Introduction to Spanish Colonial Colombian Coins

Minted at Sante Fe de Bogota, Popayan and Cartagena

Introduction

8 escudos
1783 Bogota mint 8 Escudos

The mints in Cartagena and Sante Fe de Bogota were authorized by royal edict in 1620, and were established by military engineer Captain Alonso Turrillo de Yebra, under contract to the Spanish Kings Philip III and IV. The first silver coins from Cartagena are dated 1621. Colombia at that time was known as Nuevo Reino de Granada (literally, the "New Kingdom of Granada"). In 1622 Nuevo Reino became the first European colony in the Americas to produce gold coins. These first gold coins, struck in Cartagena, were probably made from dies fabricated in Spain.

Colombian coin production was tiny compared with the major Latin American mints. The primary source of Colombian gold was alluvial streams, not conventional mines; silver was a byproduct of this gold refining. Thus very few silver coins were minted. The few that were made saw extensive circulation and are quite scarce, particularly in collectable grades. In addition, these silver coins were minted without separating the gold content, which in some cases was quite high. This was known in Europe, and the Colombian silver coins were melted down for the gold content which could not be isolated in Colombia for lack of technical facilities. This could also help to explain why the silver coins are so seldom encountered.

The Cartagena facility was actually only a subsidiary mint to supplement Sante Fe de Bogota, and operated only for certain years until 1655 when it faded into oblivion. These are the rarest of the Colombian coins.

1/4 Real
1799 Bogota mint 1/4 Real

The mint in Sante Fe de Bogota operated for two hundred years in Colonial times but coinage was sporadic and only certain dates are known. Coins have the mintmark NR for Nuevo Reino, and all silver coins are scarce to rare. The last of the crude cob coinage was made in 1756 and afterwards round, milled (made by screw press) coins were made until 1819 when the province was liberated in the War of Independence of New Granada after the battle of Boyaca. After Independence the new coins were minted showing an Indian with feathered headdress on the obverse and a traditional Granadine pomegranate on the reverse to befit their liberation. These early Cudinamarca (a province in Central Colombia, with Bogota as its capital) and Nueva Granada silver coins were minted of low grade silver, saw extensive circulation and are quite scarce, particularly in collectable grades.

The mint in Popayan, located in the southern part of Colombia, began operations in 1758 with round, milled coins. It used the mintmark P. Along with the Sante Fe de Bogota mint, most of its coinage was gold, with silver coins being quite scarce. Popayan remained in the hands of the Royalists until 1822 when the last of the loyalist coins with the portrait of the Spanish King were minted.

The author expresses appreciation to Howard Spindel and Daniel F. Sedwick for reviewing and commenting on these articles.

 

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References for more information about the coins discussed:

The Practical Book of Cobs, Third Edition, by Daniel Sedwick and Frank Sedwick, Winter Park, Florida, 1995.

Standard Catalog of World Coins, Spain, Portugal and the New World by Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler, Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin, 2002.

The Cob Coinage of Colombia second edition, in English, by Joseph R. Lasser and Jorge Emilo Restrepo, Pertinax Press, New York, 2000.

Colombia Monedas Coloniales Circulares (Monedas de Cordoncillo) by Jorge Emilio Restrepo, Medellin, Colombia, 1999.

Macuquinas (Spanish Colonial Columbian Cobs)

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