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Adding Spanish Dollars to the Collection

My first post here so I'll start out with some basics about me. I am a long-time pocket change and roll hunting collector, after my grandfather and then my mother, mostly focused on US quarter, half dollar and dollar coins. Earlier this year I decided to pick up coin collecting as a more serious hobby and started assembling a complete collection of circulated Morgan silver dollars as well as modern Innovation and Presidential dollar coins (can't beat the cost), while still roll hunting for quarters.

I have also added some other coins I found interesting like Trade Dollars (with chop marks) and half dollars from the 1800's, and I might eventually do a one-a-year pre-1934 half dollar collection once I finish the Morgan collection. My hands-down preference is raw coins, but I do occasionally get slabbed ones if reasonably priced or for higher valued coins since I am not a coin expert. But I have been enjoying researching and accessing raw coins myself for lower or more moderately priced coins since I find that interesting.

I was thinking about adding some early silver dollars to the collection before the US started producing those coins in 1794, but ones that were adopted by the US as legal tender, which was the Spanish 8 Reales I think starting in July of 1785, called a Spanish Milled Dollar or Pieces of Eight. So, it looks like to fit into that criteria I should look into Spanish Colony 8 Reales dated between 1786 and 1793, possibly starting with a 1788 or similar year Spanish 8 Reales maybe struck at the Mexico mint as an option that appears to have good availability and reasonable cost for say an XF grade coin.

Older coins can vary greatly due to hand made and punched dies, and I think it becomes critical to have good references on authentication and die varieties for comparison when considering raw coins. I have found some very good online resources and books on die varieties and authentication for the Morgans and earlier half dollars (e.g. Parsley's book and online varieties sites), but I am striking out finding good info on the Spanish milled dollars I am interested in. I have a copy of the "Standard Catalog of World Coins 1701-1800" and I'm currently looking for a copy of "A Variety Guide to the Silver and Copper Coinage of the Mexico City Mint, 1772-1821" by Brad Yonaka but I'm striking out finding one, and others I looked into either were only in Spanish, which is a no-go for me, or nowhere to be found.

Any suggestions on resources and references for the Spanish dollars I'm considering would be greatly appreciated.

Comments

  • bigmarty58bigmarty58 Posts: 1,996 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Welcome to the Forum :)

    Enthusiastic collector of British pre-decimal and Canadian decimal circulation coins.
  • ChopmarkedTradesChopmarkedTrades Posts: 493 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If you're looking to expand your collection with chopmarked coins in general (a chopmarked Latin American piece might be up your alley), one of the better online references is the Chopmarked Coins subreddit, at www.reddit.com/r/chopmarkedcoins.

  • EagleRJOEagleRJO Posts: 37
    edited September 18, 2022 4:00PM

    Thanks @TwoKopeiki I did start out looking into the die making and minting process for these coins online and ended up going down a scattered rabbit hole. I'm hoping two books I ordered have better info in general including a copy of the "Standard Catalog of World Coins 1701-1800" 7th ED By Michael and a copy of "Counterfeit Portrait Eight-Reales: The Un-Real Reales" 2014 by Robert Gurney with the latter in particular hopefully being a good resource in identifying fakes. Also, it has been a complete bust locating a copy of Brad Yonaka's book.

    I also started looking at some coins as examples, like the attached 1793 Mexico Spanish Colony Mo-FM 8 Reales, and generally comparing that to know genuine pieces for the era like an example 1793 Mexico Spanish Colony 8 Reales from NGC. I have been doing something similar with raw Morgans I may be interested in before I start digging into die varieties.

    For the attached one the edges (except it looks slightly shifted), devices, characters, etc. are pretty close, except the characters on the reverse are rotated slightly vs the example, which may not be alarming given it could be a different die for that year. But still, I couldn't find any verified examples that matched, and I wouldn't be comfortable unless I could know more in general and attribute it to specific dies or examples that are a match.

    [Also, I may eventually expand the years, and some chop marked ones may be really interesting additions, but figured I would really limit it for now to hopefully simplify things until I get more comfortable with these coins.]

  • fluffy155fluffy155 Posts: 220 ✭✭✭✭

    Did you email Brad about his book? I won't post his address here (in case he doesn't want it put out) but I messaged it to you.

  • @fluffy155 said:
    Did you email Brad about his book? I won't post his address here (in case he doesn't want it put out) but I messaged it to you.

    Someone who has his book gave me the email, so I did, yes

  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Posts: 1,656 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 16, 2022 1:30PM

    Welcome to the forums!

