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A Crash Course On Treasure Coins

A Crash Course On Treasure Coins

Authored By DePaula Jewelers


 A part of our love for coins are the rich history and details behind these coins, and we believe that anyone who shares our love for spanish coins would enjoy reading about them. This is also an informational guide for those who want to know more about their coin, or are thinking about buying a coin, and would like to know more about them! Spain’s rich history is told through unique gold, silver, copper, and bronze maravedis, reales, escudos, céntimos, and pesetas. A variety of kings and queens, as well as coats of arms, crosses, and other symbolic figures can be found on many different coins. Spanish coins can be worth a small fortune or mere pennies depending on the type, condition, and the metal content. 


Coinage in Spain dates back over two millennia, to Ancient Greek and Roman times. The Spanish have been occupied by a number of territories and groups, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Moors and French. Spanish coins have evolved based on the nation’s ruler at the time and economic growth. Spanish coins were also circulated across the New World for over 300 years.

One of the oldest Spanish coins is the maravedi, a gold coin that was issued from about 1100 CE to 1847 CE. During that time, the Spanish people also issued the silver real. The maravedi remained the standard gold coin until 1537, when the escudo became the primary gold currency. Since then, the Spanish have also introduced the centimo and the peseta. Currently, Spain is a member of the European Union and uses the Euro as its standard currency.

Maravedi Coin, Salamanca reign (1188 - 1230)

Maravedi Coin, Salamanca Reign (1188-1230)



For over 800 years, the maravedi was the standard gold coin of Spain. The weight and value of the maravedi changed dramatically according to the ruler at the time. The maravedi survived the switch from a Moorish to Christian Spain but went out of circulation in 1537. The maravedi also lost value with the introduction of the silver real after the mid-14th century. Additionally, over time, maravedis became available in silver and copper varieties, especially in Spanish colonies. In fact, the copper maravedi is considered to be the first coin of the New World.

Many different faces have appeared on the maravedi over time. The faces of several kings, including Philip III, Philip IV, Philip V, Ferdinand VI, Ferdinand VII, Charles III, Charles IV, and Joseph Bonaparte were etched into the maravedi. One queen, Isabel II, made it onto the maravedi from 1843 until 1868, when she was dethroned. 

Maravedis also were given a variety of nicknames. These names included "Alfonsines," "Viejas," "Nuevas," "Buenas," "Blancas," and "Usuales." These names often refer to a specific time period; for example, the "Viejas" were coins produced during the reign of Ferdinand IV.

Mexico Mint Pillars 8 Reales, dated 1734.

Mexico Mint Pillars 8 Reales, Dated 1734


In the mid-1300s, King Pedro I of Castile introduced the real, a silver coin meaning "royal." The real was originally equal to 3 maravedis and then came to be the equivalent of 34 maravedis by 1497. In 1642, two different reales began being made: the real de plata, made of silver, and the real de vellon, which was made of bullion. Reales remained in circulation until the introduction of the escudo in 1864. When the peseta replaced the escudo in 1868, the real then equaled a quarter of a peseta. The value and weight of reales changed over time, according to who ruled Spain at the time.

During the age of exploration, many coins were produced in Spanish colonies throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. It was not uncommon for large amounts of silver and gold to be lost in shipwrecks. Spanish coins were also used in the United States as acceptable currency. Millions of dollars worth of Spanish coins have been found in the oceans and throughout the continental U.S.

8 Reales Cob coin, Potosi mint, 1618-1621 Assayer T

8 Reales Cob Coin, Potosi Mint, 1618-1621 Assayer T


During the early production of reales, the Spaniards produced them in irregular shapes known as macuquinas or "cobs." Many believe "cob" is a shorter version of "cabo de barra" which means "end of the bar." Cobs were sliced from silver bars mined straight from the earth. Although cobs were measured into standard weights, their crude construction made sure no two coins were ever alike. Reales were produced in the cob-style from the early 16th century until the mid 18th century, when technology improved. Cobs came in denominations of one, two, four and eight reales and, later, a half real.

