Mishler as well as The Forgotten Mint of Colonial Panama (2005) by Jorge Proctor. The coin has an estimate of $10,000 and up.

Other top lots in the auction include:

  • Lots 144, 145 and 146: A group of first year type, Mexico City-minted 1732 gold 4, 2 and 1 escudos, all graded by NGC and the finest known in the NGC census, estimated at $20,000 and up (for the 4 escudos) as well as $15,000 and up (for 2 and 1 escudos).
  • Lot 160: An 1822, assayer JM, Mexican 8 escudos featuring Iturbide with the corrected “Augustin” spelling variety, graded NGC MS 62, estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.
  • Lot 13: A 1701, assayer H, Lima, Peru cob 4 escudos recovered from the 1715 Fleet, graded NGC MS 64, estimated at $20,000 and up.
  • Lots 216 and 217: Two large, 89-pound silver bars recovered from the Atocha (sunk in 1622), each estimated at $25,000 and up.
  • Lot 493: An 1857-S Liberty Head $20 double eagle recovered from the SS Central America (sunk in 1857), graded PCGS MS 64, estimated at $10,000 to $15,000.
  • Lot 1334: A 1916 Standing Liberty quarter, graded NGC VG 10, estimated at $3,500 to $5,000.
  • Lot 1364: A unique 1861 Banco de Santiago 100 pesos bank note, estimated at $10,000 and up.
  • Lot 1381: A 1921 Costa Rican 2 colones bank note, the finest known in the PMG census, estimated at $2,500 to $3,750.

An internet-only session will be held Monday, Nov. 6 featuring selected items from all sessions. Bidders can register for the auction at www.auction.sedwickcoins.com. For more details, please contact Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC at office@sedwickcoins.com.

Upcoming Treasure Auction 22: Important 1715 Fleet Artifacts

21 Oct

Today we will cover some of the most important artifacts from the 1715 Fleet you can find in our upcoming auction. These pieces are important for either their rarity, their quality, their provenance or all of the above

Lot 1473: Gold-and-pearl “Madonna” brooch, large and ornate, from the 1715 Fleet, plated in Dreamweaver. 59.79 grams, about 3-1/2″ x 2-1/4″. A large and very ornate pendant of an articulated type known as a “venera,” featuring a crowned female over an angel face superimposed over an upward-facing crescent moon (topped with small posts, one of which still bears a pearl), all in a central open oval surrounded by twenty-two sunrays tipped with pearls, fastened to a frame of alternating large and small five-point ornaments with more pearls on top (on loose posts fastened with Y-backs) and on ends, with small loop at bottom, that whole piece suspended from a moving “crown” of similar ornaments encrusted with more pearls, the back showing a large horizontal ring for wearing as a brooch or pendant. This piece has popularly been referred to as the “Madonna” brooch, but more accurately the central figure appears to be Our Lady of Guadalupe (similar to the medallion from the 1733 Fleet plated on pages 158-9 of Weller’s Galleon Alley book of 2001). The pearls (fifty-two remaining) are all a bit worn and quite a few are missing, but more egregious is the absence of eleven gemstones (presumably emeralds) from now-empty sockets that show traces of light encrustation (hence they were lost or removed before salvage), although it is possible the gems were to be added later when this relic made it to Spain. The gold itself is all intact and visibly high grade. Clearly a museum piece, one of the most important 1715-Fleet artifacts we have ever offered, reportedly recovered by John Berrier and Duke Long in 1989. From the “Rio Mar” site, with Fisher photo-certificate #1611 and photocopy of a hand-drawing by K. Amundson, and featured in color photo on page 193 of Dreamweaver (1996), by Bob “Frogfoot” Weller.  Direct link

Lot 1474: Matched pair of gold-and-pearl earrings from the 1715 Fleet. 7.09 grams total, each about 2-1/4″ long. Nearly identical earrings, made with hoop of gold at top, quatrefoil ornament with pearls on posts below that in middle and the bottom piece a pearl-strung straight wire with trefoil at top and ring at bottom, each with eleven pearls total, all very small and worn but none missing, an intact pair that can still be worn and matches the previous lot (“Madonna” brooch) in style, possibly from the same ship of the 1715 Fleet but reportedly found farther up the coast. With Fisher photo-certificate #41562 (showing both earrings) and original yellow-plastic tags #41562 and 41563. Direct Link

