Gold and Silver of the Atocha and Santa Margarita
Tuesday, June 14 and
Wednesday, June 15, 1988
Christie's New York




A Unique Representative Collection of

237 New World Spanish Coins recovered from the shipwreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha

In the knowledge that the overwhelming windfall of sixteenth and seventeenth century New World Spanish coins recovered from the Atocha would prove to be one of the most comprehensive single—source collections in numismatic history, Treasure Salvors specialists decided early on to reserve all unusual and exceptional coins for inclusion in a special research collection which would preserve a representative group of every type recovered. Most of the 237 silver coins which comprise this collection have been identified by painstaking research into existing sources.


As identification of the coins as they were recovered progressed. Certain facts came to light, notably the incidence within the larger collection of coins which had been struck over fifty years before in Lima, and the unexpected bounty of four distinct die designs which could only be attributed to the early (1621—1622) period of the mint at Santa Fe de Bogotá.


Previous discoveries had yielded a few two-reales pieces from the last period of the Lima mint (1577-1588) by assayer "D" (Diego de Ia Torre). They were immediately distinguishable as something unusual, with their carefully forged round and flat shape and their elegant die cutting. However, because they were found as singles or in small dumps in a sandy area of the ocean floor where they had been subjected to serious erosion. most of them were ragged and missing many details. But on examining the 7,000 odd coins contained in one intact chest recovered in 1985, researchers were gratified to find in the center of the aggregate well-preserved examples of coins by every assayer at the Lima mint from its opening in 1565 through 1588, the year of its closure.


The Lima coins alone would have made an invaluable collection. But as recoveries and discoveries continued, three new die designs never seen before appeared, matching in every respect the criteria previously developed for an attribution to Santa Fe de Bogotá.


In addition to the Limas and Santa Fe de Bogotá's, the collection includes representative strikes by every known assayer at the Mexico mint from the first Charles and Juana series down through dated examples up to 1620 examples. Including anomalies, from every assayer at the Potosi mint from its beginnings through 1620, including two, four, and eight reales examples of every date from 1617 (the earliest dated Potosi coins found on the Atocha) through 1622. Also included are examples of several types of period counterfeits.


Coins of the Atocha and Margarita
by Sandy McKinney


More than 180,000 coins have been recovered from the wrecks of Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita. This collection has given us an opportunity to see at first hand a selection of representative strikes from all the known New World mints operating from the time the Mexico mint was opened in 1535 to the time of the 1622 shipwrecks. Four reigns are covered: Charles and Juana, Philip II, Philip III, and Philip IV.

In order to understand the larger significance of this unique group, it is necessary to regard it as a gestalt—a microcosm in which is reflected all the essential elements of Spain’s conquest and early exploitation of the New World. The enormous range of different strikes horn different assayers from different periods in five separate New World mints gives us an opportunity to view, through the early exuberant development and comparatively rapid decline and degradation of die designs, the essential attitude of the seventeenth century Spaniard towards the wealth of silver available from the mines of Potosi.

A word on minting procedures. Coin blanks were cut from a planchet and struck with hand-held dies, which often caused a part (and sometimes a large part) of the original design of the cut surfaces of the dies to be missing on the coin. In addition, if the coin was overweight, portions were trimmed from the edge to bring the piece to standard weight, causing an even more irregular edge. The mint master, or assayer, responsible for the purity (930) and weight (28.73 grams for an eight-reales coin) purchased his office from the Spanish crown and was required to show his initial (usually the initial of his Christian name) on each coin he produced, so that short weights and irregularities could be traced.

The majority of the coins bearing Lima mint marks were recovered from a single chest, which when the conglomerate was broken down and cleaned, was found to contain some 7,000 coins, mostly of the 2-reales denomination. Of these coins, researchers have been able to identify numerous distinct die designs for each assayer, so that in very few cases will two coins be identical in design on both obverse and reverse. All the coins from this early period of the Lima mint are classified as rare. Those of assayers "R" with the early Charles and Juana shield, and assayers "M" or are listed as very rare in most catalogues.


