Greg C. writes: Several years ago I was browsing through a flea market. While looking through a table full of very dirty old tools and other assorted “junk”, I found a handmade bottle opener with a round bottom. I bought it for $2.00 and when I got it home I cleaned it off. I was surprised to discover that the round bottom part of the opener was a silver coin that had been welded to the rest of the opener.
The coin is approximately 1.5 inches across and weighs approximately 1 ounce. One side is very clearly stamped, although very slightly off-center. At the top is the date “1633”, and then (going clockwise) a dot, followed by “HISPANIARVM”, another dot, “REX”, another dot and back to the date. The center is a cross surrounded by a stylized circle. In the upper left and lower right quadrant of the cross are castles, and in the lower left and upper right quadrants are “rampant lions (?)” facing left.
The reverse side is much harder to read, as it appears to have been double-stamped. At the top is some sort of floral motif. Again going clockwise around the edge, there is what appears to be “PHILLIPPVS”, then a dot, followed by some illegible writing. In the center is a shield with various markings that I can’t identify. To the right of the shield is a large “8”, and on the left is some sort of marking that I cannot identify.
Shortly after I found this coin, I took it to a local coin dealer who told me that it had no value other than its “silver value,” which he determined to be $17.00 at the time. I decided to keep it and save it for my young daughter (3 yrs-old). I’d like to know a little about it so that when she gets older I can tell her something of its history before I found it.
You are describing a 1633 Spain 8 Reales of Felipe IV (1621-1665). The obverse shows the Hapsburg shield Crowned. The Arabic number “8”, representing the denomination “8 reales” is at the right of the shield. At the left is the mint mark, a 2-tier, 4-arch aqueduct representing the Segovia Mint. Below is the letter “R”, the mark of the assayer, Rafael Salvan. The abbreviated Latin legends around the shield are: PHILIPPVS IIII D.G. (Philip IV By the Grace of G-d).
The legend continues on the reverse: HISPANIARVM REX 1633 (King of Spain 1633). There is a cross within a tressure that shows alternating Castles and Lions, representing the unification of the two medieval Kingdoms of Castilla and León that eventually became Spain (España).
For hundreds of years the Spanish 8 reales was the world’s trade unit. When the fledgling United States created their monetary system it was based on a decimalized version of the 8 reales (US$1=8 reales). Spanish coins were legal tender in the United States until 1858 and helped alleviate the coin shortages that were endemic around the country. (Contemporary 8 reales were often cut into 8 parts when small change wasn’t available. Each part, called a “bit”, was 12 1/2 cents. Two bits was a quarter, a term still known today but now quickly disappearing from colloquial language).
Collectors value coins on rarity and condition. Coins closer to uncirculated grades are worth more than coins with heavy wear. Damaged coins are worth a great deal less. For reference the coin contains about 3/4 of an ounce of silver and weighs 27 grams (this is one diagnostic for authentication). Value range: $150 – $2,000.