The Fifth and final Type of Spanish Real, The Milled Bust coin.

The fifth and final type of Spanish Real, the Milled Bust Coin


Around 1730, cobs slowly began to be phased out and replaced with milled reales. The mechanical press made coin manufacturing much easier and more standardized. There were two styles of milled coins: the pillar dollar which depicted two pillars outside of two globes, and the portrait dollar. Pillar dollars stopped being made in 1772 and were made in silver only. Portrait dollars display the bust of the current king. Milled reales were available in denominations of 8, 4, 2, 1, and one-half reales in silver, as well as gold escudos and copper maravedis. Milled reales were minted in both the New World and the Spanish mainland. Pillar dollars remained official currency in the United States until 1857.

4 Escudo Gold coin.

4 Escudo Gold Coin 


Escudos are divided into gold and silver categories, both worth different amounts. The original gold escudo was introduced in 1566 and was worth 16 reales. Gold coins were minted in one-half, 1, 2, 4, and 8 escudos. Between 1864 and 1869, the silver escudo became the official currency of Spain. The equivalent of 10 reales, the silver escudo replaced the real until pesetas became the official currency in 1869. Copper coins were issued in denominations of one-half, 1, 2.5, and 5 céntimos de escudo and silver 10, 20, and 40 céntimos de escudo Escudos were also minted in the cob-style as well as the bust and pillar styles of milled coins. They featured the king of the current day on the front and typically the Royal Coat of Arms on the back.

Most escudos were minted in either Madrid or Seville. A coin from Madrid will be marked with an M while one from Seville will have an S. Oftentimes; the mint-master also put his initials on the side of the coin.

A Later Gold Doubloon with bust on the front.

A later Gold Doubloon with bust on front


Special 2-piece escudos were known as doubloons, meaning "double" in Spanish. Popular in pirate lore, doubloons were manufactured in Spain, Mexico, Peru, and Nueva Granada. Spanish conquerors carried doubloons with them throughout their worldly travels and are commonly found in shipwrecks. Doubloons featured the busts of Ferdinand or Isabel on one side and a cross or coat of arms known as the Hapsburg Shield on the other.

One doubloon was equal to 32 reales or two English ducats. In Spain, doubloons were current up to the middle of the 19th century and were last minted in 1849. Doubloons were originally made in the cob-style, later to be minted in the mill-style.

18th Century 25 peseta piece.

18th Century 25 Peseta Piece


In 1869, the escudo was replaced by the peseta when Spain joined the Latin Monetary Union. It was worth 0.4 escudos or 4 reales. When the coins were first produced, they came in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 50 céntimos; and 1, 2, and 5 pesetas. The peseta, meaning "piece" or "fraction," remained the national currency of Spain until 2002. The peseta was divided into 100 céntimos, which also equals 4 reales. Pesetas were silver coins, equaling 4.5 grams of silver. Short periods in the early 20th century saw the production of gold and bronze pesetas. When Spain switched to the Euro in 2002, one Euro equaled about 166 pesetas.


During the Age of Exploration, much of Spain’s wealth was lost in shipwrecks. Maravedis, reales, escudos, doubloons, and pesetas were produced in Spanish colonies throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Most mints were stationed in Mexico City, Lima, and Potosi. Many colonial coins have been recovered from shipwrecks, excavations, and even on American soil, where Spanish coinage was once valid currency.

Many colonial coins are marked with a letter indicated the location of its mint. Buyers can find coins marked with "L" for Lima, "P" for Potosi, and more. Oftentimes the assayer would mark his initials on the side of the coins. This helps buyers and sellers identify the age and original location of the coin. As gold coins were primarily used by the wealthy, these coins are generally in the best condition. Silver colonial coins often have seen a lot of wear and tear. These coins are all a mark of one of the biggest expansions of man ever. They represent more than just Spain and history, they represent adventure, broader horizons, and new beginnings. That's why we wear them around our necks. To motivate adventure and to inspire bravery. 

You can find our coins in our Islamorada and Tavernier stores, or online!




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