Of all the coins discovered, the most beautifully designed and carefully struck are undoubtedly those which can with near certainty be attributed to the mint at Santa Fe de Bogotá. Documentation uncovered in the Archive of the Indies in Seville proves that one Alonso Turillo de Yebra was granted permission to open a mint in Cartagena in 1621. On going research into the collection begins with the theory that Turillo, who had encountered extreme resistance from the Governor of Cartagena in setting up his mint there and had removed with his staff and equipment to Santa Fe de Bogotá, was determined to demonstrate the excellence of his coinage, and in attempting to do so had prepared a variety of die designs of ‘presentation’ quality in order to solicit approval of Philip lV. Although standard in all other respects, neither the eight-reales "RN" nor the four-reales "S" pieces show a denomination. This omission is unexplained but has been observed in certain "pattern dies" from other mints. This would explain the extraordinary quality of these coins in comparison with those being minted at Potosi or Mexico. It is now known that Turillo was a passenger aboard one of the surviving ships of the 1622 Tietra Firrne fleet and was forced to return to Havana after the storm, where he waited until the following year for passage to Spain for his anticipated audience with the King.

By the end of 1986, the Atocha had yielded four distinct die designs on coins attributed to the Santa Fe de Bogotá mint, sortie examples of each dated 1622. To our knowledge, no coins minted in Santa Fe de Bogotá during the period 1621-1622 exist apart from those recovered from the Atocha and Margarita.

Turillo’s original charter instructed him to use the mintmark RN on coins minted in the NUEVO REINO, or New Kingdom, of Granada. Eight-reales coins recovered from both the Atocha and Margarita bear this mintmark and the assayers initial "A." In 1986 a few four-reales coins were

Fig. 34 One of Alonso Turillo de Yebra’s coins minted at Santa Fe de Bogotá, lost on the Atocha, Turilic, a passenger on another ship of the fleet, survived and succeeded in reaching Spain the following year but lamented the loss of his specimen coins, on another ship of the fleet’ which probably included this superb four-reales example (lot 310).

recovered showing the same mintmark and assayer’s initials, and the distinctive lions, castles and letter and number engraving which are consistent through all denominations of coins minted during these years and presumed to be from Santa Fe de Bogotá.

Shortly after the discovery of the main cargo hold of the Atocha in 1985, coins with a distinct "S" mintmark left, and assayer initial "A" right were found. All the coins attributed to Santa Fe de Bogotá are distinctive in that they bear the arms of Portugal. seen on no other coins minted in the New World, although this feature was common on Peninsular coins, An additional feature on the "S" four-reales pieces is the presence of the arms of Granada at the bottom of the shield, an unusual location seen only on coins minted in Seville during this period and at Santa Fe de Bogotá during the next decade.

Twelve two-reales coins showing the mintmark "S" over "F" but no assayer's initial were found late in 1985, for the most part in two chests. The reverse design is identical in every important respect to the four- and eight-reales examples.

Certain allusions in the documents of the period have it that Turillo took with him dies from Spain when he went to New Granada to set up his mint. Silver coins like these do not appear in any of the Spanish mints of the period. although the shield on the four-reales "S" coins and the two-reales "SF" pieces is almost identical to those of the dies used for minting gold coins in Seville. In the ease of the four-reales pieces, the "A" assayer mark, shown in the unusual location at the right of the shield, is identical in style to that of the eight-reales "RN" pieces. Also identical are the designs of the lions and castles shown on the reverse of all denominations, and the shapes of the letters and numerals. suggesting that they were done by the same die cutter.

Dies brought from Spain also seem to have been used to produce the few handsome gold coins from this mint that have been recovered from the Atocha. In view of the fact that they pre-date all other gold coins minted in the New World, the example presented here (lot 113) can truly be called the first gold coin of the Americas.

There was no "F" assayer in Seville during this period, and in view of the fact that later dies from the Santa Fe de Bogotá mint used the mintmark "SF." These coins seem clearly to have originated from the Bogota mint. We know that Turillo did mint all three denominations during the period 1621-1622, and that according to his own statement in a letter to Philip IV received in Madrid in September, 1623, he had minted 'coins of gold and silver with much more perfection than that which is minted in some of the ether mints’ and that the bulk of the coins he had minted during this period were lost on ‘one of the ships’ of the fleet that included the Atocha.

In addition to large quantities of common types, the 180,000 coins from the Atocha and Margarita have yielded other rarities apart from those Lima variations mentioned and the unique group of Santa Fe de Bogotá pieces. Included in this catalogue are a number of rare and unusual examples, including a small group of gold coinage. Also included is the Research Collection, a carefully selected grouping of the best of every type and variation recovered from the Atocha, This is discussed in greater detail on page 254. Together, the coins of the Atocha and the Margarita present us with one of the most comprehensive single-source collections in numismatic history.