Lot 1476: Gold chain, 66.54 grams, 24 inches long, heavy-braid links with original clasp, from the 1715 Fleet. Thick links of boxlike braiding somewhat tightly spaced to make a very ductile chain, completely intact with ring at one end and Y-shaped piece at other end (connected with oblong jumper) for fastening to the ring, eminently wearable and attractive. With Queens Jewels LLC photo-certificate #F040982 (tag #75905). Direct Link

Lot 1484: Ornate silver shaker (pounce box) from the 1715 Fleet. 313 grams, 2-3/4″ cube. Unlike gold, very few shipwreck silver artifacts are solid enough to emerge from conservation as bright and beautiful and functional as they day they were made, but this is one of those rare relics, with every finely engraved detail in the (separate) lid and embossed design on the side intact and unblemished, just a tiny corner-chip in the lid and verdigris in one corner of the plain inside of the box, the lid designed with eighteen small holes in a floral pattern in a concave circle on the top for sprinkling a fine powder (pounce) over fresh manuscripts to prevent the ink from spreading. With Queens Jewels LLC photo-certificate #F040818 (tag #77225). Direct  Link

 Lot 1482: Gold-and-emerald ring, size 7-1/4, from the 1715 Fleet. 5.05 grams. Very solid and intact ring with rectangular, table-cut emerald of decent translucence and color in a scallop-base frame, the ring itself with straight sides, high-karat gold. From the “Cabin wreck” site, found on the beach in 1985, with a photo-certificate from salvager Carl Lazzeri and another from Daniel Frank Sedwick. Direct Link

Related Important Item:

Lot 1460: Unique set of newspapers with accounts on the sinking and salvage of the Spanish 1715 Treasure Fleet, consisting of four issues of The Post Boy (London) from 1715-16.

Four very rare, complete issues of The Post Boy, a major London newspaper, from November 19, December 8 and 19, 1715 and July 3, 1716, each issue a single 14” x 8” sheet (“broadsheet”) of high-quality rag stock printed on both sides, and in Fine to Very Fine condition. In all probability these papers are the only ones in private hands.

These four historic newspapers provide accounts of the legendary disaster and Spain’s frantic attempts to recover the hundreds of millions of dollars of gold and silver coins and precious jewels carried by eleven Spanish galleons, accompanied by a French warship that was the only ship to escape the hurricane on July 30, 1715, as the treasure-laden Fleet attempted to sail from Cuba to Spain. Hundreds of seamen and passengers drowned in the vicious storm with the survivors going to St. Augustine or Havana. Although much of the treasure was salvaged over the next few years—and present-day salvors have uncovered millions of dollars in coins and jewels—more treasure remains unclaimed in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Florida. Several whole ships have yet to be found.

The first report of the disaster in the November 19, 1715 issue reads: “Letters from the Havana, of the 17th of September, advise that the Flotilla, consisting of Ten Ships, met with such a violent Storm, upon the 31st of July, that they were forced to run ashoar upon the Coasts of Florida, 50 Leagues from Cape S. Augustin, and 20 from Cape Canaveral; and that only one Ship, v.z. the Flying-Hart, escaped: That upon this News, several Ships were immediately sent from the Havana to fish up the Gold and Silver; that good Part of it was already recover’d and particularly that on board the Urza de Lima; and that it was hoped, most of the rest would likewise be got up. They add, that 4 or 500 Men were drown’d, and among them several Passengers. This News was brought to Rochelle by the S. Francis, whose Cargo is very rich, consisting of 500000 Pieces of Eight besides Merchandizes.”

Further details from the December 8 issue are more positive (possibly to buoy public opinion on the disaster). Some of the reporting stated: “We have receiv’d better News concerning the Flota of New Spain…that only two Ships of it were cast away; Some others were indeed run aground upon the Coast of Florida; but all the Gold and Silver, and most of the Merchandizes were taken out of them.” The King then sent four ships to Florida, “…and shall take on board those of the Flota, which amount to 12 Millions of Crowns in Gold and Silver only.”

From the December 17, 1715 issue came the following: “Letters from Cadiz, of the 28th past, say, that all possible Diligence is used in fitting out the Men of War, which are to go and take on board the Cargoes of the Galleons run aground upon the Coast of Florida. By a Vessel arrived from thence they heard, that the Galleons could not be put a float again; but the Chests of Gold and Silver had been all taken up, and great part of the Merchandizes; so that only the Cochineal will be lost.”

