Finally Went Coin Hunting Abroad (Shop for Chops in Lima, Peru)

Always thought it would be a fun time to travel abroad and shake down the local jewelry and antiques shops for coins, turns out I wasn't wrong!

As a component of my current graduate study, I am currently in a business development program that groups four to five students with a partner organization abroad in a disadvantaged economic area in order to provide consulting services to their operation. The takeaway is that it meant three weeks in Lima's Miraflores region, which just so happened to be right on the edge of Lima's jewelry and antiques district on Avenue La Paz.

So I did what any reasonable person would do and set off for that street after the first day of work, cash in hand. I spent a few minutes beforehand putting a few phrases I thought I could use through Google Translate, turns out at the end of the afternoon my most consistently used was "Lo siento, mi español no es muy bueno." The shops (all with their own take on the heavy duty security door) were an interesting mix, including stores with entirely modern catalog pieces, seedy pawn shops, and those with genuine estate/vintage material, many of which had a focus on watches. When I spotted a small group of coins in the shop window or in a case, I would head in and muck my way through a broken Spanglish to attempt to describe my very specific collecting interests ("umm ... monedas antiguas ... con ... resellos ... orientales?"), finding the most success by far when the shopkeeper understood my own language. The search started out with good prospects, with a holed Carolus IV 2 Reales in the first shop window I approached, and the majority of what I saw from then on out was predominately Peruvian (no surprise), which I was not terribly keen on given that I have an 1893 Peruvian Sol with nice chops that I am rather partial to.

There were a few exceptions: among US coins the most common were 1921 Morgans, along with a handful of Mercury dimes, Washington quarters, Franklin and Kennedy halves, and a few others, almost entirely post-1900. The most interesting pieces from the States were a chatty but lustrous 1886 Half Eagle and a counterstamped (three individual letter stamps) Coronet Head Half Cent. Apologies for the potato image quality.

Among foreign coins, the pieces were skewed towards Peruvian and predominately 20th century, along with a smattering of 19th century material and a handful of earlier cob pieces, though surprisingly few (one eight reales cob and two or three minors), along with a fair number of medals. One of the shops I entered was called 'Christie's Antiques', which displayed a substantial amount of silver flatware and related material.

When I entered, one of the two women behind the counter approached me and asked if there was anything I was looking for. After running through my (presumably rough) request to look at any coins they might have ("plata, no oro, por favor"), I was directed to a tray in one of the standalone display cases, where I was shown to a better-than-average collection that included some 1830s Peruvian 4 Reales pieces and a decent variety of common US material (that I was encouraged to prioritize). I asked if they had any Chinese coins (translation error), at which the woman I was speaking to spoke briefly with her associate, who said no. I thanked them for checking and headed out, stopping to take a look in the front window. A few seconds later, the woman who was helping me popped outside, asking me to wait; the owner potentially had something she pulled out of the back. When I came back in, she showed me this piece, and tried to explain the history of these particular marks. I added some material when I could, expressed my interest, and we agreed to a fair price.

I used this coin as an example at later shops of what I was looking for, and several of them were interested in the marks, but none had anything comparable. Wasn't sure that any genuine chopmarked pieces would turn up in down south, but this was exactly what I was hoping to find: a piece was minted in Lima, which then made it to China, survived the melting pot, and made the return trip. Not particularly rare, but that doesn't take away from the experience! Super fun afternoon, would love to do it again, whether here or wherever I else I happen to end up internationally.

Assayer JP, of a type struck 1811-24 for Ferdinand VII. Recorded mintage: 3,642,000. Notable for its several repeated chops, including six iterations of a chop resembling an ice cube tray, and four examples of an interesting curved character chop. Also features an interesting relief chop (possibly a counterstamp), three/four 'bar' chops, a large, deep drill mark in the center of the obverse, and a reverse test cut. Approximately 30 chops on the obverse, ten on the reverse.


Sign In or Register to comment.