Atocha Research Collection History



Encouraged by the discovery of rich deposits of silver
in Mexico, the Spanish crown authorized the
establishment of a mint in Mexico city as early as
1535. in 1545, the Mexican deposits were all but
eclipsed by the riches to be garnered from the
veritable mountain of silver discovered at Potosi in
the Viceroyalty of Peru. Located in the high country
now known as the Bolivian Altiplano, that mountain
produced for over 200 years a steady stream of silver
that passed regularly back to Spain every year. By
1622, the year in which the ill-fated Tierra Firme
fleet set out from Havana with 27 vessels on the
treasure fleet was heavily armed and guarded, a
protection against English, French and Dutch corsairs.

Nuestra Senora de Atocha was Almiranta, or rear guard,
of the fleet. Equipped with 20 bronze cannons and a
company of soldiers, she was transporting not only over
47 tons of silver in bullion and coins, but over 200
pounds of gold ingots, a fortune in contraband
emeralds, and the personal property of an elite group
of wealthy and noble passengers, including several high
ecclesiastics. This personal property included gold,
silver and silver�gilt plate and jewelry. On the
morning of September 6, the only evidence remaining of
this proud galleon was the tip of her mizzen mast
rising above the still turbulent waters concealing the
treacherous Florida reefs.

The Atocha was one of nine ships to sink in the raging
hurricane which had scattered the fleet. Of the other
two treasure vessels, Santa Margarita foundered on a
sandbar within sight of the Atocha and the Rosario at
Dry Tortugas, where she was successfully salvaged.
Although some of Santa Margarita�s cargo was recovered,
the Spanish salvors never found her considerable
consignment of gold, bullion including two magnificent
gold chains recovered in 1980, one of which will be
sold by Christies New York on June 14, 1988. within a
month after that devastating hurricane, another struck,
scattering the remains of the two ships. Over the
centuries, they were forgotten until the 1960�s, when
the drama surrounding their loss and the riches they
were reported to contain captured the imagination of
treasure hunter Mel Fisher.

When Fisher decided to make the search for the Atocha
the major focus of his efforts, he was greatly assisted
by the work of Dr. Eugene Lyon, who was doing research
in the Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain, for this

eventually unearthed from contemporary reports
concerning the Atocha and Santa Margarita led Fisher to
focus his search for them on an area 35 miles west of

Key West. Yet Dr. Lyon�s research led to even more:
the discovery of the ship�s manifest of the Atocha,
which enabled him to prove that silver ingots recovered
from the wreck matched the serial numbers and the
owners� and shippers� marks recorded by the Atocha�s
silvermaster. This match definitively proved the
identity of the Atocha. Of even more relevance here is
the discovery of documentary proof of the existence of
the mint at Santa Fe de Bogot� during the years 1621
and 1622. This fact, coupled with the recovery of
previously unknown coin types, was to change numismatic
history and introduce an entirely new series of Spanish
New World coins to the world.

Philip II 1556 � 1598

In 1555. the irascible and eccentric Joanna, daughter
of Ferdinand and Isabella and mother of Charles I
(Charles V of Germany, Holy Roman Emperor) died.
Charles reigned alone for only a few months and in 1556
abdicated in favor of his son, Philip II.

The early coins of Philip II showed the �Charles and
Joanna� arms, but as soon as new dies could be
engraved, Philip�s coins employed the full crowned arms
of the Habsburg dynasty, with the castles and lions
represented at upper left on the obverse and on the
reverse enclosed in quarters separated by a cross of
various designs, depending on the mint where they were
coined. A distinctive �orle� or border enclosed the

Other provinces of Spain represented on the obverse of
all Spanish coins until the succession of Philip V are
as follows: Aragon: Vertical bars appearing just to
the right of Castille and Leon; Naples and Sicily:
diagonals and eagles to the extreme upper right of the
shield; Granada: a triangle containing a pomegranate,
usually located in the center of the shield, between
the lower edges of Castille-Leon and Aragon. In the
lower left are the horizontal stripes of Austria and
the diagonal stripes of ancient Burgundy to the right
are fleurs de lie (in varying numbers) representing
modern Burgundy. At extreme lower right, opposite the
diagonal stripes, is: the lion of Brabant. At the
center of the lower part of the shield is a smaller
divided shield which should. display the lion of
Flanders to the left and the eagle of Tyrol to the
right. In general the mintmark and assayer�s initial

[initial) appear to the left of the shield, and the


crown and surrounded by a legend on both obverse and
reverse, the legend usually enclosed within two circles
of dots. In the case of Philip II, the legend varies
widely from mint to mint and the common or officially
sanctioned legend will be quoted at the �head of each
mint section.

Displacements and distortions of these devices are
among the most useful of means to date coins, and can
also be used to attribute coins to specific assayers,
even in the absence of the assayer�s mark.