Finally, after just over six months of salvage attempts, the July 3, 1716 issue reported the following gleaned from letters from Havanna at the end of March: “…they had recover’d out of the Capitana, a thousand Chests of Silver, and seven hundred and fifty out of the Admirante (Almiranta), but no Merchandizes out of those two Ships, whereas all those of the Urca de Lima had been fish’d up; that some English Barques being come in Sight of Palmaer, five (Spanish) Barques were fitted out at the Havana to observe them; that nevertheless the English seiz’d some Part of the Plate above specify’d whereupon a Deputy was order’d from the Havana to the Governor of Jamaica to complain of that proceeding….”

These newspapers represent highly important accounts of the disaster and the subsequent attempts to salvage the enormous treasure Spain and other European countries were counting on for their economies. In our time, ironically, these newspapers are vastly rarer than the treasure itself! Direct Link

 

Subasta de Monedas y Billetes de Daniel Frank Sedwick, llc #22

20 Oct

Sesiones 1-7. En SALA y por Internet Jueves-Viernes Noviembre, 2-3, 2017 / Sesion 8 – Solo por internet, Lunes Noviembre, 6, 2017.

Al igual que con todas nuestras subastas, muchas grandes colecciones han convergido en una increíble presentación una vez más. Esta será nuestra mayor venta hasta la fecha, particularmente con la segunda parte de selecciones de la colección de Richard Stuart. Algunas de las áreas en la cual poner atención:

  • En las macuquinas de oro ofrecemos la mejor selección de Lima que hemos tenido, en su mayoría de la flota de 1715, incluidos MUCHOS de los mejores ejemplares conocidos.

Nuestras secciones usuales de macuquinas de México, Lima y Potosí están llenas de trofeos numismáticos, envolviendo muchas monedas importantes de Carlos y Juana de México (¡incluyendo un fantástico 3 reales!), Pero esta venta tiene un área dedicada a una de las macuquinas más rara hechas en América se trata de la mayor colección de macuquinas de Panamá que se ha armado, gracias a Richard Stuart.

Hablando de Richard Stuart, las selecciones de su amplia colección de material centroamericano continúan poblando nuestra sección de Monedas de Plata del Mundo, con la mejor oferta de Honduras y Nicaragua “macuquinas de imitación” provisional (presentada por Carlos Jara), la más grande jamás vista selección de contramarcas de Guatemala (incluido el tipo “moclón” de 1662) y presentaciones significativas en Costa Rica y Panamá también.

En la sección de monedas mundiales de oro, tenemos el honor de presentar, como el único 1 escudo de Guatemala macuquino fechado 1750/48 e importantes rarezas de oro de la República Centroamericana de Costa Rica y Guatemala y otros países como un set de las primeras monedas producidas en moneda de Oro de cordoncillo en América, se trata de 1,2 y 4 Escudos de 1732 de la ceca de México.

Una colección a recalcar es la Colección Potomac de Columnarios Mexicanos, la mayoría en grados exquisito, claramente ensamblados con un ojo para la calidad sin perseguir capsulas plásticas.

Otro logro de Richard Stuart se refleja en la sección de Medallas con su colección de medallas del Almirante Vernon, presentada aquí como la oferta única más grande y selecta en los tiempos modernos, con una breve presentación de Daniel Frank Sedwick.

Nuestras secciones de Monedas y Papel moneda de EE. UU. Continúan creciendo, con importantes ofertas de América Latina y México, como una única presentación de 100 pesos del Banco de Santiago (Chile) y un conjunto completo de pruebas de Chihuahua (México).

Como siempre habrá presentaciones académicas en SALA el día antes de la subasta, esta vez de Jorge Proctor nos dará una cátedra oportuna sombre las macuquinas de Panamá, Carlos Jara nos deleitara con una disertación sobre numismática provisional de Honduras y Nicaragua. Con gran honor tendremos la presencia internacional de Manuel Chacón (curador del Museo del Banco Central de Costa Rica) y finalmente cerramos las disertaciones con el estudioso y Capitán, John Brandon que nos presentara historia y conservación de naufragios. El lunes después de la subasta en SALA será la subasta solo por Internet, (tenga en cuenta que el Lunes 6 de noviembre cambia la hora en EE. UU. de EDT a EST), la “sección de “internet only” está llena de cientos de lotes enfocados en coleccionista conscientes de su presupuesto pero aun buscando la calidad. Con material de todas las secciones.

