Finest Certified 1818 Texas Jola, Near-Mint1818 1/2RL New Spain (Texas) Jola Half Real, Large Planchet AU58 PCGS. Breen-1081. The Texas jolas were made by José Antonio de la Garza of San Fernando de Bexar. While that locale may not ring a bell, its current name surely will: San Antonio.
San Fernando de Bexar was the capital of Texas (then a province of New Spain) during the 1810-1821 War of Independence. Apparently, community leaders prevailed upon the governor of the province, Lt. Col. Manuel Prado, to authorize Manuel Barrera to coin 8,000 copper coins to facilitate commerce in March 1817. No specimens are currently known.
In May 1817, Prado was succeeded by Antonio Martinez as governor and military commander of the province of Texas. In December 1818, he granted the request of José Antonio de la Garza, the local postmaster, to mint 500 pesos' worth of "small change in copper coins called Jolas, which shall circulate only through the town with values of one half of a real each." This amounts to 8,000 pieces authorized. In a town with a population of about 2,000 people, this would have had a significant impact on relieving the shortage of small change.
The petition granted also stated that "these shall be engraved with the first letters of my name and surname and the year of this date." Garza was also required to redeem Barerra's coins issued the previous year in exchange for his own. Perhaps this exchange was so successful that no Barrera jolas survived. While significant parts of the United States were at one point Spanish territory, the Texas jola is a unique issue in that it is the only known Spanish Colonial coin made in what is now the United States of America.
The de la Garza jolas first came to the attention of collectors when one was sent to The Numismatist, which published a line drawing of the piece in 1903, but was unable to provide any information to its owner. A historian knew of them in 1892 but this knowledge did not make it to numismatic circles for more than half a century. Meanwhile, the house in which de la Garza may have minted these coins was destroyed in 1912, so all information about this issue is likely to come from the coins themselves and documents in the Bexar Archives. It has been speculated that the star on the reverse was the inspiration for the "lone star" that became perhaps the best known symbol of Texas.
In 1959, a group of approximately 60 specimens was discovered during excavation work along the San Antonio River. The area of the find was once a 19th century campground used by cowboys. A few others have been discovered since, virtually all of which have been dug. Apparently they did not circulate long, so most are not greatly worn but, having been buried, most do show corrosion. Katherine Jaeger and Dave Bowers, in their recently published reference 100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens, indicate that "fewer than 100" are known of both the large and small planchet variations, and it is known that many of the survivors are impounded in bank and museum collections. Had the hoard of 60 pieces not been unearthed in 1959, this issue would be essentially uncollectible today.
The 1818 New Spain jolas appeal to Colonial coin collectors, enthusiasts of Mexican and Spanish Colonial issues, as well as Texas collectors regardless of their numismatic specialty. Even though these are rare coins, several variations have been noted, including large and small planchet coins, and a number of different dies were used. The sideways fraction in the center of the obverse stands for one-half real, which was a familiar Spanish-Mexican coin of the time.
This is by far the finest certified example of this challenging issue, inclusive of all varieties. Most of the original luster remains and the devices are sharply defined. The gray patina seen over each side has a significant reddish undertone on the obverse. The star on the reverse is especially well defined. As a Large Planchet variety, this is the finest thus certified by either service by 18 grading points, and an AU53 Small Planchet is the best certified example known of that particular variant (11/07). The NGC and PCGS population data for the 1818 jola coppers has changed little over the past few years, giving testimony to the minuscule number of survivors available to collectors today. Listed on page 74 of the 2008 Guide Book. Population: 1 in 58, 0 finer (11/07).
Ex: FUN Signature (Heritage, 1/02), lot 5182, which realized $23,000.
From The Madison Collection. (NGC ID# 2B6F, PCGS# 660)
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