Eddy writes: I have some Spanish silver coins from 1535 – first Spanish coins to be minted in the New World for the Spanish Crown – Juana & Philip. I think they are referred to as Cobs. Do you know anything more specific about them? How much are they worth today? Many thanks
Cobs were minted in Mints in Spain and in Mints all over “El Peru”, what we call Latin America, from 1535 – to c. 1760. The shape of the coin and its nick name “cob” comes from the method of manufacture (cabo de barra or end of a bar). A piece of hot gold or silver was cut from the end of an ingot, weighed and struck by hand between a set of dies. After the coin cooled, the coin was then weighed again and adjusted as necessary.
The gold coins were minted in gold in 1/2, 1, 2, 4, and 8 escudos, the silver in 1/2, 1, 2, 4, 8 reales. For hundreds of years the Spanish 8 reales and 8 escudos were the world standard for money. The United States monetary system was based on this standard (8 reales=US$1) and in fact these Spanish coins were legal tender in the U.S. until 1858.
By the 2nd third of the 18th century, the cob style of coinage gave way to the technological improvement of “milled” coinage. Round coinage with a security edge foiled the practice of clipping small pieces from coins, melting the accumulation and then selling the stolen silver or gold.
The Mexico City Mint was the first Spanish Colonial mint in the New World and was established in 1535. The first coins were struck in 1536. The coins from this era were struck under the Spanish rulers Juana y Carlos. You don’t mention which denomination, but only 4, 2, 1 and 1/2 reales in silver were struck at the Mexico City Mint in this era (The first Mexico 8 reales wasn’t minted until 1573).
Coins from this era are almost oval in shape, show the pillars of Hercules with a “4” between (4 Reales), 2 pellets (2 reales), no pellets (1 real). Each of these denominations shows the Spanish Shield with Castles and Lions. The 1/2 real replaces the shield with a crown.
Based on your description the Mint Mark should be Mexico City (M on the earliest coinage and Large M with a small ‘o’ above later). The mint mark was placed to the left of the shield or the crown. There are also assayer marks, mostly single initials, that reflect the person in charge of minting the coins. Cobs are collected by denomination, Ruler, era, mint-mark, assayer and condition. Examples of these early silver coins can bring from $50-$2,500 depending on the above factors.