Página principal de la subasta:  http://www.sedwickcoins.com/ta22/catalog.htm

Pujas y registracion: www.auction.sedwickcoins.com

The Admiral Vernon Medals of 1739 and 1741

10 Oct

by Daniel Frank Sedwick

If the heart of collecting is visual and intellectual stimulation mixed with historical study, then the “Admiral Vernon” medals crafted in England in the period 1739-1741 are the perfect collectibles. The sheer number of different varieties of these medals makes collecting them both challenging and feasible. Fascination with these historic pieces has spawned more than a dozen studies over the past 180+ years, culminating in the book Medallic Portraits of Admiral Vernon (2010), by John Adams and Fernando Chao (the “AC” reference we quote in our lot descriptions). With this well-illustrated book alone, one can spend many enjoyable hours attributing each piece down to exact die details. The biggest challenge with these medals is condition, as they were heavily used and abused, which makes the present offering comprising the collection of Richard Stuart an exceptional opportunity.

The conflict began with the capture and torture of the British merchant ship captain Robert Jenkins by the Spanish off Havana, Cuba, in 1731. His alleged punishment for smuggling was the removal of one of his ears, which he physically produced for British Parliament in 1739, setting off what became known as the “War of Jenkins’ Ear” starting that year, effectively “Great Britain’s first protracted naval war in the Americas.”[1] In a burst of vengeful braggadocio, the experienced British admiral Edward Vernon reportedly said he could take the Spanish port of Portobelo, Panama, “with six ships only,” the larger goal being to disrupt the flow of Spanish shipping of treasure from the New World. It is easy in retrospect to see why the Spanish viewed this as simple piracy under the guise of war. While the British lauded Vernon as a hero and the Spanish vilified him as a pirate, the truth is somewhere in between.

Using Jamaica as a base of operations, Vernon made good on his boast in December of 1739 (with Commodore Charles Brown), but from there things went south. While news of his victory at Portobelo was reaching England, Vernon’s squadrons were battling storms and the threat of a French fleet. Vernon’s subsequent attack on Cartagena, Colombia, in March of 1740 was unsuccessful and resulted in his taking a sort of consolation prize: Fort Chagre in Panama (near Portobelo). More than a year went by, as both sides beefed up forces, the British side (including ships under Rear Admiral Chaloner Ogle) eventually becoming “the largest force yet deployed in the West Indies.”[2] A renewed assault on Cartagena utilizing over 100 ships and 12,600 troops (almost a third of which were colonial Americans, thus representing “the first deployment of Americans abroad”[3]) began in the spring of 1741 and delivered Vernon’s ships and foot-soldiers into the harbor before yellow fever and miscommunication between Vernon and Brigadier-General Thomas Wentworth forced a retreat. Most interestingly for us numismatists, upon breaching the harbor the boastful Vernon had already sent word back to England of his “victory” at Cartagena against his Spanish counterpart, Admiral Blas de Lezo, spawning a new round of medals dated 1741. Vernon’s final attempt was against Cuba that same year, initially planned for Havana (and, once again, reported back to England as a victory there) but instead visited upon Santiago on the south coast and successfully repelled by the Spanish and their mosquito-borne partner, yellow fever, as in Cartagena. In sum, Vernon’s only victories were in relatively quiet and unimportant Panama.

The medals themselves depict all these events in the most favorable light possible for Vernon, to the point of comical misrepresentation. Beyond the basic organization based on location (Portobelo, Fort Chagre, Cartagena and Havana), these medals are grouped according to legends (on both sides, often with errors) and figures of Vernon and the other players in the events (often almost cartoon-like in quality), in addition to icons like cannons and ships and scenery like forts and cities (most depicted without regard to perspective or scale). Minute details like where Vernon’s finger points and where a church steeple sticks up are integral to pinpointing exact dies. Since so many of these medals are well worn, it is not always to make attributions right away, but almost always one small, visible detail can make the difference.