    The "Counterfeit Portrait Eight-Reales: The Un-Real Reales" 2014 by Robert Gurney is a good book but it reads a bit more like a textbook as opposed to a guide or quick reference.

  • jgennjgenn Posts: 734 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @TwoKopeiki said:
    ... (For example, search for user swamperbob over at coincommunity.com forums)....

    I agree! swamperbob is Robert Gurney, the author of "Counterfeit Portrait Eight-Reales: The Un-Real Reales". What he touches on in his book that you really need to understand is that the demand from China in the late 19th and early 20th century for silver 8 reales with the Mexico City mintmark and portrait of Charles IV was so high that many millions of forgeries were made. Most of these have perfect details since really good die transfer techniques were available by this time. These "bullion forgeries" are also known to have nearly correct silver amounts that require accurate specific gravity testing to distinguish. Some were edged on parallel edging mills.

    Most dealers and collectors don't know how to tell these apart from regal issues so examples from this class of forgery without obvious problems are generally accepted as genuine, including slabbed examples from the main TPGs.

    Here are two threads from earlier in the year where swamperbob provides some more detailed info on 8 reales for the China trade:
    https://www.coincommunity.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=419094
    https://www.coincommunity.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=418639

  • @jgenn said:
    ... the demand from China in the late 19th and early 20th century for silver 8 reales with the Mexico City mintmark and portrait of Charles IV was so high that many millions of forgeries were made. Most of these have perfect details since really good die transfer techniques were available by this time ...

    Most dealers and collectors don't know how to tell these apart from regal issues so examples from this class of forgery without obvious problems are generally accepted as genuine, including slabbed examples from the main TPGs.

    That sounds pretty ominous, but like other more modern fakes doesn't some of the details for the die markers get lost or there are indicators of attempts to touch up the transferred dies?

  • coinkatcoinkat Posts: 22,675 ✭✭✭✭✭

    welcome- best of luck in your numismatic endeavors

    Experience the World through Numismatics...it's more than you can imagine.

  • AbueloAbuelo Posts: 1,755 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Welcome to the Dark Side!

  • jgennjgenn Posts: 734 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @EagleRJO said:

    @jgenn said:
    ... the demand from China in the late 19th and early 20th century for silver 8 reales with the Mexico City mintmark and portrait of Charles IV was so high that many millions of forgeries were made. Most of these have perfect details since really good die transfer techniques were available by this time ...

    Most dealers and collectors don't know how to tell these apart from regal issues so examples from this class of forgery without obvious problems are generally accepted as genuine, including slabbed examples from the main TPGs.

    That sounds pretty ominous, but like other more modern fakes doesn't some of the details for the die markers get lost or there are indicators of attempts to touch up the transferred dies?

    The best of the forgeries used die transfers to make individual punches. Individual dies were then hand punched like regal issues. However, using modern steel gave the dies the potential to last longer so you will see some dies that were used for multiple years.

  • PillarDollarCollectorPillarDollarCollector Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 17, 2022 8:12AM

    As mentioned reach out to Brad that is most likely your best chance. Some books can take a while to locate and some just almost never show up. I have a book I am looking for that has yet to show up in 2 years. I got lucky with many others so in the end patience is key. So is doing a daily search on ebay and such places.

    One thing you will learn is the books are almost all scarce to very rare so grab one when you find one. Most of this books have 50 to 500 copies ever printed and most are towards the 150-250 copies printed.

    Brad may have digital copies of his books I would ask him if that is an option if ever he has nor more hard copies. I purchased his new book 1732-1771 Mexico Reales and got both. One to preserve (hard copy) and one to read (PDF format).

    Collecting interests: Mexico & Peru early milled 1 reales + 1796-1891 US dimes

    Sports: NHL & NFL

    Thank you Lord for another beautiful day!!!

  • PillarDollarCollectorPillarDollarCollector Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 17, 2022 8:18AM

    One more thing you will have to get use to not finding what you want when you want. This market is way more difficult than most USA coins. Some coins pop up a few times a year and some don't show up for decades if ever.

    Money does not mean much in locating coins but more like money, timing and luck together is what matters. There truly is no one dealer who you can call up and buy the coin you need on any given day that simply does not exist like in the case of most USA coins.

    I suggest buying a copy of this book to get yourself started truly a great guide for the price:

    https://worldnumismatics.com/product/standard-catalog-of-world-coins-spain-portugal-and-the-new-world-by-chester-l-krause-clifford-mishler-colin-r-bruce-ii-senior-editor/

    If you want to get a sens of coin sale prices look threw the ended section on Heritage Auctions website.

