Potosi, Bolivia, cob 8 reales Heart, 1704Y
Unholed and arguably finest known, very rare, ex-Pena, Craig, Karon. S-P43a; KM-unl.; CT-848. 27.00 grams. Seldom do we encounter a cob so astoundingly lovely and rare that it takes us days to come up with a proper description: This is just such a coin. To start with, one simply cannot convey the visible difference between minor Hearts and 8R Hearts, which are more like hefty hand-held relics than small jewels and are far rarer than the 2R and 1R, with a known population of only about 40 specimens across all dates, starting with 1702 (based on a single specimen of cruder and less artistic style that we have not examined in person) and ending with 1737.
We believe our 1704 is the best of the five known for this date (all struck from two known sets of dies, also used to make the Royals of the same year), for the others are either holed like most Hearts (von Schuckmann specimen [Renaissance auction of December 2000, lot #676] and Calico cover specimen [our Auction #14, lot #706]) or oddly shaped (Vidal Quadras specimen #9820, published in 1892) or with unaligned axes (Lazaro specimen #320). With only black-and-white photos or even just rubbings it is impossible to compare other aspects like grade and toning, but it is hard to imagine a richer, lovelier toning than this specimen possesses: a deep, dark, iridescent ochre that reveals new nuances with every tilt of the coin. Like the Vidal Quadras piece, this one can be traced back to the 1800s, and its whereabouts since then are all known (albeit via private transactions). The only possible negative aspect of this specimen is a slight doubling of strike, which actually imparts a more rustic and authentic look, but this was intentionally done to fill the entire huge flan with details in just the right places.
The shape of the planchet is artistically perfect and balanced, with its bottom point tapering to one side and top stem neatly containing both crowns without too much cut to either side. For grade we would call this piece AU, its minimal wear not from circulation, of course, but from gentle handling over the centuries, which no doubt also facilitated its natural and unparalleled toning.
As for value, we feel any comparison would only prejudice this piece, but we do note that only the two HOLED specimens have passed the auction block in our time, realizing $30,000 (von Schuckmann specimen in 2000) and $48,000 (Calico cover specimen in 2013), plus buyer’s fees. Considering that Potosi never made gold cobs, this jewel has no upper limit in value to the many collectors of Potosi cobs or to the even more numerous collectors of world crowns in general.
How high it goes now–its first appearance in any public sale–depends solely on how much money the most serious bidders have to spend for what can be considered not only the most beautiful Heart 8 reales but also the most highly regarded coin of the entire 200+ years of Potosi cobs. Pedigreed to the Pena collection and to the Freeman Craig Sr. Collection (via Derman and Hudson) and to the Paul Karon collection (via Craig).