Copied With Permission From The Bill & Dr Susan Pearson Research Collection Catalog
Nuestra Senora De Atocha 1622



The research coins of the Atocha were 237 of the very best coins that were found on the wreck. They were compiled as a study set. Never before has such a diverse set of coins come from one shipwreck. They were the best of the best that Atocha had to offer. Below are 22 of those 237 research collection coins, 22 of the best coins from Atocha!
This is the largest group of these coins ever offered for sale at one time (aside from the original sale of the 237 coins that were offered by Christies and did not sell).  These were all purchased from the original owner of the collection with original Mel Fisher Treasure Salvor's certificates. There are some true rarities here! Most of the coins are either plated in the Christies Research Collection catalog and (or) the October 1986 issue of the Numismatist.

Charles and Joanna 1516 - 1555
- in the New World 1536 - 1555

Philip II      1555-1598
Philip III     1598-1621
Philip IV     1621-1665


1)    #1   Mexico   2 reales   5.70 grams., obv.:  MM  o/M left;  assayer
"O" rt;  legend:  CARO___ (LVS base only visible). Rev.;  denomination (2
dots) above PV/SLV/TR;  legend: ISPANIARVM  (plated)

2)    #2   Mexico   2 reales, 6.3 grams., obv.:  MM o/M  left, assayer "0"
rt; legend, ___LVS * IOHANAREG (S bottom of letter only visible), rev.,  :
HISPANIARVM 8 ET 8  ET  8IDIAR____ M 8 +  .  (no reference for this
slightly variant castle)

3)    #9   Lima Mint 1565-1588   2 reales, 6.5 grams.,  obv "Carlos &
Juana" shield, assayer "R" rt. Legend;  ___HILIPUS.___HISPA,  rev.,
pillars and waves, MM  "P"  between pillars, denomination (2 dots)  below
PL/VSV/TR.  Legend: NIARVM___IND___VM___+.

In none of the sources have we
consulted have we found a reference for the location of the initial of
assayer "R" to the right of the shield in this series. This may make this
particular coin a rarity, although the location of other Lima assayers
initials to the right is not common.

This coin is one of only two Atocha coins known to bear this mark to the right of the shield. All others show it to the left. Valued at about $150,000.00.

An Early, Lima Mint Coin from Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Corey Malcom
June, 1999

One of the first coins minted in South America was recently added to the MFMHS collection. The coin was recovered from a chest of coins found on Nuestra Señora de Atocha in 1985. It is a beautifully struck, silver, 2 real piece from the mint in Lima, Peru. It was minted sometime between 1568 and 1571.

Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and Museum in Key West, Florida Lima Mint CoinPhilip II issued a decree on August 21, 1565 authorizing the opening of a mint in Lima. This was done in response to the increased silver production at Potosí, and the growing practice of utilizing irregular, privately manufactured "coin" silver throughout the region. Because of the time it took for the edict to travel from Spain to Peru, and then actually organize and create the mint, it was not until August of 1568 that the first coins were struck. Philip's order specified the coins were to be modeled on those being produced in Mexico, but to bear his name instead of Carlos and Juana's, and to utilize a "P," for Peru, as a mint mark. Denominations of eight, four, two, one, one-half and one-quarter reales were issued in this series.

Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and Museum in Key West, Florida Lima Mint CoinThe MFMHS coin is of the fine standard that was ordered by the King. It is evenly round with a clear, well centered strike. The obverse bears a crowned shield divided into quarters containing the lions and castles of Castile and León. This is encircled by the legend "PHILIPUSoIIoDoHISPA." The assayer's mark, an "R," is to the right of the shield, between it and the legend. This coin is one of only two known to bear this mark to the right of the shield. All others show it to the left. Interestingly, the other coin with this feature is a two real piece also from the Atocha. The significance of this particular characteristic is unknown. The assayer is believed to be Alonso de Rincón, who also later opened the mint at Potosí. The reverse bears the pillars of Hercules standing on ocean waves. The motto Plus Ultra, abbreviated to "PL-USU-TR," travels through these. The pillars represent either side of the straits of Gibraltar, which, for many centuries, were the end of the known world. Plus Ultra can be loosely translated as "beyond the limits," reflecting Spain's pride in having discovered, and then established an empire in the New World. Between the pillars is the "P" mint mark and two dots denoting the coin's denomination. Encircling all this is "NIARUMETINDIARUMREX+" which completes the legend, as translated from the Latin, "Philip II, by the grace of God, King of Spain and the Indies."

