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World Coins – Early Silver Coins of Argentina

Coins of ARGENTINA. 2 Reales, 1813-J
COINS OF ARGENTINA. 2 Reales, 1813-J

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds …..

US and World Coin Collecting Strategies #344


The present topic is the early silver coins of Argentina, during the era of the “United Provinces of the River Plate.” Early Argentine coins have notable artistic merit and are historically important. A silver type set may be completed without difficulty.

During the 1600s and 1700s, most of Latin America was ruled by Spain. During the attacks on Portugal and then Spain by the armies of Napoleon in the early 1800s, various societies in Latin America became independent or started independence movements. After Spain badly suffered from Napoleon’s invading armies, a strong political faction in Argentina formed a separatist government in 1810. Independence was not formally declared until 1816.

Civil War with royalists continued, and Argentina was not clearly independent until 1824. Formal, diplomatic recognition by Great Britain and France followed. Understandably, it was hard to produce coins during this period, as multiple political groups each sought to control silver supplies and mints.


Argentine civil war

From 1809 to the mid-1820s, in many Latin American societies, revolutionary forces battled royalist political factions, which favored allegiance to Spain or the establishment of a monarchy. Royalists included private citizens of Spain, members of the Spanish military, former officials of the Spanish Colonial Administrations, various people in Latin America who favored a revival of the Spanish Empire, and others who generally believed in a royalist ideology. In the early 1800s, there were still many people throughout the world who believed in the ‘divine right of kings.’

In Argentina, in addition to civil war between revolutionary and royalist groups, the centralist revolutionaries were at odds with the federalist revolutionaries. The centralists favored a strong central government in Buenos Aires. The Argentine federalists favored even less of a central government than that which characterized the United States of America during the early 1800s. They maintained that the provinces, which are similar to ‘States’ in the U.S., should be mostly or entirely autonomous, with minimal, if any, oversight from a central government.

The U.S. and other federal regimes today, such as Germany, tend to be combinations of centralist and federalist political systems. Relations between national and ‘State’ or provincial governments are complex.

The Argentine federalists favored a loose federation, which is not like the U.S after 1789. Their vision was similar to the reality of the Central American Republic, which, as I discussed, was really a loose federation, not a republic. The Articles of Confederation in the U.S., which prevailed before the adoption of the U.S Constitution, are relevant.

By 1824, royalist factions had been soundly defeated in much of Latin America. Centralists and federalists competed with conflicting visions for the future of Argentina.

By the late 1830s, the federalists prevailed. The “United Provinces of the River Plate” was succeeded by the Argentine Confederation, which had minimal central government. There was no national administration. The governor of one province implemented foreign policy for the entire confederation.

The topic here is the silver coins of the United Provinces of the River Plate. Even after the United Provinces were replaced by the Argentine Confederation, some “United Provinces” coin types were still minted for a few years, and those issues are included in the types listed herein.

The territory of the “United Provinces” kept changing during the civil wars from 1810 to 1824. The “United Provinces of the River Plate” stemmed from the Vice-Royalty of the Rio de la Plata, a colonial territorial government organized by Spain in 1776. Much of present Argentina, a section of Bolivia, plus Uruguay and Paraguay, were all part of this political entity.

In 1813 and 1815, Argentine “United Provinces” coins were struck at the Potosí Mint. From 1809 to 1824, Bolivia was a battleground. In 1813, “United Provinces” revolutionary forces controlled Potosí. Royalists, however, captured Potosí in 1814.

In 1815, “United Provinces” forces again ruled Potosí and stuck more coins. Eventually, independence forces aligned with Simón Bolívar came from the north and captured Potosí. The nation of Bolivia was founded in 1825.


During the 1700s and early 1800s, the Spanish Eight Reales coins were the main medium of exchange in most all of South America, Central America and North America. While there were exceptions to this rule, silver coins of the Spanish Empire were then the primary silver coins of the world. Gold coins as world currencies were a different matter, and are discussed in one of my articles about the Millennia Collection.

coins of ArgentinaThe U.S. silver dollar was based upon the Eight Reales silver coin of the Spanish Empire. Indeed, a “Spanish Milled Dollar” and an Eight Reales silver coin are the same thing. A Four Reales coin is like a U.S. half dollar. Two Reales coins are equivalent to U.S. quarters.

