Tag Archives: numismatics

 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.

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* 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 silver ingots and gold coins highlight Sedwick’s Treasure Auction

15 Mar

A massive 83 troy-pound, 7.52 troy-ounce silver bar recovered from the shipwreck of the Atocha and estimated at $35,000-up is just one of many treasures to appear in Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC’s Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction 21. The online live auction will be held May 3-4 at www.auction.sedwickcoins.com. Lots can be previewed on the site in the first week of April.

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An 83 troy-pound, 7.52 troy-ounce silver bar from the Atocha

The large silver bar comes from one of the richest Spanish treasure galleons lost at sea, the Atocha, which sank in 1622 west of Key West, Florida. One month after sinking, a hurricane scattered the wreck, preventing the Spanish authorities from recovering its treasure. However, modern salvage operations conducted by Mel Fisher in the 1970s uncovered approximately 1,000 silver ingots and over 100,000 shield-type cobs. Coins from the Atocha will be offered in the Sedwick auction as well.

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A gold and red-coral rosary recovered from the Atocha, photo credit to Carol Tedesco, Key West, FL

Another treasure find from the Atocha appearing in the auction is a gold and red-coral rosary. The rosary was featured in the June 1976 issue of National Geographic Magazine and is pedigreed to a 1988 Christie’s auction. The rosary is estimated at $25,000-up.

Other top lots include:

  • A 1713 Mexico gold 8 escudo from the 1715 Fleet, graded NGC MS 66, estimated at $15,000-up

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    An MS 66 1713 Mexico gold 8 escudos from the 1715 Fleet

  • An NGC-graded denomination set of gold Lima escudos dated 1710 recovered from the 1715 Fleet, estimated at $30,000 to $50,000 total
  • A Bogota gold 1 escudo recovered from the 1715 Fleet and famously placed in a Salvation Army red kettle during the 2016 holiday season, estimated at $2,000 to $3,000
  • An 1837 Cuzco gold 8 escudos, graded NGC MS 64 and tied for finest known, estimated at $20,000 to $30,000

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    An MS 64 1837 Cuzco gold 8 escudos

  • A 35 troy-pound, 1.81 troy-ounce silver bar from the Maravillas shipwreck of 1656, estimated at $10,000 to $15,000
  • Four silver bars recovered from the “Tumbaga Wreck” (ca. 1528)
  • Over 200 Central American coins pedigreed to the Richard Stuart Collection
  • An 1882 $20 Gold Certificate, graded PCGS UNC 65 – Repaired Edge Tear, estimated $8,000 to $12,000

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    A PCGS Gem New 65 Apparent – Repaired Edge Tear at Top Right 1882 $20 Gold Certificate

  • Around 200 lots of U.S. and world bank notes
  • More than 30 lots of natural gold nuggets

Bidders can register for the auction at www.auction.sedwickcoins.com in early April. The printed catalog will also be available early April at www.sedwickcoins.com. For more details, please contact Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC at office@sedwickcoins.com.

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Sedwick Treasure Auction Wrap-Up, Tips for Buying Cobs, and Where to Find Us

8 Dec

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I’m finally able to take a breather from post-auction duties of packing and shipping to share some thoughts with you. First, all of us at Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC want to thank our bidders, consignors, auction speakers, and auction attendees for helping make Treasure Auction #20 one of our best auctions to date. Without YOU, auctions don’t happen. We are grateful for the personal and professional relationships we have nurtured over the years and look forward to many more.

As the Christmas buying season kicks into high gear, there are a few reminders to help you get the most for your money, at least when it comes to buying coins. When you buy a widget, you go to a store that you know sells them. For example, I buy electronics at a place like Best Buy. When you buy a coin, particularly a niche coin like a cob, you need to find a specialty seller, someone who knows what he’s doing.

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Can You Tell This is a Counterfeit?

If you don’t, you may buy a fake instead of the real thing. Or, you may buy something less than what it should be for the price because the seller doesn’t really know his product. Either way, you won’t be satisfied with your purchase. Again, always buy from reputable dealers whether you’re buying a shipwreck coin or a dryer.