    Collecting interests: Mexico & Peru early milled 1 reales + 1796-1891 US dimes

    Sports: NHL & NFL

    Thank you Lord for another beautiful day!!!

  • @Abuelo said:
    Welcome to the Dark Side!

    That also sounds pretty ominous. :#

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,382 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 18, 2022 6:51AM

    You might not like certified material, but counterfeits are huge problem today. In the old days, counterfeiters often concentrated on the better date / higher prices coins. Unfortunately the Chinese will make anything, and they have made a specialty out of producing common date and mint mark combinations of Morgan Dollars. These things have been made for the junk box / flea market trade. They also appear on eBay and other sources.

    And, yes, I have to say it, they have put counterfeit coins in counterfeit certification slabs.

    The unfortunate part is that knowing the die varieties is not going to fully protect you. The Chinese make their dies from genuine coins, which means that the die markers will match.

    Here is an example. This "1878-CC Dollar" is a counterfeit.


    This one is genuine,


    Note that the Chinese got the breast feathers wrong on the eagle. The lettering is also thicker.

    My advice is to try and buy from experienced, honest sellers who are well-versed in the field.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • EagleRJOEagleRJO Posts: 37
    edited September 19, 2022 12:02PM

    @BillJones said:
    Here is an example. This "1878-CC Dollar" is a counterfeit.

    @BillJones I think that fake is an easy pick up as the mint mark is wrong right off the bat. A quick double check with known varieties doesn't reveal a match too. Others are not so obvious.

    Unfortunately the Chinese will make anything, and they have made a specialty out of producing common date and mint mark combinations of Morgan Dollars. These things have been made for the junk box / flea market trade. They also appear on eBay and other sources.

    My understanding, at least with Morgans, is that the extremely good counterfeits are costly to make with the materials, tools, dies, equipment, etc. to make those being very expensive for each individual coin with correct obv/rev match, details and markers for it to be very close, and would be a loss except for higher grade and less common dates/marks which I stay away from if raw.

    However, I think I remember reading that many better-quality fakes of Spanish 8 Reales were produced in China actually for them to use. I don't know if that is true or not, or if those are the higher quality 8R counterfeits, and one of the reasons for my post.

  • EagleRJOEagleRJO Posts: 37
    edited September 20, 2022 5:19PM

    @jgenn said:
    The best of the forgeries used die transfers to make individual punches. Individual dies were then hand punched like regal issues.

    I am starting to understand how this is an issue with trying to authenticate raw Portrait 8 Reales using die indicators. I was kinda stuck with the mindset of how US coins were made and my experience with Morgans and early date half dollars, and from a little more digging I'm realizing how difficult it would be to authenticate these coins from known dies.

    Apparently, these coins were not struck with dies that came from a set of master dies, but instead each individual unique working die was created by hand with punches, with there being possibly hundreds of different working dies for each year, and where those punches can be replicated pretty closely.

    How is that addressed in Brad's book?

  • jgennjgenn Posts: 734 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 20, 2022 4:01PM

    @EagleRJO said:
    How is that addressed in Brad's book?

    Brad often notes the number of die pairs observed for less common varieties -- this may be useful information for the rare varieties whree only one or two die pairs were seen. But the pictures are generally not adequate for capturing specific die characteristics other than examples of overdates.

  • So, it sounds like the best I could do with raw Spanish Colony 8 Reales unless I get lucky and find a recently certified exact match is to go by overall appearance and individual punch characteristics such as the font and details of devices, like square windows of the castle, edge patterns and overlap, ejection marks, etc. Seems like a bit of a crap shoot for me. No wonder why people were welcoming me to the Dark Side! :D

  • jgennjgenn Posts: 734 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Mexico City is known for having the tightest tolerances so make sure the weight is spot on. If you can do a reasonably accurate specific gravity measurement then you are way ahead of most collectors. Make sure to post any examples you intend to acquire for feedback. @realeswatcher has a compendium of images of fakes and has a great visual memory for forgeries. swamperbob will often provide opinions at coincommunity.com

  • EagleRJOEagleRJO Posts: 37
    edited September 21, 2022 1:03AM

    Thanks @jgenn I will prolly take you up on that offer down the road when I think I am ready to take that leap over to the Dark Side. 😜

    First, know the coin before you buy the coin. It doesn't sound like Yonaka's book was going to be much help so prolly not a big deal I can't locate a copy. But I will deff read Gurney's book, which I hope has more info on the minting process, use of parallel dies to create the edge designs, master punches, identifying ejection marks, etc.