Besides a few examples in silver and tin (plus a unique specimen in gold), the primary metal used to make these pieces was copper alloyed with a variety of other metals, like zinc and tin. Often the generic term used is brass or bronze, but more specific references mention “pinchbeck,” referring to a proprietary alloy invented by a family of clock and watchmakers in London named Pinchbeck, who advertised their metal as resembling gold in color and ductility. Presumably the Pinchbecks were the makers and purveyors of the Vernon medals. Relatively few of the medals are signed by engravers, most of whom are unknown. Overall it is clear these medals were made in haste to satisfy and capitalize on demand from a brief hysteria.

While every collector seeks a reason or connection to collect a certain thing (like Richard Stuart’s connection with Panama for these medals), the Admiral Vernon medals can and should be collected simply for their “collectibility” as a well-studied series that has been appreciated by top numismatists for over 180 years.

Link To Admiral Vernon Medal Collection

[1] Adams-Chao, page 21

[2] Adams-Chao, page 22

[3] Adams-Chao, page 159

“Two bits” US quarter design proposed

21 Sep

Could the two bits return to circulation? A Spanish colonial influenced design for the 2019 Texas San Antonio Missions America the Beautiful quarter was recommended by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) on Sept. 19.

2019_Texas_Quarter

The CCAC-recommended design for the 2019 San Antonio Missions America the Beautiful quarter.

The reverse design is based heavily on Spanish colonial cob reales which circulated widely in North and South America. It was not uncommon to see reales circulating in the American colonies. The adage “two bits” descends from the 2 reales or 2 “bits” of an 8 reales, a denomination that traded at par with a US quarter dollar.

The CCAC-recommended design features a Spanish colonial-style cross in the center. In the four quadrants, there is a mission bell tower in the upper left, a heraldic lion in the upper right, wheat in the lower left and waves in the lower right.

The mission tower and the lion are very similar to the castles and lions found on Spanish colonial cobs, both in design and in placement. The bushel of wheat and waves are modern additions that symbolize the crops grown by the missions using water from the San Antonio River.

Around the design is a raised rim with the legends reading, “SAN ANTONIO MISSIONS,” “TEXAS,” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM” in addition to the date, 2019. The obverse design will be the standard Washington quarter design, shared across all America the Beautiful quarters.

8645290_1edit

Reverse of a Mexico City, Mexico cob 2 reales.

Fifteen concepts for the San Antonio Missions quarter were submitted for review. Most featured different views of a mission. Three featured a Spanish colonial cross: the CCAC recommended design, one with the tower and wheat positions swapped as well as a fish leaping out of water and one with the cross extending to the rims.

The San Antonio Missions quarter is one of five new designs set to release in 2019. Quarters commemorating Massachusetts’ Lowell National Historical Park, Commonwealth of North Mariana Islands’ American Memorial Park, Guam’s War in the Pacific National Historical Park and Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness will appear throughout the year. The CCAC discussed 64 total depictions for the five quarter designs.

The designs viewed by the CCAC were also considered by the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). The CFA’s suggestions were not available at press time. Once both groups have selected designs, they will be sent to Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin for approval in early 2018.

In 2019, the United States Mint will strike the five quarter designs throughout the year. The San Antonio Missions quarter is expected to release in late August. If the CCAC-recommended design is chosen, Americans will once again find two bits in their pocket change.

How to grade coins: lessons from ANA’s Summer Seminar

12 Jul

Grading coins can be a difficult task. The difference between an AU-58 coin and an MS-62 coin can mean very little in terms of wear but matter greatly in value. If the coin isn’t under the right light or the grader isn’t experienced with the series, money could be left on the table. It’s for this reason that the American Numismatic Association (ANA) provides three grading courses at their annual Summer Seminar.

I recently attended the 2017 Summer Seminar from June 17 to 29 held at the Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo. The seminar offers a variety of courses on numismatic topics; everything from identifying counterfeits to grading coins. In addition, there are opportunities to meet with fellow numismatists, attend mini-seminars and visit some of Colorado’s sites.

I enrolled in the Grading United States Coins, Part 2 and Advanced United States Coin Grading and Problem Coins courses after testing out of the Coin Grading 1. Coin Grading 2 was held the first week of the seminar. It was taught by Steve Feltner of Americana Rare Coins, John Shuch of NGC, and David McCarthy of Kagin’s. Advanced Coin Grading went on the second week of the seminar and was taught by Charles Browne of Charles Browne Numismatic Consulting, Ken Park of The KMJ Group, Don Ketterling of D.H. Ketterling Consulting, and Bill Shamhart of Numismatic Americana, Inc.