Next, whether it’s a cob or a car, buy what you like. This is especially true for any commodity that you might consider an “investment” because most things appreciate only after you’ve held onto them for a good period of time. Quick profits don’t happen very often, so plan to enjoy your purchase for years. When you do sell, you’ll be well rewarded.

Finally, buy the best you can afford if you really want to be happy with your purchase. Buyer’s remorse from letting the coin you really wanted get away from you stays with you for a long time. If you’re building a collection, it’s much easier to buy great quality at the beginning than spend time and effort to upgrade later. That said, if what you can afford isn’t the best quality, don’t worry. You’ll be happy to simply own the piece in the first place.

We can help you build the collection of your dreams. Just ask us! And, you can visit us in person at the following 2017 shows where we will have a table:

schelude2017show2Happy Holidays to all and we look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

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What You Can’t Live Without in Treasure Auction #20 (part three)

2 Nov

Today we want to make you aware of some very important silver coins you can bid on in our upcoming Sedwick Treasure, World, U.S. Coin & Paper Money Auction #20. When you see descriptions containing words or phrases like “unique,” “very rare,” “finest known,” and “unlimited value,” you can be sure these items will bring top dollar…and be worth every penny. It bears repeating that we often say you should buy the “best” coins  you can afford, whether that means coins in the best condition or of the highest rarity. The good things in life don’t come cheaply but you’ll rarely regret your decision to buy them and enjoy them for years. Good luck in our auction!

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Lot 561, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a Mexico City, Mexico, 4 reales, Charles-Joanna, “Early Series,” coin and those who collect them know that varieties with the assayer mark (P) to the left and mintmark (M) to the right are generally much rarer than others. Also, this is an early variety in Assayer P’s tenure with the use of HISPANIE instead of the later use of HISPANIARVM in the legend on the pillars side.

 

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Lot 664, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is an extremely rare Mexico City, Mexico, cob 1 real Royal, 1643/2P. It is probably unique, but certainly unique in quality and of almost unlimited in value to the specialist collector.

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Lot 777, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a rare Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1634T and the first coin collected by Emilio Paoletti, (and ex-Burzio, ex-Martini, ex-Janson) with copy #1 of Paoletti’s book 8 Reales Cobs of Potosi (3rd ed., 2016) and signed by him on the first page where the number 001 appears. What a remarkable pedigree!

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Lot 857, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a rare Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales, 1652E transitional Type III from the Capitana (1654). What is interesting about this die variety is that the O-E above 52 to right of shield is punched over N-8.

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Lot 961, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a rare Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales Royal, 1714Y with an interesting four-digit date below cross (the standard for 1712-15).

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Lot 967, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a very rare Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales Royal, 1725Y, Louis I, ordinal PRIMERO. Royals of Louis I are among the most desirable and difficult to obtain, particularly since the general coins of this period are so crude. The present example is very bold, with full inner details and nearly full legends, including full LVIS PRIMERO (not just PR) and POTOSI (the pillars side slightly off-center).

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Lot 1027, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is an extremely rare and currently unique Potosi, Bolivia, cob 4 reales, 1732YA. This is a very important 4R, as it is the ONLY date and assayer (not counting overdates) that we have NEVER seen in our 25-year study of Potosi pillars-and-waves cobs.

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Lot 1079, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is an extremely rare Potosi, Bolivia, cob 1 real Heart, 1718Y. It’s an attractive example of the classic Heart shape and like most Heart minors, this specimen is probably unique.

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Lot 1086, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a Bogota, Colombia, cob 8 reales, 1670, assayer PoRS. It’s the finest and only known specimen in NGC census (NGC certification #4348135001) and is certainly among the choicest Bogota pillars-and-waves cobs in existence, in fact the highest of all Bogota cob 8R at NGC by two grades.

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Lot 1338, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a very rare Nicaragua (Leon), provisional “imitation cob” 2 reales, 1823 P.M.P.Y. It is probably the finest known of this Leon type with “pine tree” tops of pillars, a type rarely seen without a hole or significant damage. See Carlos Jara’s book Central American Provisional and Provincial Mints (2007) for more information about the attribution of this type to Leon.

