Extremely Rare Dutch Siege of Brazil piecePernambuco. 3 Florin (60 Stuivers) Brazilian Ducat 1646, KM5.3, Fr-3, Russo-2. Essentially Mint State, 1.78 grams. Showing a well-defined strike - particularly on the denomination side while the date side shows more signs of doubling - with a small, essentially non-obtrusive, planchet crack noted to the right of the date mentioned for accuracy's sake. A most attractive specimen of this great rarity (the rarest denomination in the series, with the 1646 also traditionally considered the rarer date) with much remaining mint luster and essentially full weight). This coin is sure to be cherished among the centerpieces in the lucky next owner's collection.
Long hailed as coins belonging to the restricted pantheon of universally acclaimed numismatic rarities, the emergency Dutch issues struck in what is now the Brazilian region of Pernambuco need no introduction. Whenever great collections housing them are offered at auction these issues will indefectibly attract the strongest desire and interest. And deservedly so, since the circumstances of their issuance are what legends are made of and these perhaps crude, but also charming and romantic coins personify the struggle and difficulties faced by the valiant Dutch, who only resorted to minting them when their dreams were crumbling around them, being surrounded by the equally valiant Portuguese adversaries. Three gold denominations - III, VI and XII Florins - dated 1645 and 1646 are presently known (with perhaps between 50 and 60 known specimens combining all denominations and dates, and roughly 30% of those impounded in public collections or museums), while a few silver 1654 coins were the last struck under Dutch administration, who surrendered to the Portuguese on January 26 of that year. We mentioned the historical context of these issues when offering a specimen of the latter denomination 3 years ago (HA 1/2011, lot 23137) and they need not be recalled here. Instead, the present offering of a similar coin allows us to comment on further information about these issues, most of which was presented by J. A. Goncalves de Mello's groundbreaking article "Os Ducados Brasileiros de 1645 e 1646 e 1654", separata of Revista IAHGP (Recife, 1976).
As mentioned in our aforementioned January 2011 catalog, by July of 1645, the situation of the cornered Dutch colonists was very dire indeed. The arrival of the Zeeland vessel on July 10 carrying gold in provenance from the Guinea coast provided some relief, since "due to the lack of circulating monies" the governing High Council decided to retrieve 360 marks - divided in 9 equal parts of 40 marks - from it "in order to mint it into coins or to sell it..." and obtain coins to cover their expenses. On August 18, the same Council informed that "since we are unable to obtain any money from the population - whether as payments of debts to the Company or otherwise - and considering that part of the retrieved 360 ??gold marks arrived recently has not sold and has been retained for an emergency ... and thus that funds can only be obtained by fabricating money although we are not authorized to do so ... we have resolved in the current difficulties to mint square gold coins of 3, 6 and 12 florins showing on one side the emblem of the Company and on the other the date, valued at 25% over intrinsic value [meaning these would be of approximately 25% lighter than regular coins]. One Mr. Bas [Pieter Bas Jansen], who is skilled on these matters was asked to supervise the operations".
Samples of each denomination were sent on September of that year to the Netherlands, and on October 10, Bas was officially appointed as Supervisor of these emergency issues, who were termed as "Brazilian ducats", which should therefore be their correct designation.
On August 16, 1646, the Council reported that "we were forced to (again) resort to retrieve 405 from the gold of Guinea [contained in the ships Eendracth of Amsterdam and Eendracht of Enkhuisen] part of which has been sold and the balance kept to be minted into coins". As indicated in the description of the next lot, the amount of gold minted was of 355 marks (around 83 kg).
Per the documentation, two pairs of dies were fabricated by engraver Jan Bruynsvelt for the III Florins denomination in 1646 (for which he charged 5.12 florins per pair). This fits nicely with the known coins since precisely two obverse and two reverse dies have been detected from the extant specimens (this coin is from the same obverse but a different reverse die than our aforementioned 1/2011 example). A legendary rarity sure to elicit very high interest and bidding competition.
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