In the Spanish monetary system, the plural of ‘real’ is ‘reales.’ It is incorrect to refer to “reals” or a “reale.” It is also not accurate to refer to ‘sols’ or ‘sole’ in this context.

An Eight Reales coin and an Eight Soles coin are the same denomination. A Sol was another name for a Real. The reasons, which are not clear, for the use of the term Sol should be the topic of a separate discussion.

A type set of these early Argentine coins is easy to assemble, easier than a type set of CAR silver coins, which I discussed three weeks ago. All collectible, Argentine (“United Provinces”) silver coins of 1813 and 1815 were struck at Potosi. There were no official “United Provinces” coins struck from 1817 to 1823. From 1824 to 1837, Argentine (“United Provinces”) coins were struck at the La Rioja Mint, and each as an ‘R’ or ‘RA’ mintmark.

There are really just five design types: Half-Real (or Sol), One Real (or Sol), Two Reales (or Soles), Four Reales (or Soles) and Eight Reales (or Soles).

Except the Half-Real and Half-Sol, Reales coins feature an ‘R’ on the reverse (back) to the right of central reverse design element, and Soles coins each have an ‘S.’ A collector who figures that the Soles coins are of design subtypes in addition to the Reales may easily double the size of a type set to ten coins, and thus purchase two representatives of each denomination.

The coins of 1824 to 1837 could also be categorized separately. It is true that the political climate was much different in 1824 than it was in 1813 or 1815. By 1824, it was evident that a new independent nation, with a promising future, had been formed.

Royalist concepts were no longer viable. By 1824, there was no point in thinking that Argentina (or the “United Provinces”) would be part of a ‘new’ Spanish Empire and it was extremely unlikely that this region in lower South America would have its own royal family. It is relevant that the short-lived Mexican Empire of Iturbide had crumbled in 1823.

So, for historical reasons, a collector could distinguish the 1813 and 1815 issues from those of 1824 to 1837. This would add four more coins to an extended type set, all of which could be obtained for modest sums. Extensively circulated coins, especially those with problems, often cost just a small percentage of the prices realized for relatively high quality early Argentine coins in auctions.

If a coin sells for US$1,500 at auction, a much lower grade representative of the same design type or even of the same date might very well sell for less than $200 at a coin show. There are forgeries around, however, and collectors should consult experts before spending sums that the respective collectors regard as substantial. A careful collector will probably find assembling a credible type set to be easy.

  1. Half-Real or Half-Sol (1813, 1815)

half_solA Half-Real could be thought of as approximately a sixteenth of a U.S. dollar. Although one issue is identified as a Half-Sol rather than as a Half-Real, all are of the same design type and denomination. The specified percentage of silver is a little less than 90 (.900 fine), about the same fineness as U.S. silver coins from 1794 to 1836. U.S. Silver coins were then specified to be 1485/1664 silver, and the fineness of early Argentine coins seems to be about 1491/1664.

In November 2014, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS-graded EF-45 1813 Half-Real for $481.75. In August 2011, this same firm auctioned an NGC-graded MS-63 1813 for $1,035. A NGC-graded MS-61 1815 Half-Sol sold for this same price in this same August 2011 auction. Heavily circulated pieces could be found for less than $200 each.

  1. One Real or One Sol (1813, 1815, 1824-25)

The 1815 Sol is really of the same design as the 1815 Real. From the perspective of coin collectors now, the presence of a letter ‘S’ rather than a letter ‘R’ is indicative of an additional die variety, not an entirely separate design type. Nevertheless, collectors who seek both One Real and One Sol coins may be pleased to learn that these are not very expensive.

Heavily circulated One Real or One Sol coins could be found for less than $150 each. Higher grade coins are a different matter.