We hope you find exactly what you’re looking for in our upcoming auction and please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. You can see coin lots in person this weekend (and see Dan, Augi, and Connor) at the Whitman Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center November 3-6.

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What You Can’t Live Without Buying in Treasure Auction #20 (part two)

25 Oct

In this blog, we will cover some of the big-ticket items (i.e. gold and gold and silver bars) you can find in our upcoming auction. These coins and bars are important for either their rarity, their quality, their provenance or all of the above. They are for the discerning advanced collector who can afford the best. These lots also represent historical treasures which anyone can appreciate whether they can buy them or not.

 

 

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Lot 30, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above Lima 8 escudos cob is the finest known of its type in the NGC census with a grade of MS 63. Dan has described it as “a superb specimen all around, befitting the top honors.” Over and above that, it’s from the 1715 Fleet!

 

 

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Lot 35, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

Another Lima 8 escudos cob, this coin is tied for finest known in the NGC census with a grade of MS 62. Dan’s description: “Clearly top grade but probably also the best in terms of strike, and apparently one of very few of this date and denomination recovered” from the Luz. ‘Nuff said!

 

 

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Lot 48, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

A Bogota 8 escudos cob, this coin is the finest and only specimen in the NGC census with a grade of XF 45. Per Dan’s description it’s a “royal-like specimen on a broad flan with 100% full and bold date and king’s name in legend….one of just a handful of full-date specimens from this mint that seem to have been intended as presentation pieces, so great is the contrast between them and the regular issues with only partially or non-visible dates.” Furthermore, he notes that “this Philip V issue is much tougher than the Ferdinand VI type that followed.”

 

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Lot 89, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

This Potosi bust 4 escudos is the finest and only known in the NGC census with a grade of AU 58. As Dan has noted, only 170 pieces (both laureate and non-laureate types) were minted and this date is the rarest bust-type issue in any denomination from this mint. It’s “a trophy gem and has no equal in any sales records known to us,” with “trophy” seeming like an understatement!

 

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Lot 161, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

The above is a Lima, Peru, bust 8 escudos from the time of Ferdinand VI and dated 1751. This lot is “one of only two of this ‘large wigged bust’ type” from the Luz shipwreck. Pretty rare stuff!

 

 

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Lot 202, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

On to bars! Above is a complete gold “strap” ingot for making oro corriente pieces, marked five times with circular tax stamp of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (Charles I of Spain) from an unidentified early 1500s wreck in the Caribbean. As Dan states, “its near-uniform flatness and its markings all indicate that this piece is the first example ever recorded of a complete ‘strap’ (in Spanish: riel) for cutting into the known (but very rare) money pieces (small) known as ‘oro corriente,’ which were used in place of actual gold coins (which were in short supply) in the colonies and thus represent the ‘first fish out of the lake’ from the colonies in terms of local gold coinage.” It dates to the 1520s and hence is “unique in importance, especially as the earliest form of Spanish colonial gold treasure we have ever offered.”

 

 

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Lot 203, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

Another important bar, the above gold “finger” bar is encrusted with coral as from the “Golden Fleece wreck” and was made “in a period when gold coins were not yet made in the New World and ‘oro corriente’ was being phased out” says Dan. Shipwreck bars are always in demand in our auctions.

 

 

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Lot 210, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

A very unusual silver “tumbaga” bar (#M-61) whose “most intriguing aspect is a large area of exposed pure copper, revealing how most ‘tumbaga’ silver was created by hammering silver and copper together and therefore showing the true nature of ‘metal of Michoacan’,” according to Dan. You should read The Tumbaga Saga by Agustin Garcia Barneche to learn more about these important and fascinating early silver bars.

 

 

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Lot 211, Sedwick Treasure Auction #20

What’s an auction without a large silver Atocha bar (#451)? As Dan notes of special importance, accompanying this bar is a “complete manifest report, which was an optional (and mostly declined) item when the bars were first distributed.” Rarity and provenance!