Probably the most comprehensive work published on the
mints of Lima, La Plata, and Potosi is that of Ernesto
Sellschopp (SEL, 1965) , in which he presents in
meticulous detail the changes in die design during the
reigns of Philip II through Philip IV.

For the most part, we have agreed with Sellschopp�s
classification and have followed his terminology. As
for attributions to prototypes, this collection
includes a large number of separate and distinct die
designs by Lima assayers �R�, �B�, and �D� and Potosi
assayer �B�. To our knowledge, there is no reference
which lists all of the subtle variations found on the
coins of this collection and without doubt some of
these coins are newly discovered or undocumented types.
In the case of a coin which has no reference for
certain variations of detail, we have chosen as a
reference a similar type and have included a brief
commentary on the unrecorded variation.

As an aid to understanding both Sellschopp�s
terminology and the minor changes made here, we refer
to the reader to the following coins for graphic
examples of the designs and styles referred to within
the text.

Lions: These appear on obverse in �Leon� at upper
left of the Habsburg shield, in �Brabant�,
lower right of shield, or in quarters on
the reverse.

Examples; �Segovia� lions: see reverse, coin #28
�Seville� lions: see reverse, coin #15
�Stalking� lion (Sellschopp�s �flat nosed:
lion): see reverse, coin #67. This lion
is extremely important in the collection,
as it has in many cases served as an aid
in distinguishing a Lima or Potosi origin
for certain coins, notably the 2�Reales
coin of assayer �B�
�passant� lion: see reverse, coin $70
�prancing� lion: see reverse, �coin #103
�degraded� lions and castles: see
reverse, coin #172

Castles: Reference in the text of this collection
to castle shapes is by simple description
and does not necessarily correspond with
the types delineated by Sellschopp or
other sources. The reader should find
any questions resolved by referring to
prototypes cited in references at the end
of each coin description.

One: One of two distinct�types of border
surrounds the quartered lions and castles
on reverse, for an example of the plain
or �Potosi� type one, see reverse of
coin #60. For an example of the more
ornate or �Lima� type orle, see reverse
of coin #60. For an example of the more
ornate or �Lima� type orle, see reverse
of coin #65.

This distinction, as with the �stalking� lions in the
coins of assayer �B�, has been useful as an aid in
determining a Lima or Potosi origin for these coins.
(See amplification introducing the 2�Reales coins of
assayer �B� in the Philip II Lima Mint section)

When the contents of over 38 chests of silver coins
recovered from the Atocha were reviewed, pieces of 2�,
4�, and 8�Reales were identified spanning the entire
history of New World mints from the �Charles and
Joanna� series of Mexico through the coins of Potosi�s
assayer �T� and Santa Fe de Bogot�'s Alonso Turrilo de
Yebra, both dated 1622. This collection is the result
of research and classification arising from that
extensive find.

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

The shield used on the coinage of Charles and Joanna
displayed on the obverse the crowned arms of Spain,
which symbolized the united kingdoms of Castille and
Leon and the conquest of Granada. The castles
symbolizing Castille appear in the first and fourth
quarters, the lions of Leon in the second and third.
This placement of the lions and castles will persist
throughout all the permutations of Spanish New World
coinage using the Habsburg shield on obverse and the
quartered lions and castles on reverse. In the coins
of Charles and Joanna, the reverse of silver coinage
employs the �pillars and waves� design with the motto
chosen by Charles: �plus ultra�, which can loosely be
translated as �and the world beyond."

The legend oft obverse property reads: Carolvs et
Johana Reges (Charles and Joanna Rulers) and on
reverse: Hispaniarvm et Indiarvm (of Spain and the
Indies).. Many variations of spelling, word placement,
word separation devices, and symbols can be found
throughout the entire early history of New World
coinage. When visible, the symbol for word separation
on Charles and Joanna - coins minted in Mexico is
composed of two small circles, one on top of the other
(represented here as *0)


This first mint in the New World was opened in 1535 in
the home of Cortez in Mexico City. The mint was moved
to the Palace grounds in 1569. The first coins in 1536
showed only the letter �M� in the mintmark location.
In 1542, a Viceregal order added a small circle above
the �M� to distinguish these coins from those struck in

The coins illustrated here are from the �late� period
of the reign of Charles and Joanna (1542 - 1555) . The
name of assayer �0� is unknown. �L� is the initial of
assayer Luis Rodriguez. (Grove, 1791)