The Peruvian silver industry never accepted the mint in Lima. For the trouble and expense of shipping silver from Potosí to the coast, better prices could be found elsewhere. The resentment of this system resulted in a constant assault by the miners on the propriety and performance of the mint. In 1571 their complaints succeeded in closing it. In 1577 the Lima mint was reopened, issuing newly designed coins, but by then a new mint at Potosí had been established. The Lima mint could not operate as efficiently, being so far from the main source of silver production. In 1588 the troubled mint was closed, not to open again for nearly a century. Though the early coin production at Lima was always limited, the mint was the first step in what was soon to be a flood of South American coins that, for nearly two centuries, would become the world standard.

Sources Consulted:

1929 Adams, Edgar H.
Catalogue of the Collection of Julius Guttag, Comprising the Coinage of Mexico, Central America, South America and the West Indies. New York, 1929

. 1950 Dasí, Tomas
Estudio de Los Reales de a Ocho, Tomo Segundo. Valencia.

1978 Grunthal, Henry and Ernesto Sellschopp
The Coinage of Peru. Numismaticher Verlag P.N. Schulten, Frankfurt.

1987 McKinney, Sandy
The Research Coin Collection: A Unique Representative Collection of 237 New World Spanish Coins Recovered from the Wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Christie, Manson and Woods International, Inc., New York.

1975 Szászdi, Adám
"Spain and American Treasure: the Depreciation of Silver and Monetary Exchange in the Viceroyalty of Lima, 1550-1610" in The Journal of European Economic History, Vol.4 No.2.

From The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum In Key West Florida

4)    #11   Lima   2 reales, 6.6 grams.,  obv.: MM "P", assayer "R" left,
denomination not visible, legend: mostly not visible, reverse:  "Segovia"
lions, tilted forward, 3-windowed castles, ornate "Lima" type orle, legend:
random letters visible (see plate 2)

      Assayer R, later series c. 1570-1571
 Beginning with this period, and continuing throughout the reign of Charles II, all silver coins in denominations of 1-Real or greater minted in the New World bore the crowned Habsburg shield on obverse, quartered lions and castles on reverse.
 The legend in this series is placed on the coin between two circular rows of dots, the crown topping the obverse and reverse showing a quatrefoil at center, represented here as +. The legend:
Reverse: ET, INDIARVM, Rex,
 Among the coins recovered from the Atocha there were many examples of different die designs for assayer "R" and "B." Every attempt has been made to include an example of each of these distinct types. Examples of coins by the same assayer are distinguished from one another by variations in the lettering, spelling, or punctuation in the legend, by any anomalies, errors, or distortions in the shapes or locations of devices, and  by:
Obverse: shape of crown, style of lions in "Leon" and "Brabant", style of "Austria", and number and shapes of fleurs de lys in Burgundy, and
Reverse: style of orle surrounding quartered lions and castles, size of quarters, and styles of lion and castles.

Watch M-Peg Video Of This Coin

5)    #17   Lima   1 reale, 3.1 grams.,  obv,: denomination (roman) left,
MM "P", assayer "R" rt., distinctive small open crown with scoring in
opening,  legend: PHILIPPVS D,G,___ARVM, rev.: "Seville" lions, 3-towered
castle, "Lima" type orle, legend:  ___N__M, REX, +  Unique example of a
1-reale Lima coin in the Atocha collection. (see plate 3) 
This Is The Rarest Silver Coin Recovered From The Atocha Shipwreck
 Please Read Note At The Bottom Of This Page

Alonso Rincon, assayer: circa 1544 (initial R)
Alonso Rincon initially worked as a diesinker with his father, Martin Rincon, in Toledo, Spain. Upon arrival in Mexico in early 1542, he worked at the Mexico City Mint as a diesinker and weight master. In the absence of Juan Gutierrez, and as the brother of Francisco Rincon, it was relatively easy for Alonso to obtain some experience in the assayer position, working as a lieutenant-assayer for Gutierrez. His tenure was very brief and the coinage was sparse. Nonetheless, his experience with the Mexico mint served him well: he went on to Peru, where he served as the working assayer at the Lima, LaPlata, and Potosi mints during the period 1568-1574. He used the same style as Gutierrez, with only the 1, 2, and 4 reales denominations known to exist. These are scarce to rare coins, depending on condition.

