C. A. F. writes: Several years ago, my grandfather-in-law dug up a coin in his yard in St. Augustine, Florida, site of the Castillo de San Marcos of colonial times. It appears that he has unearthed some sort of Spanish colonial coin, but I haven’t been able to find anyone who can tell me if it’s authentic, much less of its value. It is silver, and has a much earlier date (1722) than most of the currency I have seen indexes carry. Furthermore, it has fairly good detail (despite some areas where the coin has been rubbed smooth) much unlike the cobs I’ve been seeing online which date from later periods. This detail makes me think it must have either been minted in Spain or is some sort of fake. Features of the coin include:
The name Philippius * V * D * G *, around the perimeter with each element separated by a small floret (indicated here by asterisks). On the same side is a shield surmounted by a crown. Though the crown looks much like those on other Spanish coins, the shield has a different design than I’ve seen on other period coins. There are three trefoils in a miniature shield separating four fields. The upper right field has a number of vertical and diagonal lines. The upper left is divided into three, smaller fields with two lions and a castle turret. The lower left has a striped, pie-shaped wedge and some unidentifiable form, and the lower right has some dots and similarly unrecognizable features. To the left of the shield appear the letters (vertically oriented) of R and what looks like two Ms right on top of one another. The space between the right of the shield and the edge of the coin is rubbed smooth.
On the reverse of the coin, around the perimeter Hispaniarum * Rex * 1722, again with the asterisks serving to indicate the position of small florets. The center of the coin is dominated by what appears to have been the castle turret and rearing lion design from the Spanish flag. All the center design is surrounded by a double meandering line, much like a floral outline.
I have been VERY curious about this coin and have dragged it around trying to get it appraised in Tampa, with no luck. Similar efforts on the Internet have similarly proved fruitless. I sincerely would appreciate any information you could share.
The “two “M’s” on top of each other gave it away. What you are looking at on the obverse of the coin is a small castle monogram with three arches. This represents the Segovia Mint in Spain. You didn’t mention the coin’s size but it is most likely a 1722 silver 2 Reales (about 2.6 cm in diameter or about 1 inch).
The coin was struck under Philip V of Spain and is not a cob, but a struck coin made on a “roller press” that gives the coin a slightly bent look. The assayer is “F”. The letter “R” above the mint mark means Reales and if you could see to the right of the shield you would see the denomination “2”.
The Shield is a study in heraldry and reflects the Hapsburg line of European rulers, and in the case of Philip V, the French Bourbons as well. The three fleur-de-lis in the center of the shield reflect the Bourbon lineage. Note the castles and lions (Castile and Leon), the rampant lion to the right, Brabant (Belgium), the diagonal lines to the lower left, Old Burgundy, the parallel lines at top right, Aragon. To the right of that, parallel lines are intersected by diagonals that within are two figures representing Naples and Sicily.
The reverse shows a cross and in each quadrant either a castle or Lion (Castile and Leon in Spain). A tressure or quatrefoil surrounds the cross. The date is at top.
These coins circulated widely in North America and were the models for U.S. coinage in the following century (Two reales=25 cents) and were legal tender in the United States until 1858. This series of coins are readily found in the numismatic market and come with mint marks from all over the New World as well as Spain. Value depends on grade. Low grade pieces as you described bring $10 or less.