Joe M. writes: I have an old coin I know nothing about and would like a little information, if possible. The coin I have is a 1732 SILVER PILLAR DOLLAR (piece of eight). On the front of the coin it has the words VTRAQUE VNUM. This coin is in great shape and I’m curious about value and history. Also on the back of the coin it reads; PIASTRE AUX COLONNES D’HERCULE (PESO).
The Spanish Pillar dollar ( 8 reales) was the successor to the crude irregular cob coinage that was typical of the output of the Spanish Colonial Mints. The coin was struck on a coin press with the flan held in place with a collar that also created the ornate security edge. The first year of issue of this famous coin was at the Mexico City Mint in 1732. Pillar dollars of that date are extremely rare and bring quite a great deal of excitement when they are offered for sale.
The item you describe above is a modern copy of that famous coin made privately for some commercial purpose. The French inscription gives it away (it translates as “Pillars of Hercules dollar” and refers to the design on the original coin that shows this device. It was a powerful image and symbolized exploration of the great unknown).