6)    #57   2 reales, 6.1 grams.  Obv.:  MM "P" assayer "B" OVERSTRUCK "L"
(c. 1574) left, denomination (modified Roman) rt, legend:
PHI__PPVS,D,G,ISPAN___.  Rev.: "Seville" lions, 3-towered castles, "Lima"
orle, legend random letters.


7)    #61   Lima   4 reales, 12.8 grams, obv.: MM "P", assayer "L" left,
denomination (modified Roman) rt, wide arched crown, legend: PHILIPPVS
(some letters, bottoms only),  D,G,_______.  Rev:  "Segovia" lions, bricked
castles with 3 split towers, orle as above, legend: _____DIARVM,REX. (see
plate 5)

8)    #71   Lima   8 reales, 27.1 grams,  P/o/8 (shape difficult to
determine) left */o/D rt, wide flat crown, scored middle to rt, legend:
PHILIPPVS,D,G,HISPANIARVM, rev.: rampant lions, 3 towered castles with
brick lintels, wide door.  Legend: ET INDIARVM REX no punctuation visible.

        Assayer "D" 1577-1588
 Beginning with the coins of assayer "D", the Lima mintmark incorporated a star, indicated here as *. Relative chronology in the output of assayer "D" (Diego de la Torre) can sometimes be assigned by the changing die designs. Sellscopp (1965) has published an exhaustive analysis of these changes. For this cataloge, we have had to be content with a superficial description and the quotation of a reference to Sellschopp's classification, where relevant. In some cases, only Sellschopp's basic grouping is accurate, as the many varieties recovered for this collection make it impossible to match every detail.

9)    #81   Lima   4 reales, 13.4 grams., obv.:  4/P left, o/D/* rt, very
small open crown, scored rt, fleurs de lys in X-arrangement, legend:
P__LIPPVS.D.G.H____. Rev.: pasant lion, head only slightly up, left paw
down, 3-towered castles with row of 5 bricks at lintel. Legend: ET
IN___AR__M REX (variant see plate 6)

10)   #110   Lima   1 reale, 2.7 grams, obv,:  */I left, P___ rt small open
crown, legend:  _____VS.DG.HISPANIAR__. Rev.:  lions passant head and rt.
Paw up, small 3-towered castles, Legend: ET_____IARVMR__   Unique example
of a 1 reale Lima "D": recovered from Atocha. (see plate 7)

11)   #116   Potosi   4 reales, 13.4 grams, obv.: MM "P", assayer "A" left,
denomination (modified Roman) rt, legend obscured both sides due to
erosion, rev,: lions passant with head and both front paws up, "aura"
castles (see plate 8)

      Potosi Mint
 Obverse: Habsburg shield, rev: Greek cross, plain double orle surrounding quartered lions and castles. The Potosi mint was established in 1575. Early coins minted during the reign of Philip II can show the initials of assayers "A," "R" or "B." Numismatists are still speculating about the identity of these assayers. In view of the fact that the early "B" coins have so much in common with the late Lima "B" types, some have guessed that Alonso Lopez de Barriales, the first assayer at the Potosi mint, was also the "B" assayer at Lima. However, Lopez de Barriales is recorded as having been assayer at the Potosi foundry in 1572. It is possible that the "A" mark also belongs to this same assayer as the dies seem almost identical in the "A" and "B" coins. Assayer "R" during the Philip II era was probably Juan Alvarez Reinaltes.

12)   #130   Potosi - 8 reales, 26.7 grams., obv.: MM "P", assayer "B"
left, denomination (Roman) rt, Narrow crown with high arch, Legend:
PHILIPVS,D,G,HIS PANIA_____. Rev.: lions passant, head and rt. Paw up,
small square castles with 3 windows. Legend: __INDIA__M, REX + (see plate

13)   #137   Potosi   8 reales, 26.1 grams, obv.: MM "P" assayer "B" left,
flat crown, centered, legend on rt and denomination obscured by erosion,
on left: ___PANI___. Rev.: lions slightly rampant, square castles with
square opening. Legend: random letters.