The course involved multiple rounds of grading coins. We would grade a coin while timed and pass it to the next student while receiving another one in turn. Timing, as the instructors stated, is important because you can’t spend all day on one coin and people have a tendency to second guess themselves. We began with a minute per coin in Coin Grading 2 and went down to 30 seconds in Advanced Coin Grading.

The coins we graded were typically US coins and most were Mint State. Why Mint State? Because most people have difficulty with identifying a Mint State coin and the differences between Mint State grades are minute.

IMG_9249

The Practical Book of Cobs on sale at the American Numismatic Association headquarters.

When grading a Mint State coin, two of the most helpful pieces of advice I have ever heard were picked up in the classes. The first is “grade down from MS-70 rather than grade up for MS-60.” Graders with minimal experience in a particular coin series have a tendency to focus on marks and award lower grades than expected. As someone who has a tendency to be conservative when grading, this helped me to give coins the MS-64s or -65s they deserved rather than the MS-63s I would award them.

The other piece of advice that matters most to me is to “use light to your advantage.” Lighting while grading is a big factor. A dark room is necessary. Graders should use incandescent bulbs in adjustable lamps that they can get the coin as close to as possible. Rotating the coin all around is necessary to pick up the marks and lines that may affect the grade.

I also learned an interesting technique to use on AU-58 coins that appear to be Mint State. By holding the coin vertically and moving it away from the light source, I could see areas of wear take on a darker tone than the rest of the coin. Bringing it back into the light and taking a closer look revealed the marks and smooth patches that wear leaves.

IMG_9713

The author, Connor Falk, holds up a very rare 1943 Lincoln Wheat cent graded PCGS XF45 CAC.

Another helpful technique I learned was to grade based on my first look at the coin. If I looked at a coin for too long or took a second look, I had a tendency to second guess my grade. Marks that seemed minimal before were more serious now that I knew where they were. Graders should also take care not to fall into the trap of “counting” marks.

Lastly, another key phrase I heard in the classes was that the “reverse of a coin never helps and always hurts.” This means that a coin with a MS-67 reverse but an MS-64 obverse is going to get an MS-64 grade. Likewise, a coin with an MS-67 obverse but an MS-64 reverse will trend around MS-65. Almost all of the coin’s grade derives from the obverse since it is the side of the coin that people see first but a bad reverse can bring a grade down.

While most of my time was spent grading, I also got the chance to visit Colorado. Some fellow numismatists and I went to a Rockies-Diamondbacks game in Denver, an arcade in Manitou Springs, and the local coin show in Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Springs coin show was a welcomed respite in between the two weeks of classes. Roughly 50 dealers had booths at the show and offered the range of numismatics. I sold quite a bit of Spanish colonial coinage we had in inventory and bought a little bit. One coin I brought back with me is a nice NGC certified 1853-O Arrows and Rays Seated Liberty half dollar from the SS Republic shipwreck. It has very minimal corrosion and some nice toning throughout. It’ll be up on the Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC online store soon.

I highly recommend attending the ANA’s Summer Seminar and taking the coin grading courses. Quite a few numismatists have taken the grading classes multiple times to hone their grading skills. Even Ken Bressett, editor of the Red Book, stopped by my Coin Grading 2 class to adjust his grading scale. The classes provide a great environment for knowledgeable instructors to teach numismatists the techniques needed to accurately grade coins. Having those skills could pay dividends when it comes to buying a raw coin, sending it in for grading and getting back a coin that you can then resell for a profit.

Time to SELL in Sedwick’s next Treasure, World, U.S. Coin & Paper Money Auction

8 Jul

cropped-10451071_735653903139294_9095171355971243803_n Now is not too early to consign to our Treasure, World and U.S. Coin & Paper Money Auction #22, which will be our Fifth LIVE PUBLIC FLOOR sale. As usual this event will take place at the DoubleTree by Hilton at Lake Buena Vista in Orlando, FL, with live floor auction on Thursday-Friday, November 2-3, 2017 and lot viewing and guest speakers the day before (Wednesday, November 1).

The special room rate will be available until October 9th or until the group block is sold out, whichever comes first. Booking a reservation is simple: Just click here to receive our preferred group rate: “Book a Room
If you prefer to make your reservation by phone, please call the hotel at 407.934.1000 and specify group code “SED” 1-800-222-TREE(8733). Hotel address and details as follows: Walt Disney World, 2305 Hotel Plaza | Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Florida – USA 32830 – Tel: +1-407.934.1000 | Fax: +1-407.934.1015

This will be the MOST IMPORTANT auction of the year, featuring Part II of selections from the Richard Stuart collection, with exceptional exposure both from the LIVE FLOOR and simultaneous INTERNET BIDDING.

