Martinique – French Colonial Regulated Gold & Countermarked 20 Livres ND (c. 1805) AU53 PCGS
The money supply in the fledgling United States consisted of a bewildering mix of foreign coins, private issues, and state sponsored copper, counterfeits and coins of reduced weight. During this time in America, gold coins were primarily used only in large transactions by banks or merchants in the larger cities and most of the people of the time never handled gold coins The coins needed to be regulated gold, meaning standardized by weight and purity.
Almost all of the gold coins in circulation were from Portugal, Great Britain, France, Spain, or one of the many mints in Spanish colonies in the New World.
The banks routinely employed gold and silversmiths who had the requisite skills to test the coins that came into the banks abd created regulated gold. These men were known as “Regulators” and they would weigh each coin as it was deposited.
Underweight coins had a plug of gold added to any that were found to be outside the allowable tolerances established. Overweight coins were “clipped”, removing a portion of the coin to again bring the coin into acceptable and established standards. Sometine a hole might also be made to reduce the weight. When done, normally each regulator would counter-mark the coin with their stamp to indicate that the coin was of proper weight and consistency.
The necessity for these assays and the use of regulators was widespread in the later part of the 18th century. In 1789, the Bank of North America advertised the values of various foreign regulated gold coins and tables were published by other institutions to help merchants conduct the everyday business of commerce.
Countermarked with ’20 over eagle’ and ‘IH’ stamps on an Imitation West Indies gold 6400 Reis 1770-R. Struck by degree dated September 26th, 1805 that specified genuine Portuguese and other whole coins of the same fineness be marked with a “22 (livres) over eagle” stamp, while fabrications of lighter weight, such as the present coin of 10.8g, be marked with a “20 over eagle” mark.
A significant colonial rarity, from a series ever-sought after for their charismatic piercings, pluggings and countermarks signifying various assaying of regulated gold.
The present specimen is exceptionally well preserved, the imitation 6400 Reis fully detailed (indeed, although soft at the highest points, it is likely as-made), the ’20 over eagle’ stamp slightly doubled but firm, the IH stamp somewhat blundered.
This regulated gold coin had it’s weight changed as the coin has been pierced at 9 o’clock about a quarter of the way across the planchet. A type which often resides in either lower grades or details designations, this Almost Uncirculated specimen is thus extremely rare and collectable and we have no doubts that it will be fought for by dedicated collectors of colonial regulated gold.
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000.