1. 2�Reales, 5.70 gms., obv.: MN a/N left; assayer

1,011 rt; legend: CARO____ (LVS base only visible).
rev.: denomination (2 dots) above PV/SLV/TR~
legend: ISPANIARVM _____ (CCT Type 74 #127)
see plate 1
2.2�Reales, 6.3 gins., obv.: MNo/N left, assayer
�0� rt, legend, ____LVS 8 ET 8IQHANAREG (S bottom
of letter only visible), rev.,: denomination (2
dots) above PV/SVL/TR, legend:HISPANIARVM 8 ET 8
IDIAR N 8 + . (cCT Type 74, no reference for
this slightly variant castle)
3. 2�Reales, 6.3 gins., obv. MM aIM left, assayer �L�
rt, legend: ____AROLVS 8 ETS IOHANAREGS, rev.
denomination (2 dots) abovePLV/SVL/TR, legend:
____ANIARVN 8 ET 8 INDIARVN8 + (CCT Type 72
see plate 1


I. Lima, 1658-1588
Philip II
1) Pillars of Hercules on the reverse.
Assayer R 1658 - 1571
2) Crowned arms on the obverse.
a) Assayer R. 1572
5) Assayer X. M. 1572/73
c) Assayer B. Ca. 1573/74
d) Assayer L. Ca. 1574�1577
e) Assayer D. 1577�1588.

Potosi, 1575-1651
1) Philip II, until 1598.
a) Assayer B alone, 1575 - ca. 1588
b) Assayers B and A, Ca 1588-1591.
c) Assayers B and R, 1591-1598.
2) Philip III, 1598�1621.
a) Assayers B and R, 1598-1616/17.
b) Assayers Q, M, R, T, P 1616/17 - 1621/22
3) Philip IV, since 1621.
a) Assayers T and P, 1621-1632.
6) Assayers T and TR, 1633-1646/47
a) Assayers V, Z, 0, E, 1646-1651

LIMA, 1568-1588

Philip II
On August 21, 1565, King Philip II of Spain signed the Royal Decree in which he authorized
the establishment of the Lima Mint. In a letter of February 7, 1568, addressed to the King by the
lawyer Castro we find, however, the following words: �I hope that with the consent of Your Majesty the work will begin within one month� (1). According to this statement, the actual process
p of minting was first initiated in Lima during the month of March, 1568. As early as April, 1571,
the coinage in the Lima Mint had already ceased. (2).
The illustrations 1 to 11 on Plate I show eleven examples of coins minted during the period
between 1568 and 1571. The legends display the following words: PHILIPVS. II. D. HISPA.
(obverse); NIARVM. ET. INDIARVM. REX. (reverse). Even if the legend is not always entirely
legible, during this period the word PHILIPVS is engraved without exception with only one P.
In the center of each obverse the coins worth 8, 4, 2, and 1 Reales display a coat of arms which
is quartered (I and IV: Castile; II and III: Leon; apex: Granada) and crowned. The crown cuts
through the milled edge above it.
Left of the coat of arms we recognize an R as the assayer�s initial, which most probably stands
for Alonso Rincon. This is at least the opinion of Edgar Fl. Adams as seen in his Catalogue of
the Guttag Collection� (1929). Referring to the Potosi Mint, J. T. Medina states the following:
�It is well known that its first engraver and assayer was Alonso Rincon, who had more than 45
years experience in these fields, in Spain as well as in Mexico and Peru� (3). If Rincon, as Medina
argues, really had acquired some experience in his field in Peru before the Potosi Mint opened,
the only place for him to practice his trade in Peru was Lima (since 1568).
On the reverse, the coins worth 8, 4, 2 Reales, and 1 Real show the crowned pillars of Hercules standing upon waves, which allude to the sea, and the uncompleted legend PLVS VLTRA.
The Latin P above the PLVS VLTRA was to indicate �how the minting was done in Peru� (4).

Assayer R (Pillars of Hercules).

Coins minted in the Lima Mint of Peru during the period from 1568 to 1571, following the
Royal Decree of August 21, 1565.

1) 8 Reales. In 1929 Edgar H. Adams attributed this coin of the Guttag Collection (nr. 3,993)
to the Lima Mint and to the assayer Alonso Rincon. In 1892 another piece of the same value
and similar appearance was listed under nr. 7485 in the Vidal Quadras y Ram�n Collection
and was simply attributed to Peru by the collector. In 1914 Adolfo Herrera mentions the
same coin of Vidal Quadras (nr. 7.485) and lists it under nr. 884 in the chapter Casa de
Moneda de Potosi� in his book EL Duro. This mistaken designation most probably is the
basis for Toribio Medina�s assertion in 1919 that the fIrst engraver and assayer of PotosI
was Alonso Rincon. Medina does not supply any documentation to support this claim. On
the contrary, a proof carried out by Rincon in 1575, as well as his accounts of April 1575
on the coinage of La Plata in 1574/75 (5), seem to indicate the great likelihood that Rincon,
after having left his assayer�s office in Lima, moved to La Plata and Potosi in another
capacity than that of assayer (CL 1): This coin is reproduced in our book: �Las acu�aciones de la Ceca de Lima� (1964), under nr. 1.