That’s all for now, and we hope this note will whet your appetite for our auction.

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What You Can’t Live Without Buying in Treasure Auction #20 (part one)

21 Oct

Our upcoming Sedwick Treasure, World, U.S. and Paper Money Auction #20 has something for everyone, and I’ll outline some highlights in upcoming blogs. First off, let’s show off our paper money section, a collectible that we haven’t been able to offer in great amounts but should become a staple of future auctions thanks to the hard work and expertise of our new employee, Connor Falk.

Lot 1522, TA #20, November 2016

At first glance, this colorful 1996 Cayman Islands 10 dollar note is appealing for the beach scene on the reverse, an open treasure chest residing beneath a palm tree as a sailboat moves in the shallow waters. But there’s an interesting backstory on this note: it shouldn’t exist. The X/1 series of notes were test notes printed by De La Rue on experimental paper, analyzed and then destroyed. A small number escaped, making them among the rarest of Cayman Islands notes. Add the fact that PMG certified this note as Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ and this lot is an impressive rarity sure to be the cornerstone of a Caribbean paper money collection.

Lot 1535, TA #20, November 2016

This 1889 100 pesos Colombian Bond is very rare with only four or five known and is the plate note featured in Compendio Historico del Papel Moneda en Colombia by Danilo Parra Ariza. It features a light blue underprint and a well-executed design including a vignette of a man with a burro cart. Other examples are known to have cancellation marks including punch holes and rhombus-shaped cuts, making this lot all the more attractive for its lack of major marks or cuts.

Lot 1536, TA #20, November 2016

This the 1889 10 pesos, similar in design as the lot above yet featuring a popular vignette of a dog.

Lot 1560 (obverse), TA #20, November 2016

Lot 1560 (reverse), TA #20, November 2016

A very scarce and popular note with a central vignette of a Carib Indian, also featured on other Guadeloupe banknotes and coins. The Caribs called Guadeloupe “Karukera” which translates to “island with beautiful waters.” Connecting with Guadeloupe’s maritime past, the reverse features a large compass rose. There are some folds and soiling, but the numerous and heavy folds that plague large notes like this one are not here, hence why PCGS certified this note as Very Fine 30.

Lot 1578 (reverse), TA #20, November 2016

Lot 1579 (obverse), TA #20, November 2016

These two Mexican notes are extremely popular and in demand due to the beautiful tri-color reverses honoring the colors of the Mexican flag. Printed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Mexican War of Independence, they are also the first commemorative banknotes in the world. Examples are scarce with notes in VF and higher rare while collectors give special attention to those with bright colors.
Check out Session 4 lots 1500-1623 for all of our bank note offerings.
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Notes from the 2016 U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona

12 Oct

hurricane-imageLast week Dan, Connor Falk (our new employee) and I traveled to Arizona ahead of Hurricane Matthew to show auction lots for our upcoming Auction #20 (more to follow on that tomorrow!) and give some presentations. We were a little unsure about leaving with a potentially dangerous storm bearing down on us, but when the going gets tough, the tough leave town. As it turned out, Matthew took an eastward jog and spared most of the central Florida area.

The U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association convention in Scottsdale is always a great time to reconnect with friends and colleagues. Connor and I got to meet Don and Lois Bailey, Mexican numismatic legends. All three of us enjoyed spending time with Ute Wartenberg Kagan, the longtime executive director of the American Numismatic Society who brought

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Connor Falk with Don Bailey

important Mexican coins from the vast collection at the Society. She will also attend our Auction #20, so if you’re attending it as well, you’ll want to meet and talk with her.

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Ute Wartenberg Kagan and Cori Downing

Augi, who stayed in Florida to make sure the hurricane didn’t blow away our office, won an award at the convention for his well-received book, The “Tumbaga” Saga, Treasure of the ConquistadorsWe’re fortunate to have a very cool “Tumbaga” bar (Lot 210) in the Auction. Dan took an award for his participation in the Counterfeit Forum last year and did so again this year. The presentation was extremely well received. I spoke on the Charles and Joanna coinage from the Mexico City mint, sharing some new research I’ve undertaken.

