Our next featured highlight from our Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo is a pleasing example of the rare and desirable “Hookneck” 8 Escudos type. The Hookneck series of Mexico has a long and interesting history, best told by Clyde Hubbard and David O’Harrow in Hookneck published in 1997, and still one of the top sources for this series. As described in the book, the silver Reales Hookneck (or profile eagle) series were minted in 1823, 1824 and 1825 at the Mexico City, Guanajuato and Durango mints. However, no one mint produced this style for more than two years. The gold 8 Escudos denomination is even rarer, being only produced by the Mexico City mint for the year 1823, with two varieties, this one being the Type I.
The story of this distinctive series is complicated and spans many countries; here I attempt to condense it without belittling the significance. Multiple factors led Mexico to declare independence from Spain, including but not limited to the establishment of the U.S.A., the ideas of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic occupation of Spain and the Spanish regime change in 1820. When Mexico finally achieved independence in 1821, the Empire of General Iturbide altered that independence until he was deposed in late 1823 when the first republic was formally established. This overlap in governments for most of 1823 leads this Hookneck 8 Escudos (minted under the Republic) to have a total minting time of mere months. Hubbard and O’Harrow mention that the dies for the Mexico City 8 Escudos were not completed until December 4th, which would leave only 27 days in 1823 for them to strike this type. It is assumed however that production did overlap into 1824, most likely only for a brief amount of time, with no Hookneck 8 Escudos coinage bearing the date 1824.
The eagle side shares many characteristics with the Hookneck silver 8 Reales. An eagle in profile stands atop a cactus, facing left. It holds in one talon the tail end of a snake with the upper portion of the snake in the eagle’s beak. There are two varieties of this issue, and this is the Type I, which is easily identified by the curved tail of the snake, while the Type II has a loop to the snake’s tail. The legend “REPUBLICA MEXICANA” appears above the eagle, with a laurel and oak wreath around the lower edge, below the eagle and cactus design. The reverse design features a hand holding a stick (possibly a pen), which has a Phrygian cap, perched atop it pointing to the “A” of the upper legend (signifying a Type I die variety). The Phrygian cap is a symbol taken from the French Revolution, based their idea of a “Liberty Cap” from a misrepresentation of the Roman “Pileus” which was a similarly shaped hat that freed slaves would wear. The hand and cap appear above an open book with “LEY” inscribed at the top of the page, which means “Law”. The upper Spanish inscription reinforces the visual design, as it states: “LA LIBERTAD EN LA LEY” (Liberty in the law). The lower inscription provides the information necessary for circulating coinage: “8 E. Mo. 1823. JM. 21Qs.” These symbols stand for: “8 Escudos, Mexico City (as a mintmark), the date of 1823, the initials of the assayer of the Mexico City mint from 1822 to 1832, and finally the fineness, represented as 21 quilates which are equivalent to karats. With pure gold being 24 karat, 21 would equal to a gold fineness of .875, with .125 copper.
This piece retains a strong amount of luster with some light golden toning present. Some minor planchet streaks exist on the reverse from impurities or carbon in the planchet. It is a nice, pleasing looking example of this rare and desirable type coin. The Hookneck 8 Escudos, with its tiny minting period of just over a few months, has an estimated population of only two dozen.
Look for this and other world and ancient numismatic rarities in our upcoming Official Auction of the Baltimore Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this October at the Stack’s Bowers office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar on StacksBowers.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers Galleries Baltimore Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are currently taking consignments of ancient and world coins for our January 2015 New York International Auction and our April 2015 Hong Kong Showcase Auction of Asian Coins and Currency. Time is running out, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.