    I could also switch to slabbed for the 8Rs, but that's just not me or what I enjoy. I guess I just can't shake that old school picked up sitting at an old kit table with my grandfather using a pull-down lamp and a POS mag glass going through glass milk jugs full of pocket change. 😉

    P.S. While doing some digging on Spanish Milled Dollars, I did come across a series/book on older Spanish coins from Mexico called "The Coinage of the First Mint of the Americas at Mexico City, 1536-1572" by Robert I. Nesmith available at the ANS website and a few others to download.

  • TwoKopeikiTwoKopeiki Posts: 9,505 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Don't get discouraged with collecting raw 8 Reales. There are diagnostics, as @jgenn mentioned, that will make you more confident in coin's authenticity (edge design and overlaps, weight, diameter, specific gravity) and after a while you'll learn to recognize the regal punches. You will likely not going to be drastically impacted by the bullion restrikes, as most dealers, collectors and graders will treat them as authentic. Low quality silver ones will be picked up by specific gravity testing even with impeccable die work from die transfers. And we can help you with visual examinations as you shop around.

    There's someone working on a Dansco-style album for Portrait Milled 8R's from Mexico that should be available within a few months, so that could help with organizing your collection.

    It's a fun journey and it will help you become a better numismatist.

  • @TwoKopeiki It's not that I'm discouraged from collecting some raw 8 Reales, which I still intend on doing. I just need to approach those coins a little differently than I envisioned and do a little more research, like reading Gurney's book and looking into the minting process more, to get more comfortable with them.

    However, I am still doing some surfing and looking at raw 8 Reales that may be available along with pricing for those, so it may also help to post some of those with my thoughts to get some feedback as another learning tool. Of course, I won't have the coin in hand to look more closely at details and edge conditions (usually not included in pics) as well as take careful measurements, but I think it's a start.

    Attached is the 1793 Mo Spanish 8 Reales I came across that I previously referenced which appears to be an XF to XF+ which is in the grade range I was looking for. I compared that to several more recent PCGS and NGC slabbed ones with the same year and mark as a start, with one of those also attached. Appears to be a very close match with the characters, date, rims, and devices including the font style and size, bust, shield with rectangular castle windows, crown and pillars, flat fields, etc. But the position and spacing of the characters doesn't match any of the examples. Any thoughts on if the attached is a real Reale short of having it in hand?

  • TwoKopeikiTwoKopeiki Posts: 9,505 ✭✭✭✭✭

    In terms of the 1793 you posted above:

    • Surfaces look ok
    • Dentils look passable, but a potential red flag could be the line at the bottom of the dentils below the date

    • Letter and number punches look ok

    • Mintmark looks ok
    • King bust punch looks ok
    • fleur-de-lis looks fine (top left one always tilted to the right in Mexico CIty portraits)
    • lion, castle, pomegranate punches look ok
    • crown and pillars look ok
    • shield itself shows repairs

    With all of the above, i'm leaning more towards it being genuine than not, but there are anomalies. I would then analyse the edge (design, spacing, overlaps) and do the specific gravity test to see if it reads as the correct silver alloy.

    In terms of the shield, I believe the outline including the inside quadrant separation lines were a single punch. However, there were additional punches of individual inner segment lines to repair the die. This is supported by the portrait reverse punch block photo on p. 271 of Gilboy's "Milled Columnarios of Central and South America", where you can see the master for the shield, as well as the individual segments. What i find interesting is that the master block also shows individual lillies for the assembly of the central fleur-de-lis, however all research points that the 3 lillies at Mexico City being punched in as a single punch

  • Thanks @TwoKopeiki that kind of feedback is extremely helpful and much appreciated. My treat to Starbucks if I see you at a coin show. :D And I agree it seems like with any of these coins getting them in-hand to look closely at the edges and other things with better lighting, as well as taking some accurate measurements, is going to be important.

    It looked pretty good to me from some basic comparisons except for a few minor things which were not matching exactly on the reverse like the ends of the lines you noted of the Spanish coat of arms as well as the lions' tails therein, the crown above the coat of arms touching, the plinth of the columns on either side varying somewhat, etc. That combined with the variation in the positions for the reverse legend, with the individual components still matching pretty closely, and I assumed it was a later or earlier hand punched rev die vs the examples I was looking at.

    I did see that area at the bottom of the dentils (maybe "denticles" since they are more pointed?) below the date which looked like the planchet was a little off center from the dies since they were wider in that area vs the top of the obverse. What would be the potential red flag there to be aware of? Possible indication of being struck in a more modern die with a full collar as opposed to split dies for the edge design?

