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The Romantic Escudo

April, 2010
By: Lance Tchor & Larry Michelson

For centuries, the gold escudo was the dominant coin in Spain, Portugal and their colonies.

This column highlights one of the world’s great, romantic gold coins—the escudo.

Wings Coins article in The Numismatist -  The Romantic Escudo

A Spanish 1776 gold half escudo of Charles (Carlos) III. Actual Size: 14mm.

This historic piece, equal to 16 reales, was introduced in the Spanish empire in 1566. Coins denominated in escudos (½, 1, 2, 4 and 8) were minted until 1833, with some exceptions. (The 2 escudos commonly was called a doubloon.)

The .920 fine gold 1 escudo weighed approximately 3.375 grams, while an 8 escudos was 27 grams. The latter was equivalent to 16 American gold dollars from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century. (Some escudos were made from copper and silver, but they are not the subject of this article.)

The word “escudo” is Spanish for “shield.” Prior to 1725, the coin bore a shield on the reverse and a cross on the obverse. Portugal produced escudos as well, likewise with a shield on the reverse, as did the two nations’ colonies, including Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.

The first portrait to appear on the obverse of an 8 escudos was a laureate bust of Joannes (John) V of Portugal in 1722. Spain placed a portrait of Philip V on its escudo of 1725.

If you’d like to begin collecting escudos or simply add to your cabinet, you should look for specimens that exhibit problem-free, well-struck, original surfaces. Always remember—a coin that has problems today will have the same problems tomorrow.

Another factor to consider is a coin’s eye appeal. If a piece is attractive to you, there’s a good chance it will be attractive to others. Don’t get caught up in the grade; buy the coin, not the holder.

A knowledgeable collector will prefer an attractive, Mint State (MS)-64 original, problem-free coin over an MS-65 with issues. The ideal specimen should be well-struck, with no detracting nicks or dings.

Improperly cleaned coins should be avoided; however, properly conserved coins are acceptable. Don’t be afraid to buy a coin that has not been certified, as most world coins have not been graded by third- party services.

Become an informed buyer by learning how to grade world issues, or, at the very minimum, rely on the expertise of a reputable dealer whom you trust.

If you have a topic or question you’d like us to address, please leave a comment below or send us an email: info@wingscoins.com.

Reproduced courtesy of The Numismatist, official publication of the American Numismatic Association (www.money.org)

Photos: iStockPhoto/Nicholas Belton (map) & Heritage Auction Galleries

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