We urge you not to wait till the last weeks to consign. Please consult with us about your consignments now. Also there is plenty of time to meet to discuss and deliver your consignments in person. We will travel to you for qualified consignments. Also note you will be able to see us in person at ANA World’s Fair of Money in Denver, August 1-5. We will also be offering much new inventory at this show!

We are seeking consignments of better shipwreck coins and gold cobs, world gold coins, high-grade Latin American coin collections and high-end shipwreck gold artifacts (particularly gold and silver ingots). Our buyers stand ready to bid on YOUR treasures!

We look forward to hearing from you, with thanks in advance. Do not forget to check our Online Store.

Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC

 

Shipwreck artifacts and coins top Sedwick auction

12 May

Strong collector demand provoked intense bidding and high prices for both shipwreck and non-shipwreck items in Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC’s May 3-4 auction. The 2,086 lot auction realized $1.725 million in winning bids. All prices listed include a 17.5 percent buyer’s premium.

Rosary (2)

A gold and red-coral rosary recovered from the Atocha that sold for $85,187.

A gold and red-coral rosary recovered from the shipwreck of the Atocha, which sank in 1622 west of Key West, Florida, greatly surpassed its $25,000-up estimate to sell for $85,187. The rosary, in the sale as lot 2020, has been well publicized since its discovery in 1973, having appeared in the June 1976 issue of National Geographic and offered in a 1988 Christie’s auction.

Atocha bar

A 83 troy pound, 7.52 troy ounce silver bar from the Atocha was purchased for $64,883.

Another Atocha relic in the sale was lot 319, an 83 troy pound, 7.52 troy ounce silver bar that went for $64,883 on a $35,000-up estimate.

Salvation coin

A Bogota gold escudo from the 1715 Fleet and donated to the Salvation Army sold for $3,819.

Hundreds of shipwreck coins appeared in the sale as well. One of the most viewed items in the sale was lot 46, a Bogota gold escudo recovered from the shipwrecked 1715 Fleet and famously donated to the Salvation Army red kettle campaign during the 2016 holiday season. It flew by its $2,000-$3,000 estimate and sold for $3,819.

Cuzco

A MS-64 1837 Cuzco, Peru, gold 8 escudos hammered at $38,775.

Many non-shipwreck pieces saw high prices and, in some instances, record breaking prices. Lot 203, a Cuzco, Peru, 1837 gold 8 escudos graded NGC MS 64 went for $38,775. It was estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

Panama coins and paper money saw spirited bidding in the auction. A rare Panama 1930 matte proof set consisting of the half-, quarter- and tenth-balboas pedigreed to the Richard Stuart collection was offered as lot 1648. The set sold for $18,800, well past its $2,000-$3,000 estimate. Likewise, a Panama (then a state in Colombia) 1869 3 pesos banknote graded PMG VF 25 realized $3,055 on a $1,500-$2,250 estimate.

1864

This Sovereign State of Panama 3 pesos note from 1869 graded PMG VF 35 realized $3,055.

Other top lots include:

  • Lot 24, a Lima 1697/66H cob 4 escudos from the 1715 Fleet graded NGC MS 63 sold for $31,725.
  • Lot 3, a 1713 Mexico gold 8 escudos from the 1715 Fleet graded NGC MS 66 sold for $28,200.
  • Lot 556, a Mexico cob 4 reales from the pirate ship Whydah sold for $16,450.
  • Lot 320, a 35 troy pound, 1.81 troy ounce silver bar from the Maravillas shipwreck sold for $15,275.
  • Lot 1666, a Paraguay white-metal pattern 10 reales (ca. 1861-67) graded NGC MS 61 sold for $15,862.
  • Lot 1644, a Panama copper-nickel 1918 2-1/2 centesimos pedigreed to the Richard Stuart collection and graded NGC MS 63 sold for $13,512.

Full auction results can be viewed online at auction.sedwickcoins.com. Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC is currently accepting consignments for their Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction #22 to be held Nov. 1-3, 2017. For more details, please contact Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC at office@sedwickcoins.com.

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