By Mariano Cohen, courtesy Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC ……
Lot 777: Argentina (River Plate Provinces), La Rioja Mint, 8 reales, 1828P, NGC MS 63 (finest-known in NGC Census); Images courtesy Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC
In September 1825 the government of La Rioja in Argentina approved the statute creating the “Banco de Rescates y Casa de Moneda” (Bailout Bank and Mint). It is worth mentioning that many of the shareholders were political authorities or their relatives.
Soon there would be problems. In January 1826, Bernardino Rivadavia was named first Argentine president and created “El Banco Nacional” (the National Bank) with exclusive right to mint coins within the entire national territory, but negotiations with the province of La Rioja did not go well. In September of the same year, La Rioja refused to recognize the new government and its institutions.
Rivadavia proceeded to send allied troops to the interior under the command of Gregorio Araoz de Lamadrid, hero of the Independence, only to be defeated several times by the Argentine caudillo (military strongman) of La Rioja, Juan Facundo Quiroga.
Rivadavia’s Unitarian regime was fighting the Federalists–a union of the provinces–each retaining its own autonomy but striving to achieve a concentration of power and thus gain the ability to fight against the Unitarians and the centralization of power in Buenos Aires. Most of the Federalists were caudillos, defending the idea that each province should have its own government and make its own decisions, while the Unitarians maintained that the power should be concentrated in a single nation-state with its capital in Buenos Aires.
Rivadavia resigned in June 1827 and the presidential regime fell, while the provinces resorted to self-governance, delegating foreign relations to the Federal governor of Buenos Aires, Manuel Dorrego. In 1828 a peace treaty was signed with Brazil after a prolonged war by the “Banda Oriental” (the Eastern Bank of the River Uruguay, now known as just Uruguay). Returning from the war, General Lavalle overthrew Dorrego and assumed the role of Governor. The bloodiest civil wars began with Dorrego’s execution by firing squad without trial.
Soon Lavalle’s minister José María Paz defeated Juan Bautista Bustos in Córdoba, the second-largest city of the country, and with its allies, who occupied nine provinces, formed the Unitary League of the Interior, of which he was named chief, but without including Buenos Aires, where Lavalle signed a peace accord with Federalist Juan Manuel de Rosas, who became governor for the first time at the end of 1829.
Paz then sent his second-in-command, Araoz de Lamadrid, to La Rioja to immediately assume control of the government with the express mission to mint coins. In defeat, Quiroga then ordered an exodus from the city and buried the tools and machines of the Mint in addition to much of his fortune in the now-famous tapados (hoards) in his region Los Llanos, today known as “Los Tapados de Quiroga“.
These hoards were eventually found and retrieved by an assistant. By Lamadrid’s estimate the hoard consisted of 40,000 pesos; according to Quiroga it was 93,000 pesos (For reference, an 8 escudos coin was equivalent to 17 pesos at that time, the peso being an 8 reales.) Along with the coins were the dies used for coins minted in 1828. Lamadrid would go on to mint coins in 1830 and early 1831.
After several battles, Paz was defeated and taken prisoner. Quiroga defeated Lamadrid definitively in Ciudadela in the province of Tucumán at the end of 1831 and returned triumphant to La Rioja in March 1832. He was already a national hero and an ally of Rosas and of another important caudillo, Estanislao López, Governor of Santa Fé.
The Federalists had returned to La Rioja in February 1831, taking total control by November of that year, and continued minting 8 reales pieces for several years more. While all of the same design as the pre-1831 issues, their fineness in silver varied, affecting their appearance and making them very hard to grade now.
About the 1838 Coinage
At the end of 1833, Facundo Quiroga settled in Buenos Aires. In February 1835 he returned from mediation on a peace mission between the provinces of Tucumán, Salta and Santiago del Estero to which he had been sent by his friend Rosas and was intercepted and killed in Barranca Yaco, Córdoba.
The authors of the event were the Reynafé brothers, one of whom was governor of Córdoba. They were unconditional allies of López, the governor of Santa Fé and Quiroga’s great internal rival within Federalism. López is also credited with the deed, although that was never verified.
Lot 781: La Rioja, Argentina, 8 reales, 1838R, coin rotation, encapsulated NGC MS 63+
Rosas carried out the process of prosecution that ended with the imprisonment and execution of the Reynafé brothers, for which the later governor of La Rioja, Tomás Brizuela, decided to pay tribute by minting a new coin: the very rare 1836 8 escudos with the bust of Rosas.
Rosas did not accept these coins because they were minted by an independent province. La Rioja then changed gears and created a new currency of 8 reales with the legend “Republica Argentina Confederada” (Argentine Confederate Republic) on one side and “Eterno Loor al Restaurador Rosas” (Eternal Praise to the Restorer Rosas) on the other side. They were minted between 1838 and 1840, after which time a new Unitarian rebellion took place.
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About the Author
A recognized numismatic researcher in Argentina, Mariano Cohen was the co-author of Monedas Argentinas de Emergencia 1815-1823 and has published several articles, especially concerning the coinage of La Rioja and recently about the Quiroga Hoard in particular.
About Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC
Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC is the world’s premier specialist company in the colonial coinage of Spanish America, shipwreck coins and artifacts of all nations. In addition to an Online Store, we sell coins and artifacts at various numismatic shows around the nation. Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC also has the honor of being the only auction company in the world specializing in Authentic Treasure! Our auction catalogs are accessible on our website and printed in a high-quality format with full-color illustrations for all lots.