  • Also, as a side note I realize that discussing counterfeits in an open forum can be a touchy subject within reason so as not to be of much assistance to someone looking to improve counterfeits. So, feel free to send me a PM with any comments you may have if you think it may not be appropriate for here which I will keep private.

  • PillarDollarCollectorPillarDollarCollector Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭✭✭

    What coin books have you purchased so far? I don't mean USA books.

    Collecting interests: Mexico & Peru early milled 1 reales + 1796-1891 US dimes

    Sports: NHL & NFL

    Thank you Lord for another beautiful day!!!

  • EagleRJOEagleRJO Posts: 37
    edited September 24, 2022 12:35PM

    As far as just for the Spanish Portrait 8R coins I have the World Coins 1701 to 1800 book and the Counterfeit Portrait Eight-Reales book, plus a number of articles and forum threads on the topic. I am looking for a copy of Yonaka's book covering 1772-1821 varieties, but haven't found any available and he is out of copies.

    I saw a few related posts about this topic and references, but either the books are in Spanish or not available.

  • PillarDollarCollectorPillarDollarCollector Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 24, 2022 1:26PM

    @EagleRJO said:
    As far as just for the Spanish Portrait 8R coins I have the World Coins 1701 to 1800 book and the Counterfeit Portrait Eight-Reales book, plus a number of articles and forum threads on the topic. I am looking for a copy of Yonaka's book covering 1772-1821 varieties, but haven't found any available and he is out of copies.

    I saw a few related posts about this topic and references, but either the books are in Spanish or not available.

    Did you ask Brad if he can sell you a PDF version of his book? I know he did for his latest book 1732-1771.

    Maybe put an add in the WTB section someone here hopefully has a extra copy.

    Look at your PM.

    Collecting interests: Mexico & Peru early milled 1 reales + 1796-1891 US dimes

    Sports: NHL & NFL

    Thank you Lord for another beautiful day!!!

  • @KingOfMorganDollar said:
    Did you ask Brad if he can sell you a PDF version of his book? I know he did for his latest book 1732-1771.

    I was looking for a copy of his book "A Variety Guide to the Silver and Copper Coinage of the Mexico City Mint, 1772-1821" and did email him about that. I received an initial reply and the possibly of getting a PDF version as he is out of hard copies, and plan to follow up if I don't hear back soon. But it's not sounding like its critical to have due to the master dies being all hand punched.

  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Posts: 1,656 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @EagleRJO said:

    @KingOfMorganDollar said:
    Did you ask Brad if he can sell you a PDF version of his book? I know he did for his latest book 1732-1771.

    I was looking for a copy of his book "A Variety Guide to the Silver and Copper Coinage of the Mexico City Mint, 1772-1821" and did email him about that. I received an initial reply and the possibly of getting a PDF version as he is out of hard copies, and plan to follow up if I don't hear back soon. But it's not sounding like its critical to have due to the master dies being all hand punched.

    https://forums.collectors.com/discussion/1057783/your-numismatic-library-additions#latest

  • PillarDollarCollectorPillarDollarCollector Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @EagleRJO said:

    @KingOfMorganDollar said:
    Did you ask Brad if he can sell you a PDF version of his book? I know he did for his latest book 1732-1771.

    I was looking for a copy of his book "A Variety Guide to the Silver and Copper Coinage of the Mexico City Mint, 1772-1821" and did email him about that. I received an initial reply and the possibly of getting a PDF version as he is out of hard copies, and plan to follow up if I don't hear back soon. But it's not sounding like its critical to have due to the master dies being all hand punched.

    You should buy it while you can they are hard to come by. Let us know if you get it.

    Collecting interests: Mexico & Peru early milled 1 reales + 1796-1891 US dimes

    Sports: NHL & NFL

    Thank you Lord for another beautiful day!!!

  • PillarDollarCollectorPillarDollarCollector Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JohnnyCache said:

    @EagleRJO said:

    @KingOfMorganDollar said:
    Did you ask Brad if he can sell you a PDF version of his book? I know he did for his latest book 1732-1771.

    I was looking for a copy of his book "A Variety Guide to the Silver and Copper Coinage of the Mexico City Mint, 1772-1821" and did email him about that. I received an initial reply and the possibly of getting a PDF version as he is out of hard copies, and plan to follow up if I don't hear back soon. But it's not sounding like its critical to have due to the master dies being all hand punched.

    https://forums.collectors.com/discussion/1057783/your-numismatic-library-additions#latest

    Maybe PM him? I am sure he will be happy.

    Collecting interests: Mexico & Peru early milled 1 reales + 1796-1891 US dimes

    Sports: NHL & NFL

    Thank you Lord for another beautiful day!!!

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