14)   #167   Mexico   2 reales, 6.2 grams., obv.:  MM and assayer "A" left,
denomination and legend, both sides, erased by erosion, rev.: cross fleury,
, rampant lions, small narrow 3-towered castle. (see plate 11)

15)   #169   Mexico   4 reales, 12.0 grams,  obv.: MM and assayer "F" left,
denomination and right side of legend erased by erosion, Legend:
______DEI.G.1612, rev:  cross fleury, Segovia lions, wide castles with
three equal crenellated towers.

16)   #172   Potosi   8 reales, 25.1 grams, obv>: MM and assayer "B" left,
denomination not visible, wide arched crown. Legend: ______S  III_____RVM,
Rev.: degraded lions and castles, legend: _____ARVM. (see plate 12)

 Hapsburg shield on obverse, Greek cross and plain double orle on reverse. Legend:

 Coins with the initial of assayer "B" struck during the reign of Philip III can with fair certainty be attributed to Juan de Ballesteros Narvaez and coins as assayer "R" to Gaspar Ruiz. Ruiz was involved in an extended lawsuit with accusations and counter accusations, and at about 1616 many of the coins were recalled and counter stamped because of shortages in weight and adulteration of the silver beyond the allowable level. In the section dealing with counterfeits, most of the questionable coins either have the initial "R" or are in type and die design similar to the Philip III coins of assayer "R." The dies of both "B" and "R" are notable for the degraded lions and castles, sloppy striking and general indifference to aesthetic appeal.

17)   #168   Mexico   8 reales, 24.3 grams., obv.: MM and assayer "F" left,
denomination and legend, both sides, erased by erosion. Rev.: cross fleury,
Segovia lions wide castles with three equal crenellated towers

18)   #183   Potosi   2 reales, 6.7 grams., MM not visible, assayer "Q"
left, denomination (modified Roman) rt, legend: __ILIPPVS (S reversed) III
D______.  Rev:  fat lions passant, wide castles with brick lintel, base of
2 slabs on each side.

19)   #210   Seville   8 reales, 21.9 grams., obv.: MM "S" (Seville) left,
no assayer visible, denomination: small dot over VIII, struck horizontally,
legend:  PHI_____.  Rev.: double struck, obscuring some details of lions
and castles. Legend: ______NIA____VMR__.
           Spanish Peninsular Mints
 Only a small scattering of coins minted in Spain were among the Atocha recoveries. Since these coins appeared both in intact chests and in scattered material, it is surmised that they were either "pocket" change of crew or passengers, or had been pulled out of circulation and were being shipped by merchants or other private individuals. The coins included in this collection are a representative sample.

20)   #212   Toledo   8 reales, 23.8 grams., obv.: MM "I" (Toledo) and
assayer "P" left, erosion obscures denomination and most of legend except
_____PPVS  _____at bottom center of shield. Arms of Portugal upper center.
Rev.: erosion obscures most elements except legend. H_____1621. Double
struck.  ? Most likely someone's pocket change! Rare and unique!

21)   #221   UNCERTAIN   4 reales, 9.6 grams., obv.: "P"/ "B" / "C" left,
denomination (modified Roman) rt, legend: __ILIPPS_____. Rev,: badly
eroded, not typical of known Le Plata coins.

 This coin is rare and extremely important, being one of the first minted at Potosi. The dies came from Lima through La Plata. Below the "B" there is a clear erasure, presumably that of assayer "C."

22)   #228   UNCERTAIN   8 reales, 25.0 grams., obv.: Unusually large "P" mintmark left, with heavy square below, no assayer visible, probably "T". Denomination, it shows V over III with large "O" above, typical of assayer "T" .Flanders and Tyrol have 2 eagles. Rev.: completely degraded lions and castles. Either lions and castles are tilted 90 degrees, making them appear to be resting on their sides. (see plate 15)

    The Atocha Rincon 1 Reale
       Research Coin Collection, Coin #17 above, Treasure Salvors Inc. No. 85A-237720

      In  the  Research  Collection  catalog compiled by Sandy McKinney and printed by Christies New York, this "piece of one" is described as "unique" from  among  those  found  on Nuestra Senora de Atocha. 
It was the one and only  Rincon  1 Reale, and one of the few "pieces of one" ever found in the huge  bounty  of  hand struck  cobs  salvaged from the 1622 wrecks.  This is explained  by the fact that, as numismatists conjecture, small denomination coinage  was not minted in the New World during this era except for a small amount  made  as  Type  examples.   But in addition to this distinction, it could  well  be  the  world's best example of a Rincon 1 Reale from the New World.  Neither Numismatic Espanola nor Sellschop picture one finer.

