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Unusual Items: Joao VI Prince Regent Gold Ingot of Sabara 1812, with Guia

This ingot was just sold this past week in the Heritage World Coin Signature sale in Long Beach for the sum of $199,750.00. Below is the catelog description of this rare and unusla ingot:

Gold Ingots as Legal Tender in Brazil

For a period in the colonial history of Brazil, in addition to coins, gold ingots and bars circulated as legal tender. Legislation was passed to control the circulation of powder gold and to tax it at regional Foundries that were initially established in the 1770’s. As the ingots were produced, it received marks that would identify the foundry, year, sequential production number, the assayer’s monogram, the finess of the gold, and the weight. This way, the ingot was approved to circulate as coin in the amount defined in the “Guia”, or respective certificate. In time, bars and ingots were taken out of circulation and the vast majority of bars melted and their respective Guias lost.

brazil Ingot

It became the work of numismatists to register and catalog the few pieces that remain in existence today. Prodigious Brazilian numismatist Kurt Prober dedicated a good part of his life as a numismatic researcher to produce a comprehensive study which he published in two volumes in 1990 under the title “Ouro em Po e em Barras Meio Circulante no Brasil 1754-1833”. This work has become the definitive reference for this area of Luso-Brazilian numismatics.

The total number of authentic ingots today is 219 pieces from 9 foundries (Numismatist Claudio Schroeder of Porto Alegre contributed) Here is the breakdown:

Province of Goias.

  • Foundry of Goiãs, 30 known 1790 – 1823
  • Foundry of São Felix, 1 guia but no ingots 1773

Province of Mato Grosso.

  • Foundry of Mato Grosso, 22 known 1784 – 1820
  • Foundry of Cuiaba, 9 known 1821 – 1822

Province of Minas Gerais.

  • Foundry of Rio das Mortes, 7 known 1796 – 1818
  • Foundry of Sabara, 85 known entre 1778 – 1833
  • Foundry of Serro Frio, 21 known 1809 – 1832
  • Foundry of Vila Rica, 43 known 1794 – 1818
  • Foundry of Ouro Preto (ex-Vila Rica), 1 known 1828

As many as half of the specimens above are in public or private museums. Legendary Portuguese collector and a close friend of Dr. Monteiro, the late Carlos Costa had 36 specimens in his collection that is today part of the Banco Espirito Santo Museum in Lisbon. The Smithsonian in D.C. has a few through Eli Lilly’s donation.

Dr. Monteiro was able to obtain five bars in his six decades collecting (the fifth ingot of 1832 will be offered in January 2014 in NY). I can only think of another private collection that has that many pieces but none with a respective Guia as this lot. Kurt Prober mentions that this bar was first illustrated in the auction catalog of Hans Schulman of New York in June of 1967 with a base price of US$3000.

The Guia reads: “N.79. Deposited in this gold exchange house, Joao Baptista Maciel four ounces of gold from which the fifth for Royal Tax was paid and from the remainder a bar that weighed three ounces, one oitava and twelve grains. The Guia ends with “bar delivered at this Foundry of Sabara on January 7th, 1812.” The condition of this Sabara bar’s Guia is unheard of. Heritage has been fortunate enough to handle another bar (Serro Frio) with the Guia (lot 20189 of sale #3021 – NYINC 2013) in the same year. The paper of the Serro Frio bar has serious damage issues while this Guia is a VF with great paper quality.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this bar is its unusually heavy weight of 90+ grams for a Sabara specimen. (Usual range is 30-40 grams). This has allowed for a strong and deep stamping of the 960 Reis c/s (which were also used in Hispanic 8 Reales at the Minas Mint). An amazing numismatic item.
From The RLM Collection, Part II

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