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Milled Coinage

The Royal Cedula (Decree) of 9 June 1728 by Philip V (1701-1746) brought a new age into Spanish colonial coinage. Minting of milled-type coinage with a screw press replaced the hammered-type macuquinas. Also a new design for the silver Real, showing the majesty and domination of Spain during the period, was also introduced.

The new design used a screw press that worked by rotating a weighted lever. It pressed an upper and lower die together on a blank planchet and with the intense and even pressure of the press, the planchet would be evenly and fully struck. Also, all coins would be of the same thickness. Quality was supervised by two assayers, with both adding their initial to each coin. (The (macuquina) cobs were used to be supervised by only one assayer). For the eight reales coin, an additional special collar was used to produce an edge design, giving a protective corded edge consisting of a design resembling a tulip. Any clipping or filing would be immediately evident. Because of their uniform size, weight without cracks or uneven edges and their deep full strike with all information clearly visible, they were difficult to clip or counterfeit. Testament to this is being popular with merchants in the Orient.

Although these designs were actually struck from Spanish American mints, they circulated not only in the American colonies, but also in the Orient, including the Philippines. It was actually the chief currency during the forty period (1732 - 1772) of its luster. Not only was striking beauty contributed to the popularity of the series, but also it was highly regarded for its silver content and weight.

The 8 Reales represented the largest denomination for the Pillar coinage series. These crown-size coins were approximately 37 to 41 millimeters in diameter and weighed around 417.6 grains (27.059 grams). It carried a silver fineness of .916. This fineness was a little devaluation from the old .930 carried by the old cobs. This 'devaluation' was possibly made to offset the increased cost in the manufacture of these coins.


Pillars of Hercules

obverse design

"A" - the origin or mint where the coin was struck
"B" - the year of mintage
"C" - assayer's initial
"D" - denomination of the coins, in this case "8" for 8-Reales
"E" - the ruling monarch

reverse design

The design on the obverse of the coins, represented the crowned Pillars of Hercules and the crowned hemispheres of the Old and New World floating on the sea, and the legend PLUS ULTRA, which means "further beyond", on the scroll the twines on the pillars. It also depicted the Spanish colonial domination of both Old and New World with the latin inscription -- "VTRAQUE VNUM", meaning the union of two worlds.

On the reverse side of the Silver coins,the crowned Coat of Arms of Spain, along with the Latin legend "PHILIP-V-D-G-HISPAN-ET- IND-REX" (Philip V - By the grace of God; King of Spain and the Indies.)

When Charles I (1516-1556), the first Hapsburg monarch, sailed for Spain from Netherlands to claim and sit on the throne left vacant by his grandfather, Ferdinand the Catholic, a group of forty ships accompanied him. On his flagship, it carried a picture of the Pillars of Hercules with scrolls that twines around the pillars. The scroll bore the young monarch's motto - Plus Ultra.

The origin of the pillars and "PLUS ULTRA" are traced to the legendary Greek hero, Hercules, where on his journey to capture a 3-bodied monster on the island of Erythia, he erected two pillars on the sides of the Straights of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa. During those time, it was thought to mark the edge of the world, hence in latin -- "Ne Plus Ultra" (Nothing lies further).

Charles I removed the word "Ne" and carried "Plus Ultra" as his motto in his ambition to expand the Spanish Empire beyond its European possessions during that period. Note that Magellan discovered the Americas during those period.

It was ironic though that it was in the period of this coinage that Spain lost its luster as a world superpower and began to loose grip of its colonies.


Design Variations

  1. The marginal inscription "VTRAQUE" exist in two forms, either in one word which is the standard form, and as two words "VTRA" "QUE", with "QUE" occupying the top center position. This two-word form were struck in Guatemala between 1758 to 1771 and for all Potosi specimens.
  2. Some mintmarks  for a particular mint varies. Occurence in Mexico, Lima and Potosi
    example : the mintmarks of Mexico :
    mexico.gif (602 bytes) mexico-mx.jpg (7206 bytes)
  3. The form or size of the main crown varies. Mexico's main crown varied from a moderate size crown with or without full downward arc or full ellipse, to a large crown employed during 1733.
  4. The main crown also was "floated" or "elevated" as in the later specimens of Guatemala.
  5. The crown on the left pillar changed during the later years from royal-type to imperial type. Not all mints implemented the changes.
    leftcrown.jpg (19763 bytes)
  6. The style of year varied from colonial or Spanish style to modern or Arabic style. There are also some other minor numbering variations.
  7. Overstrikes on previous years.
  8. There are minor die variations as to where the tip of the pillar crowns falls on the marginal inscription "VTRAQUE VNUM", but this is considered to be insignificant.


  1. The marginal inscription coincide with the ruling monarch. Spelling of monarch would vary with the mints such as FERDND (Mexico, Lima, Potosi) to FERDIND (Guatemala) to FERDINANDUS (Santiago). Only Mexico employed a latinized CAROLVS ("V"), while the rest used CAROLUS ("U").
  2. There maybe no obvious space between "ET" and "IND" on the marginal inscription.
  3. The point to where the tip of the cross of the crowned crest would be shifted from between "HI" and "SP" to "H" and "ISP". This was to facilitate the longer "CAROLUS" legend.
    his_separ.jpg (13509 bytes)
  4. The bottom rosette were always the 4-petal type, but Potosi tried to use a 6-petal variety during the first year of minting. This 6-petal type was being used by minor coins (4-, 2-, 1- and Half-Real)
  5. Assayer marks either runs horizontally or vertically for some mints. Only Lima had a variation on a particular assayer series. All assayer marks, except that of post-1733 Mexico, is topped and bottomed with a 4-petal rosette. Mexico has a dot on the top.


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