Gold Cobs from the Florida shipwrecks of the 1715 Fleet & other New World wrecks. Spanish Colonial gold cobs from Lima, Mexico, Cuzco, Bogotá, and Cartagena.






Lima 8 escudos


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Carlos II (1667-1700)








Philip V (1700-1747)






                                    From the 1715 Plate Fleet


L96. Viceroyalty of Peru, mint of Lima, 1712 M eight escudos. NGC "MS 64 1715 Plate Fleet Flipover  Double Struck".  A truly spectacular Lima onza! Double dated, lustrous, sharply struck, and the highest graded Lima 8 escudos from the entire 56 year gold cob era (1696-1751) (tied). A unique flipover  double strike error to boot.











 Not a perfect coin, but in the era of hand-struck gold cobs, this is about as good as it gets. In 35 years of studying gold cobs, there is only one other Lima onza I would rate as comparable to this 1712.  That 1699. also graded MS 64 by NGC, sold for $44,000 several years ago. A third NGC MS 64, a 1711 onza, sold privately, reportedly for a similar amount, several years ago. No Lima onza has been awarded an MS 65 (or higher) grade) by a grading services, but this 1712 and the 1699 deserve a higher number if "finest known" is to be recognized.



Some cataloguers speak hyperbolically about "pristine surfaces" on many Fleet coins. 250 years in salt water is hard on pristine surfaces. Very, very few Fleet coins retain the color and the lustrous surfaces that look like they came from the mint yesterday. That is what struck the NGC graders about this 1712. We also have a planchet large enough to show a complete PHILIPPUS, something very rare after 1705.


The error seen on this coin is unique in my experience of many thousands of Lima onzas. To create it an already struck coin had to be replaced by hand on the dies and struck again. Why? And the man hand-positioning the coin had to notice it was already struck, didn't he? Section of cross-side legend appear conspicuously  on the obverse at 12 o'clock (D G HI...), but most spectacularly the denomination 8 appears sharply overstruck on the cross.


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A Brief History of Lima Gold Cobs


After a short-lived, unauthorized experiment in gold coinage in 1659-60-- which enraged Philip IV-- the Lima mint began legally striking gold cobs in 1696. It continued to do almost continuously until 1750. Earthquakes, plagues, mining and economic problems several times curtailed gold production at Lima, but only in one year,1706, does a combination of these conditions seem to have stopped it.


Gold cobs were struck each year in four denominations: an eight escudos or onza of about 27 grams, and a four, two and one escudos at appropriate fractional weights. Onzas always comprised the bulk of the mintage, followed by the two and the one escudos. The design of the onza was repeated at reduced scale on the four and two escudos. The one escudos featured a single castle and small cross design.


Lima gold cobs were struck in the name of these four Spanish monarchs:

v     Charles II, 1696-1701 ( Charles died in 1700 but his coinage continues into 1701 )

v     Philip V, 1701-1724, 1724-46 ( second reign)

v     Luis I ( 1724)

v     Ferdinand VI (1746-1750)


Six assayer’s initial appear on Lima gold cobs:

Ø      H—Francisco Hurtado, 1696-1711

Ø      R— Miguel Rojas , 1699

Ø      M – Cristobal Melgarejo, 1709-1728

Ø      N—Joaquin Negron, 1728-1741

Ø      V— Vargas, 1739-1748

Ø      R--   Jose Rodriquez 1748-50


In general the quality of gold cobs produced under Capt Hurtado was high, very high in the first years of the coinage under Charles II.  Melgarejo at first continued to strike high quality gold cobs, but by the end of the Fleet era (1714), flans were becoming smaller and designs ( especially the cross) cruder. Some design experimentation in 1716-1717 produced the modified types that would henceforth grace Lima gold cobs. By the end of Melgarejo’s tenure and throughout those of his two immediate successors, Negron and Vargas, quality continued to decline, reaching its in nadir in some 1740’s issues of Vargas that are almost unrecognizable as Lima gold cobs. Some improvement occurred in the last three years of cob coinage at Lima under Rodriquez, but on small, crowded flans, so unlike Hurtado’s wonderful issues.


Two shipwrecks have contributed significantly to our knowledge and the collectiblity of Lima gold cobs. Prior to the discovery of the 1715 Fleet Florida wrecks in the 1960’s, many of the gold cobs in the era 1696-1714 were completely unknown or known in only one or two specimens. 1715 Fleet salvages have added perhaps 1500 collectible specimens to that population. Many Fleet dates remain very rare coins (1-3 known), but now at least there is a chance to own a 1702 onza or 1700 media onza! About 150 beautiful Lima gold cobs are impounded in the Florida State Collection.


A shipwreck found in 1992 in Montevideo harbor has also done a great deal for  the collectibility of the final years of Lima gold cobs. The wreck of Nuestra Senora de la Luz has yielded over a hundred Lima onzas and media onzas dated 1749-50, with occasional dates back to 1744. 1750 media onzas were not known to exist prior to this find.


Smaller more recent finds include a scant but interesting group of 1715-17 Limas from the 1719 wreck of the VOC merchantman Loosdrecht off the Isle of Wight. Surprisingly, the 1733 Fleet sites of the Florida Keys have not yielded any verified finds of Lima gold.






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