Rare Colombian and Ecuadorian Gold Highlights 747-Lot Offering; Ecuador 1844 8 Escudos Rarity Sets New World Record at $456,000
One of the finest collections of Colombian coins ever assembled saw the light of day for the first time in decades at this year’s New York International Numismatic Convention, bringing bidders from all over the world to compete for its prizes. Assembled from the 1960s into the 21st century by a well-known specialist, the Eldorado Collection comprised coins from Gran Colombia, including those struck in the name of Ecuador, with depth and breadth never before offered at auction. This first Eldorado offering focused on gold coins, as well as silver coins from the 17th through early 19th centuries. Other coins from the Eldorado Collection will be offered in future Stack’s Bowers Galleries auctions.
The most avidly awaited coin in the Eldorado Collection had been off the market since 1982, when it was acquired in Stack’s sale of the Mortimer Hammel Collection. The 1844 Ecuador 8 Escudos with bust of Simon Bolivar facing right is thought to be unique. Called “the King of the Onzas” in the catalog, it is the rarest type of 8 Escudos, the large gold coin struck in Spanish dominions throughout the colonial period and into the mid-19th century. Estimated at an aggressive $75,000 – $150,000, the coin surpassed all expectations, selling for $456,000. This sum sets several new world records, including the highest price ever for a coin of the Hispanic World sold in an American auction, highest price ever for a coin from a former Spanish colony, highest price ever for a coin of Ecuador, and highest price ever for an 8 Escudos of the Latin American republics.
The second highest price in the sale also belonged to a coin of Ecuador, a 1842-MVS 8 Escudos graded MS-65 by PCGS and described as “likely finest of the type.” Pedigreed to Stack’s 1972 Alfred R. Globus sale, the coin brought $102,000 against a $35,000-$70,000 estimate.
Other Ecuador highlights included the Mortimer Hammel specimen of the 1838-STA 8 Escudos, graded MS-62 (PCGS), at $43,200; two different varieties of the 1845-MV 8 Escudos at $40,800 (PCGS AU-55) and $48,000 (PCGS MS-61), and five other 8 Escudos of Ecuador that sold for between $20,000 and $35,000.
Among smaller gold denominations, the leader was a very rare 1834-GJ 2 Escudos, graded AU-58 (PCGS), that realized $17,400 against a $2,000-$4,000 estimate.
The Eldorado Collection included an exceptional assemblage of coins of colonial Colombia, struck before that nation’s 1821 independence from the Spanish crown. The individual highlight was the finest example of the first gold coin struck in the New World, the 1622 2 Escudos struck in Cartagena. Only eight specimens are thought to exist. The Eldorado example, graded AU-58 (PCGS), nearly doubled the previous auction record for the issue, selling for $66,000.
Other highlight cobs — crude coins struck without the benefit of machinery — included exceptionally rare 8 Reales struck in the reign of Phillip V. Dated 1721 and 1722, each issue is thought to be one of two known of those dates. Each coin realized $60,000, or six times its high estimate.
A superb AU-53 (PCGS) 1655 4 Reales struck in Santa Fe de Nuevo Reino (modern-day Bogotá) realized $10,800.
Struck the same year, a one Real from the Cartagena Mint appears to be the only surviving specimen of the issue. It brought $7,800 on a $1,000-$2,000 estimate.
The rare and historic 1622 1/4 Real or Cuartillo of Cartagena is the first — and last — billon coin of colonial Columbia. Coined the first year coins were struck in Colombia, the PCGS F-15 from the Eldorado Collection is thought to be the finest of three known. It sold for $16,800, far exceeding the $2,000-$4,000 estimate.
Unlike mints such as Mexico City, Lima, and Potosi, the emissions of silver coins from Colombian mints were rather meager in colonial times, resulting in many extreme rarities in the Pillar and Portrait series. Two Pillar 8 Reales from 1759, the first year of Pillar coinage in Colombia, realized $63,000 in MS-62 (PCGS) and $40,800 in AU-55 (PCGS), both far exceeding pre-sale estimates.
The only known Pillar Half Real of Colombia, coined in 1760, found a new home for $26,400.
