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Primary Source of the Month
Spanish Gold Coin, 8 Escuados (known as a "dubloon")
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Gift of the Lasser Family
This gold coin is from Lima, Peru, and was minted in 1725. Commonly called a "dubloon," it is worth 8 escudos, or about $15 to $16, depending where you were. The weight of each coin determines its denomination. There were two types of dubloons: this is the earlier type, called a "cob." They are somewhat blobby, irregularly shaped and crude. Each cob is unique. If you ever see two that are identical, one of them must be a counterfeit. The second type, which were created later, are called "milled," because they were run through a milling machine that pressed a fancy edge around them. The fancy edge prevented people from shaving off pieces of the gold or silver from around the edges. Those coins are round and generally well made.
Many Spanish colonial cobs (gold or silver) bear a cross symbol on the reverse side. Crosses with perpendicular bars were called the cross of Jerusalem. There were two types of designs on the obverse side. One would be a reigning monarch's shield and the other would be pillars, cross bars and waves.
During the colonial era, the most commonly used coins were Spanish or Spanish colonial because of the abundance of gold and silver in these countries. Silver coins were the most commonly circulated coins, while gold coins were reserved for royalty and the very wealthy. The weight of gold coins was usually fairly consistent and accurate; however, many silver coins seem to be slightly underweight and invited dishonesty. Thus, merchants used scales for everyday transactions rather than accepting coins for their face value.