In November 2014, an 1813 Real in a ‘PCGS Genuine’ holder brought $493.50 in a Stack’s-Bowers auction. It has the ‘details’ of an EF-45 to AU-50 grade. It appears to have naturally retoned after some kind of “cleaning” in the past.

In January 2016, Heritage sold a NGC-graded EF-40 1824 Real for $235. In the same auction, a NGC-graded EF-45 coin of the same issue brought $763.75. The mintmark and assayer’s initials are the same.

  1. Two Reales or Soles (1813, 1815, 1824-26)

For less than $150 each, circulated Two Reales and Two Soles coins could be acquired. Coins that grade above VF-35 tend to be much more costly.

In August 2011, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a NGC-graded EF-45 1813 Two Reales coin for $862.50. In January 2015, a different coin of the same variety (assayer ‘J’) with the same certification sold for $505.25.

In November 2014, another 1813 Potosí Mint, assayer ‘J,’ Two Reales coin was auctioned by Stack’s-Bowers for $293.75. It is in a ‘PCGS Genuine’ holder with “VF Details” stated on the label.

In the Goldbergs sale of September 2013, a NGC-graded EF-45 1826 Two Soles coin brought $219. It has a sticker of approval from WINGS.

  1. Four Reales or Soles (1813, 1815, 1828, 1832)

The Four Reales coins follow the same pattern. Again, the 1813 and 1815 coins were struck at Potosí. The 1828 and 1832 coins were struck at the La Rioja Mint. All 1813 coins of this denomination are Four Reales, not Soles. In 1815, Four Reales coins have assayer’s initial ‘F’ while 1815 Four Soles coins have two initials ‘F’ and ‘L.’

Coins of this denomination are scarce. Quite a few circulated coins could probably, though, be found for less than $300 each.

In November 2013, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a NGC-graded Fine-12 1815 Four Reales coin for $258.50.  In January 2010, Heritage auctioned a PCGS graded EF-40 1828 for $299.

In September 2013, the Goldbergs auctioned a NGC graded VF-25, 1813 Four Reales coin for $604. It has a WINGS sticker. This was a strong price.

  1. Eight Reales or Soles (1813, 1815, 1826-37)

Only 1815 issues with initials ‘F L’ feature an ‘S’ for Soles. They do not bring a tremendous premium and are certainly collectible. Again, it is noted that Reales and Soles are synonyms and not indicative of different design types.

8_realesAlthough Eight Reales pieces overall are not rare, “United Provinces” 1813 to 1837 Eight Reales pieces are among the most popular of all Latin American coins. Budget minded collectors may wish to consider coins in the Very Good to Very Fine grade range.

On March 13, 2016, the firm called GreatCollections sold a NGC-graded VF-30 1836 for $205.70. In the June 2016 Goldbergs sale, an Eight Reales coin of the same date in an NGC ‘AU Details’ holder brought $588. A mount had been removed.

Earlier, the Goldbergs auctioned a non-gradable 1815 in a NGC holder with a label that indicates that this coin has the ‘details’ of a Fine grade coin. It went for $247.

In November 2015, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a NGC-graded AU-55 1834 for $646.25. In January 2015, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a NGC graded AU-55 1836 for $1,292.50.

In November 2013, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a NGC-graded AU-53 1815 Eight Reales for $1,880. In August 2011, this same firm sold a NGC-graded AU-58 1815 Eight Soles coin for $1,150.

Concluding Remarks

A type set could probably be completed for less than $1500, perhaps much less. For a total of $3,000, at least two relatively high-quality coins could be included in a type set. If both Reales and Soles representatives of each denominations are included, such a could be finished without spending more than $3,500, and an exceptional 10-piece set of relatively high-quality coins with appealing natural toning without spending more than $8,750.

Even collecting Argentine (“United Provinces“) coins ‘by date’ is practical. A nearly compete set might average less than $500 per coin, if several non-gradable coins are acquired.

A set ‘by date’ of pleasing, naturally toned, gradable coins would be more expensive, though hardly a fortune. Given the scarcity, attractiveness and historical importance of all early (“United Provinces”) Argentine coins, current market values are very reasonable.

© 2016 Greg Reynolds


Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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