Imagine this: it’s 1536. Columbus arrived in the New World only 44 years ago. For years, the Spanish Crown has refused to authorize a mint in Mexico City, despite the vast amounts of precious metals coming out Mexico’s mines. But then, word comes in: The Crown has issued a decree, and Mexico City will now have a mint—the first in the Americas.
Colonial minters will transform the enormous mineral wealth of the New World into the currency that the colony so desperately needs. No coins have ever been minted in the New World; the coins these minters produce will be the first, and they will be historical artifacts from the moment they’re struck.
All of this happens 250 years before the U.S. Mint is founded—in fact, before the U.S. is even an idea.
The Carlos and Joanna 4 Reales produced by the Mexican Mint are symbols of the mighty Spanish Empire’s vast reach. The obverse of these coins features the great Pillars of Hercules with the text “PLUS ULTRA,” which means “more beyond.” The Pillars of Hercules had long marked the Strait of Gibraltar separating the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. In Greek mythology, they represented the boundaries of the known world, and on the coins they symbolize the daring efforts to expand the empire beyond those boundaries.
The reverse of these reales features the arms of Castile and Léon, with a legend that translates to “Carlos and Joanna Kings”—the mother and son co-rulers of Spain and its domain. The coat of arms is flanked by the letter “M” on the left for the Mexican Mint, and another letter on the right for the assayer of the silver.
There are only 176 Mexican 4 Reales from the 1542–55 period graded for the date. The condition of these precious few coins is remarkable.
Picture one in your hand: the silver coin that a minter produced nearly 500 years ago. Imagine the work that went into punching each design element into the silver.
The handiwork, the artistry, the history—all that can be yours now.
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