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All in all, it was a quick respite from the desk and chair. If you’re a collector of Mexican coins, you should become a member of the U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association and attend next year’s convention.

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Sedwick Treasure, World and US Coin Auction #20 Preview

7 Sep

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While all of us at Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC, are diligently working on making our November Treasure World & US Coin Auction #20 the BEST ever, I thought I would pause to tell you about some of the cool stuff we will have for you to bid on and *hopefully* buy. First off, make sure your Christmas wish list is empty because there are lots and lots of goodies you’ll want! I’m already making my list.

In the upcoming auction, we have a Maravillas Research Collection of countermarked Potosi cobs. Here’s a refresher about the Maravillas from our website (abridged):

Maravillas, sunk in 1656 off Grand Bahama Island

shipwreck

As the almiranta (“admiral’s ship,” or rear guard) of the homebound Spanish fleet in January of 1656, the Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas was officially filled with over five million pesos of treasure (and probably much more in contraband, as was usually the case). That treasure included much of the silver salvaged from the South Seas Fleet’s Capitana of 1654 that wrecked on Chanduy Reef off Ecuador. The ill-fated treasure sank once again when the Maravillas unexpectedly ran into shallow water and was subsequently rammed by one of the other ships of its fleet, forcing the captain to try to ground the Maravillas on a nearby reef on Little Bahama Bank off Grand Bahama Island. In the ensuing chaos, exacerbated by strong winds, most of the 650 people on board the ship died in the night, and the wreckage scattered. Spanish salvagers soon recovered almost half a million pesos of treasure quickly, followed by more recoveries over the next several decades, yet with over half of the official cargo still unfound. The first re-discovery of the Maravillas in the 20th century was by Robert Marx and his company Seafinders in 1972. The second big salvage effort on the Maravillas was by Herbert Humphreys and his company Marex in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The wreck area is still being searched today, but officially the Bahamian government has not granted any leases on the site since the early 1990s.

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Roberto Mastalir Divisek

 

In addition to the above Potosi shipwreck cobs, we are honored to present a collection of “Transitional” 1652 Potosi 8 reales cobs put together and written about extensively by Robert Mastalir. All of his coins in the upcoming auction are featured (photographed) in his book The Great Transition at the Potosi Mint, 1649-1653, the 1652 Transitional 8 Reales, which is out of print already, but we plan to re-print it for the auction soon.

 

 

Unfortunately, sometimes collections come to us after the death of the collector, and that’s the case for the Charles Eidel collection of shipwreck coins and ancient Greek and Roman coins. Charlie was a genial retired NYC policeman whose appetite for coins was wide ranging. His meticulous record keeping and coin descriptions reflect his love for the hobby. It’s now time for him to posthumously pass along his gems for the next generation of collectors.

Near and dear to my heart is our major offering of Charles and Joanna coinage (both Early and Late Series) in this auction. We have a smattering of coins from several different sources which complement each other very well and will give you a lot of opportunities to enrich your collection…or start one! While we generally feature 4 reales from shipwrecks, this time we will have a large selection of the very hard-to-find smaller denominations. We will even have an early series Assayer R 1 real. And when’s the last time you saw Assayer S in any denomination? We’ve got a 2 reales for sale!

That’s it for now, but it should help you decide on what you’d like to see under the Christmas tree this year (or before)! Happy bidding.

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Gallery

When Size Matters

2 Feb

In the world of numismatics, size (in this context, weight) matters. Heads have rolled and the guilty have been jailed or bankrupted for minting gold and silver coins that are a bit south of expected weight. Just ask the assayer and former mayor of Potosi.

Drawing of Potosi Mountain

 

It’s a very serious business, and it’s easy to see why. Without the vast stores of gold and silver transported from the New World, Spain never woulchest of gold and silver cobsd have become a European colonial superpower. Each quantity of silver or gold mined in the colonial mines around Mexico City, Potosi, Lima, etc. and sent to the mint for smelting and/or coining would have a tax, a fifth (or quinto), charged by the crown and hence referred to as the “king’s fifth.” It all adds up after a while, and the king didn’t appreciate being cheated out of any of his money.