2) 4 Reales. Value below the abbreviated lemma: PL-VSV-LT instead of PL-VSVL-TRA
(CL 2).

3) 4 Reales. To the right of the arms of Castile on the obverse we find the value 1111. In 1865
Aloiss Heiss has already reproduced the same coin in his work Description General de Las
Monedas Hispano-Cristianas (Plate 29, Nr 13). Heiss identified the value beside the arms as
an M in gothic script, probably because of the inclarity of the last I in 1111. Up to this point
there is no knowledge of another coin with the same characteristics (CL 3).

4) 2 Reales. Two points below the lemma PL-VSV-TR indicate the value of the coin. Large
crown on nrs. 1-4 (CL 4). Medina attributed a similar coin to Santa Fe (op. cit., p. 262).

5) 2 Rcales. Two points below the lemma PL-VSVL-TR indicate the value. Middle sized crown.

6) 2 Reales. Two points between the P of Peru and the lemma PL-VSV-LT indicate the value
(more rare than the nrs. 4 and 5). Small crown (CL 5).

7) 1 Real. One point below the lemma PL-VSV.-TR indicates the value. Large crown.

8) 1 Real. One point below the lemma P-LV-S indicates the value. Small crown.

(1) See: J. 1�. Medina: Las Moaadas Hispono-Ansericaaas, p. 152.
(2) T. Desi: Estud(o St ~os Reels, Sc a Ocho, vol. II, p. 63.
(3) J. T. Medina: op. cit., p. 212,
(4) J. T. Medina: op. cit., p. 169, and H. F. Burzio: La Crea Se LOne, 1555-2824, p. 52.
(5) J. T. Medina: op. cit., pp. 153, 209 y 211.


During the five years between 1572 and 1577 five different assayer�s initials are represented
on the coinage of Lima: R, X, M, B, and L. We believe that the R belongs to the assayer
Alonso de Rincon, and that the X and the M both belong to the assayer Xines Martinez, who
most probably started to work using the initial of his last name. We know neither the first
nor the last names of the assayers B and L. May be the B stands for Juan de Bruselas.
During the period between 1577 and 1588 the assayer of Lima is Diego de la Torre, whose
name is well known because of the documentation of his oath on September 23, 1577.
Considering the initials X and M as belonging to one assayer, and adding Diego de Ia Torre
to the list of assayers, we now count five assayers for the Lima Mint during the 16 years
between 1572 and 1588.

We maintain that the assayer with initial C was the only one to work as assayer in La
Plata. During the short period of time in 1574 the work was accomplished in this mint with
half of the tools of the Lima Mint and with borrowed dies. The initial C was provisionally
superimposed on the slightly erased initial B, which was then the assayer�s initial of the
Lima Mint.

In 1575, after the failure of the La Plata Mint, the assayer B, probably Alonso Lopez de
Barriales, the only assayer and metal founder in Potosi since August 31st, 1572 took over the
installation of the new mint as soon as possible. In Potosi the same dies were used again
which originated from Lima. The initial C of La Plata�s assayer, which had been superimposed on the initial B, was now covered again by the original initial B of the first assayer of the
new Potosi Mint. During the first years of B�s activity in Potosi, the Lima Mint continued
to function.

At approximately the same time as the closing of the Lima Mint (1588) we are confronted
with a second initial in Potosi: with A. Potosi was in those days the only mint which continued to function in Peru and in all of South America. The initial A (Alonso) could very
well stand for Alonso L�p2z de Barriales, since with the coinage of Xines Martinez on which
the X and the M most probably stand for one and the same assayer, we find a similar

Furthermore there is evidence that on March 27th, 1591, i. e. three years later, it was Alonso Lopez de Barriales who was replaced in his assayer�s duties by Gaspar Ruiz (**). Under
Ruiz the coins were signed by the initial of his last name, i. e. by the initial R. He was
assayer of Potosi until 1618. The assayer�s initial B is characteristic of Potosi until the great
reform in 1616/17. Thus during the period between 1575 and 1598 we can ascertain the
presence of only three initials in the Potosi Mint: of B, A, and R. These three characterize
at the same time the period of reign of Philip II.

During the reign of Philip III, 1598�1621, the initials B and R remained in use for the
period indicated above. After the great trial of 1616/17 the initial B was successively replaced by the initials Q, M, and P, while the initial R was probably replaced by the initial T
in 1618. Taking into consideration the four new initials of the period of Philip lII and the
three already known ones of the period of Philip II we reach the number of 7 assayer�s
initials: B, A, R, Q, M, P, and T,

If we add to this number the initials of the period of Philip IV from 1621 on, i. e. TR, V, Z,


The Coinage Of The Mints Of Lima, La Plata, And Potosi
Dr. E. A. Sellschopp

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