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Treasure Coins of the Princess Louisa

On April 18, 1743 The East Indiaman Princess Louisa shipwrecked near the island of Maio, part of the Cape Verde Archipelago. With her other cargo, went 20 chests of "cabbo de barra", 69,760 ounces of 'end of bar silver', cobs, or Spanish Silver Reales. The East India Company named the ship Princess Louisa after the youngest of King George II. It was a smaller merchant vessel, not a large Spanish galleons.

None the less, with two decks and three masts, it was one of the largest in the English fleet, built for graceful speed. Captain John Pinson with a crew of 100, set on a fourth voyage to Bombay and Persia in March 1743. Because the voyage traversed through pirate waters, The Princess was accompanied by a smaller merchant ship, The Winchester, and the HMS Sterling Castle.

Near the Cape Verde Islands the Winchester fell behind. Later the next night, well off the of the Isle of Maio, The Princess Louisa fired her cannon to warn the convoy of dangerous breakers on a coral reef. The Winchester was then able to avoid wrecking on the reef. The Princess Louisa did not avoid the danger All that was seen the next morning was a broken up ship stranded on the reef. Because the sea was rough, The Winchester could not save the crew, and continued her voyage.

But 41 men did survive swimming to the beaches of Maio. The men were robbed by the islanders, Rescued by Portuguese, and brought back to England where a trial of recklessness was held for the officers. Due to uncharted currents and and poor navigation charts, They were found innocent.

One unsuccessful effort at recovering her cargo, was all that took place. The 256 years or 2 and 1/2 centuries rest on the bottom of the ocean have marked the coins but they are still nice. Each piece is unique by the striking and the Princess Louisa story offers a touchable piece of Silver History long ago sunken.

The Silver Reales first hammered in Mexico City in 1535 were from larger silver bars that were rolled out and cut in slices or blanks. They are then placed on an anvil, on top of another die with the coat of arms. When struck with a heavy hammer the design would be impressed o on both sides. Depending on the force of the strike and the thickness of the blank the design impression was always a little different, one of kind.

The 1/2 1, 2, 4, and 8 Reales came to be struck mainly in Peru, Bolivia and Mexico. The Obverse of crowned Pillars and waves were symbolic for the Pillars of Hercules and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean in the Straits of Gibraltar.

Eccentric and unconventional The study and collecting of cobs is now a sophisticated branch of mainstream numismatics, readily available cobs no longer are, demand is met via sea salvage. It was a relentless demand for jewelry that made the collector market material scarce. In determining the value of a cob, an ability to identify a mintmark is most important, which is a letter, two letters or a monogram. Then comes the the initials of the chief assayer of the mint. Most earlier coinage did not bear a date. Names of Kings or coat of arms appear on all coins, but are generally missing or incomplete because of the vary nature of cobs, each one unique for varied reasons. As a matter of fact if any two are ever found to be identical well then it may be counterfeit.

The Reales Pictured on this page

  1. The large 8 Reales Depicted here has a viable date of 1728 and Assayers mark of 'M' also the L mintmark for Lima Peru under King Felipe V 1724-1746 (Philip second period).

  2. The 4 Reales pictured has a viable date of 1740, the P mintmark for Potosi, Bolivia, and the denomination of 4.

  3. The 2 Reales, shows good detail three final digit dated 1721, Assayers mark 'Y' for Diego de Ybarbouru 1701-1727 of the Potosi, Bolivia Mint.

  4. The 1 Reales, dated 1737 with P mintmark and M Assayer, would also be Bolivia.

  5. The 1/2 Reales is dated 1714 the smaller we go the harder one see's, just imagine this at the bottom of the ocean.

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Reales / Cobs of the Princess Louisa / click for enlargement
Obverse of sea salvaged Cobs / click for enlargement

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Created 05 February 2001
Updated January 2017.