Published: August 20, 2018
PHILADELPHIA — The “First Dollar of the New World,” struck in Mexico City by the Spanish in 1538, sold for $528,000, August 17, at an auction of ancient and world coins held by Heritage Auctions. The first dollar-sized coin struck in the Americas, it was minted under the joint Spanish reign of Charles I and his mother, Joanna. The 8 Reales auctioned is the finest of three known specimens, which made world history when salvaged in the 1990s from the northern Caribbean shipwreck of the Golden Fleece.
“The bold design of Spain’s 1538 8 Reales is highly symbolic,” said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Heritage Auctions’ executive vice president of international numismatics. “It signifies the end of the middle ages and establishes Spain’s powerful accomplishment of settling the New World.” Native New World mint workers in Mexico City struck the silver coin about two years after the Spanish Empire opened a mint there in 1536. It features a Gothic style of numerous letters and the crowned royal shield of Spain. The reverse of the coin bears the Pillars of Hercules with a banner with the words “PLVS,” or “beyond,” which defies Spain’s ancient motto Ne Plus Ultra, meaning “nothing further beyond.” “No major museum holds one of these three coins in its collections,” Bierrenbach said, “and that’s why auctions such as this are an extraordinary opportunity to own one of the world’s historically most important coins.”
A full review of this auction will appear in a future issue.
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