Portrait silver coins were led by what was billed as apparently the finest known example of the portrait 2 Reales type of Carlos III, a 1772-NR 2 Reales graded AU-58 (PCGS). It brought $20,400, surpassing a very rare 1812 8 Reales from the Popayán Mint graded AU-50 (PCGS) at $19,200 and an EF-45 (PCGS) 1777-NR 2 Reales, formerly in the Norweb Collection, that realized $13,200.
Gold coins were the primary attraction of the two-session sale, with hundreds of lots of 8 Escudos and 4 Escudos presented, struck under the auspices of both New Spain and the young Colombian republic.
The high bid among colonial 8 Escudos was $20,400, for a very rare 1815 emission of the Popayán Mint, graded MS-62 (PCGS). Other highlights in the onza series included the first portrait 8 Escudos of Carlos III, dated 1762 and struck in Bogotá, at $18,000 (PCGS AU-58); a choice Mint State-62 (PCGS) 1764 8 Escudos from the same mint at $19,200, and a near gem MS-64 (PCGS) Bogotá or Nuevo Reino 1778/7 8 Escudos, the single finest graded example of the entire type, which brought $15,600.
The highest-graded colonial 8 Escudos was a Carlos IV issue, dated 1809, graded MS-64+ (PCGS) that brought $13,200. Among rare 4 Escudos of the colonial era, the only known 1755-S 4 Escudos of the Nuevo Reino mint realized $43,200 and a rare 1771/0 4 Escudos from the same mint, formerly in the Norweb Collection and graded AU-53 (PCGS), brought $14,400. The only 4 Escudos of the Colombian republic, the famous 1826-JF from Bogotá in MS-62 (PCGS) sold for $24,000.
While less famous among United States collectors than Colombia’s colonial coins, later Colombian gold coins have a dedicated following, and they likewise brought strong prices.
The only known 1862 5 Pesos of Medellín, graded AU-58 (PCGS), garnered $28,800 in competitive bidding, and one of two known 1859 5 Pesos from Popayán, here graded MS-62 (PCGS), brought $20,400.
Among 10 Pesos, highlights included a superb gem MS-67 (PCGS) example of the 1857 Popayán issue at $11,400; the discovery specimen of the rare 1875-AB from Medellín in AU-53 (PCGS) at $19,200, and the famous 1886/74 rarity struck in Medellín and graded PCGS AU-55 that realized $31,200.
An 1850 16 Pesos from Bogotá in MS-62 (PCGS) sold for $21,600 at its first auction offering since 1982.
Among 20 Pesos, two issues of 1877 more than doubled their high estimates: a Bogotá issue in MS-62 (PCGS) at $17,400 and a Popayán specimen in the same grade that brought $16,800. An 1862 20 Pesos of Bogotá in MS-62 (PCGS) sold for $10,200.
Among modern gold rarities, the leading lot was a 1971 1,500 Pesos struck to mark the 6th Pan-American Games. Graded PR-66 DCAM (PCGS), it shot to $25,200.
The offering of Colombian patterns from the Eldorado Collection was the finest in a generation, showcasing strikings of gold coin denominations in copper, silver, and gold. The highest realization was $96,000, for a unique 1848 Popayán 16 Pesos in gold, graded SP-64 (PCGS) and formerly in the Norweb Collection.
A similar gold 16 Pesos struck with designs intended for use in Bogotá, was graded SP-62 (PCGS) and sold for $66,000.
A very rare 1873 Medellín pattern 20 Pesos in gold graded SP-63 (PCGS) also brought $66,000, while a different variety of 1873 Medellín 20 Pesos in gold realized $60,000 in SP-58 (PCGS). The top silver 20 Pesos pattern was an 1858 issue for Bogotá in SP-65+ (PCGS) that brought $21,600.
Pattern 10 Pesos were led by an 1873 Wyon pattern for the Medellín Mint, graded SP-62 (PCGS), at $36,000. Another 1873 pattern 10 Pesos in gold, graded SP-63 (PCGS), netted $28,800.
Further rarities from the Eldorado Collection will be offered in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries official auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money, to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 14-18, 2018.