      Treasure  Salvors  had a point system which assigned a relative value of  each item in order to divide the treasure equably amongst the stock and contract  holders  who  would receive a share of Atocha.  Mel Fisher, other large percentage holders and divers too, were eligible for a certain number of  "points"  and  like  everyone  else  the treasure pieces would drop (by computer) into slots one after another, or move on to the next depending on how much their slots could hold, and basically go round and round until the pile  of  treasure  was  divided. 
It is notable that this singular 1 reale Rincon  was assigned the highest number of points of any silver coin in the Research  Collection by far and away.
And very likely the highest value of any single silver coin from Atocha.  Valued at about $200,000.00.

      To  start  with the particulars the coin has the distinctively styled "R"  initial  for  it's  assayer Alonso Rincon a perfect mint mark "P" (for Peru).    It was struck during the reign of Phillip II in 1572, at the Lima mint  located  in  the  formerly  Inca ruled city of the west coast of Peru which  was  overtaken by the Spaniards about 35 years earlier.  Recall that Alonso  and his brother came as youths with their father, who was the first assayer  of the New World.  Young Alonso learned the trade under his father most  likely  in  the home of Cortez the conquistador, where the first mint was set up in the Aztec city Tenochtitan renamed Mexico City.  It is Alonso (junior)  whose  coinage is called Rincon 2nd Series, and together with his father's, are considered the crème-de-la-crème of the New World assayers.

      The coin is a prime example of the elegant style, detailed perfection of  Rincon's  coinage.  Each detail is necessarily extremely tiny, yet most are  visible  down to the pomegranate of Granada and a tuft of a lion's tail. The  coin  flaunts  a huge planchet, yet the denomination "I" is visible on the  left  of  the  shield  so  there is no denying it.  When one feels its perfect  even solid thinness one is amazed it could have been hand struck so beautifully.  Though not so much legend, if any is often found on 1 reales, this  coin  reads  PHILLIPPVS, D, G,  IARVM IND R M, REX. + (fleur de lis), boldly  interspersed  with  big commas, (an indication of an early era, and assayer  probably  Lima mint).  Most of the deep struck dots of the borders and  the  lovely  tressures  are jewelry quality.  Floating proudly over the centered  shield  is  an  elegant  old  world crown, perfectly full, with a second  rim  of  dots  above  it.   Within  the headpiece are five lines of shading,  distinct  and  visible  without  magnification.  All in all it is obvious this remarkable hand struck coin is  much more than a lucky strike.

      Since  it  was  struck 
about 50 years before Atocha sailed, one must wonder who hoarded it, and if it was taken aboard by a new owner how he had come by it.  Only wealth and power could have detained this coin in the New World,  and it would take the same to later acquire it.  It does have a hint of  the  patina of a somewhat handled coin.  Its near royal size and beauty and  the  knowledge of it being a Type example would surely have been known by  its  owner.   Even  a  fool  couldn't miss its distinction.  The slight amount  of  sea  damage  on  the lower bottom of the shield is in this case fortunate,  as  it  is  proof  of its amazing salvage from the sea.  It was evidently  on  one edge lightly encrusted, which may indicate it was on top of  a  chest of coins or in a small box or container which got covered with sand as much of the Atocha artifacts were.  The code number provided by the company as to its origin on the wreck site is 993, and would tell more about this story.  It deserves mention, here, that of all the artifacts recovered from the shipwreck Atocha, this singular and rare Rincon 1 reale is a prime example  of  the credit due to Treasure Salvors Inc., it's salvage crew and the skill of their conservation department headed by Jim Sinclair in 1985.
      Note: This information provided by Miss Morisha Moran, first owner of the Research Collection.


Gold and Silver of the Atocha and Santa Margarita
Tuesday, June 14 and
Wednesday, June 15, 1988
Christie's New York

Attorney Noel Lippman
Second Owner Atocha Research Collection Coins

Cobs, Pieces Of Eight and Treasure Coins
The Early Spanish American Mints and Their Coinages 1536-1773

Catalog De Los Reales DE A Ocho Espanoles

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