When minting cobs, which are hand struck on planchets without collars, the task of making sure the weight was correct must have been onerous. Note that many cobs have trim marks to cut away some of the material. The weight didn’t have to be exact, but it sure had to be credible.

So, how much should a cob weigh? Of course, it depends on the denomination. The largest denomination was the 8 reales (silver) or 8 escudos (gold). Each was supposed to weigh about 27 grams, with a slight underweight tolerance of perhaps three-tenths of a gram. As for the other denominations, The Practical Book of Cobs tell us:

Practical Book of Cobs

Practical Book of Cobs, 4th edition

The denominations in gold are 1, 2, 4, and 8 escudos. There is no ½-escudo cob, although the ½ escudo did exist in the later milled coinage. The usual denominations in silver are ½, 1, 2, 4 and 8 reales. (A few ¼ reales were minted in the earliest periods but are generally rare and seldom seen.) Each lower denomination was supposed to weigh exactly one-half of the next larger denomination.

Given that formula, a 4 reales or escudos coin should weigh around 13.5 grams, a 2 reales or escudos coin around 6.75 grams, a 1 real or escudo coin around 3.375 grams, and a ½ real around 1.69 grams. There would be more leeway with silver than gold, which is more precious in any era.

One of the best and cheapest purchases you can make if you’re serious about collecting cobs is a scale, so you can weigh your coins. If you’re concerned about whether a coscalein you just bought is genuine, weight it! If it’s significantly underweight, then there’s your red flag. The BIG exception is shipwreck silver coins. Silver corrodes in salt water so many shipwreck cobs are underweight, sometimes significantly. This is not true of gold which comes out of the ocean as intact as the day it went down with the ship.

Of course, you should always deal with a reputable numismatist when buying or selling coins!

Long Beach Expo This Week!

If you’re in southern California, don’t miss an opportunity to meet Dan and Augi at the Expo. See them Wednesday through Friday. They will have inventory for sale and/or can take your consignment for our upcoming Treasure, World and US Coin Auction #19.

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The Office Travels to the U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association Fourth Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona

19 Oct
US Mexican Association image

U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association

 

 

Last week Dan, Augi and I traveled to Phoenix for the U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association Fourth Annual Convention in Scottsdale from Thursday, October 15 to Saturday, October 17. While the show is small, some of the most influential dealers and auctioneers in the business attend. The convention is open to members of the U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association who were treated to both great “coin watching” and a good selection of outstanding seminars hosted by experts in the field, including Dan. Dan spoke about counterfeit coins to a packed house, so obviously there’s lots of interest in the subject. One gentleman who stopped by our table afterward mentioned that he had inadvertently bought a fake coin many years ago, but between buying The Practical Book of Cobs and listening to the lecture, he had a much better idea of what to look for when buying a coin. We also stressed to him the importance of buying and selling coins through bona fide dealers, i.e. dealers who display knowledge and answer your questions intelligently.

We had a table at the convention where we were busy showing auction lots for our upcomingDan with Customer at US Mex Show 2015 Treasure, World & U.S. Coin  Auction 18 to be held in Orlando, Florida on October 29, 2015.  The hearts and royals were a big hit, as they created an impressive display. We may never see so many of both in the same auction again! 

Another treat was when I got to meet the Executive Director of the American Numismatic Society, Ute Wartenberg Kagan, who was assisted at her table by Matt Wittmann, Assistant Curator of American Coins and Currency. It is vital that organizations like the U.S. Mexican Numismatic Association and the American Numismatic Society thrive because they are repositories of knowledge and numismatic material that the average collector might never be able to access otherwise. Collecting is about learning as much as it is about owning.

Ute, Matt and Cori at US Mex Show

While it was a long way to go for a show, I’m glad we were once again able to go. Every show is an opportunity to buy, sell, meet people, show auction lots, and learn!

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