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    Description

    Republic Specimen 1/4 Real 1842-MV-S Quito, KM26, Specimen 66 NGC Whittier Collection. Unique pattern or specimen striking most likely being the very first example struck for this nation in this denomination, or in such a small size. Entering its tenth year production of national coinage, the proud Quito mint had yet to produce a single piece of the lowest denomination typically issued in silver throughout Latin America, specifically a ¼ Real. Under duress and with much experimentation and innovation, Quito managed to produce three silver denominations in its first year of operation in 1833, plus one in gold. Shortly thereafter they managed the 2 and 4 Escudos, then the beautiful 8 Escudos and finally their first 4 Reales in 1841. During the four years of 1838-1841, much discussion about the desperately needed ¼ Real occurred. Legislative records, published by Ortuno and Michael Anderson, demonstrate the over-riding desire of the elite to have a full set of attractive national coinage. Not coincidentally, with the emission of the silver 8 Reales in 1846, they had accomplished such except for the permanently excluded tiny ½ Escudo size. However their reticence, or benign neglect, to produce many thousands of cuartillas continued to choke commerce in every district outside Quito! A proposal to import huge quantities of the USA large cents was denied solely to "save face for the nation". Coincidentally, is it not ironic that 160 years later Ecuador is almost exclusively employing USA currency to expedite local and international commerce?! With the avid support of President Rocafuerte by 1837, and in response to the nearly desperate urging of the director of the mint, Don Alberto Salazza, some "midnight negotiation and quasi-official support" suddenly overwhelmed the legislature's unconscionable neglect resulting in the striking of about 16,000 silver cuartillas (with a total circulation value of just 500 pesos) on or about August 31 of 1842. Before we conjecture as to where the dies and planchets were produced and by whom, let us point out that the coinage was not officially acknowledged until two weeks later! Probably under considerable pressure from merchants and bankers who immediately noted the public's insatiable demand for, and acceptance of the new coins, the Minister of Finance, Don Luis de Saa announced a decree by Flores to strike the coins. That did not occur until September 13. Importantly, that decree authorized the coins to be just 4/12 (0.333) silver and 8/12 copper or other base metal. Minor aspects of the belated decree were apparently based on earlier "blueprints" quietly prepared as plans for the unique denomination were being formed earlier in 1842. The obverse had only words, as in the decree, but indicated REPUBLI (without the CA) due to inadequate space on its slightly lesser flan diameter. On the attractive "reverse", the door at the base of the tower was an arch (= ½ of an ellipse) rather than a full ellipse. An eagle, or perhaps a condor, was added, in flight above the tower with four pillars. The mountain below was of three levels (not two as evident a year later) with a bold letter S prominent in the middle. That later does not seem to be part of the decree or subsequent discussion so we can only conjecture as to its meaning... Important is that this date is so very rare, with as few as 6/10 genuine examples inn the census of Dale Seppa and his band of scholars, that we can only offer our assumption that the fact that the carefully constructed circle of many small rectangles outside the stars and date area are badly "cut off" from view was because the die was made to fill the decreed 16 mm. planchet, not the 14 mm. one actually later produced!
    A scrutiny of the letter and device punches, including the serifs so prominent, and are typical for Quito craftsmanship. The slightly uneven (misplacement of) lettering would be common given the mint's condition and the small die size. The "flavor" of the style, flan, surface quality and edge (we examined it before encasement) all correspond to Quito silver items of the era. However, two anomalies are paramount for consideration! The planchet was nearly perfectly produced, totally dissimilar to the oft-wretched ones used in 1843, and apparently of high-quality silver! The silver is likely above the 0.666 fineness of the ½, 1, 2, and 4 Reales being locally produced in 1840-1842. In fact, to the practiced eye, it appears to be between 0.750 and 0.912 fine silver. The "impossibly brilliant luster and reflective surfaces" exclaimed by Scott Cordry when he catalogued this piece as lot 16924 in the 2006 Whittier sale could not occur on a 0.333 fineness coin. We could continue our dialogue about this extraordinary numismatic treasure but more archival data would be necessary. It is possible the coin was produced as a DIE TRIAL or Specimen (as ascribed by NGC of their own volition) quasi-officially using a Quito-mint die (with local punches) but in a foreign mint (Bogota? Potosi? Lima? England?) under the auspices of any of several aforementioned high-government officials. Due to its magnificent appearance, 500 Pesos of similar pieces were struck, distributed, applauded and heavily circulated. As is no surprise, the issue was quickly debased to 1/3 silver, perhaps even lower as Dale Seppa astutely has pointed out, thus diminishing what had the potential to be a beautifully coinage issue. Upon extensive research by Oen Nelson, Bill Christensen, Dana Roberts and Freeman Craig, this is one of only two pieces dated 1842 in at least EF quality; there are probably about five of the related but different 1843 in EF or better. At a cost of $19,550, this was far beyond Dana Robert's typical budget. He judged it "crucially important" to understanding not only Ecuadorian coins of the era but indeed all South and Central American issues during the first decades of independence from Spain.
    The pedigree was reported by the late Bill Christensen, a major scholar of Ecuadorian coins due to his lengthy relationship with the legendary Maulme, as being from a "long hidden East Germany collection". The coin was "liberated", about the time the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989. Other items of treat rarity from several Latin American nations came from the same group. Many were re-distributed by the late F.S Werner. Several have been firmly traced to European auctions of the early 20th Century, particularly from the Bergsoe and Salbach collections plus various Weyl sales. Much is currently conjecture but it cannot be contested that this is one of the highest quality, most enigmatic and historically relevant of all Ecuadorian coins in any metal.

    From The Dana Roberts Collection.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    15th-18th Friday-Monday
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