History of the Spanish Doubloon
he Spanish Doubloon was a seven-gram (.225 Troy-ounce) gold coin minted in Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish settlement of Nueva Grenada (present-day Peru) that was used widely in the Americas until the mid-nineteenth century. The word “doubloon” has its roots in the Latin word “duplus,” meaning double, a reference to denomination of this coin worth two escudos. These gold coins were eventually minted in four denominations, worth one, two, four, and eight escudos respectively.
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, gold doubloons played a pivotal role in the Spanish economy and were a major part of its colonial activities. Doubloons minted in the Americas were carried on Spanish galleons throughout the Caribbean and across the world to trade for highly sought after commodities such as silks and spices. As they made their way across the vast seas and oceans, the captains of these ships were always wary of attack from marauding pirates. The pirates knew full well that if they could manage to intercept a Spanish galleon en route to its trading destination, their chances of finding gold aboard were extremely high.
Minted on the front of the doubloon is the coat of arms of the Hapsburg royal family, known as the “Hapsburg Shield.” Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, remembered by history as the king and queen who launched the voyage of Christopher Columbus, were part of the Hapsburg royal lineage. The “Crusader’s Cross” is stamped on the coin's reverse. The appearance of this symbol indicates the close tie between religion and government in Spain in the 16th and 17th century. The doubloon’s reverse also contains a lion, representing the Spanish province of Leon and a castle, the symbol of the province of Castile.
Why Doubloons Aren’t Round
Because Doubloons were minted entirely by hand, creating a perfectly round coin was virtually impossible. First, gold was melted down and poured into thin strips. As the gold strips cooled, they were pressed until they met the desired thickness. Coin-shaped pieces were then cut from the strips of metal to create what are known today as “blanks.” The blanks were then pressed against an engraved coin die and struck repeatedly until the design of the die was embedded in the soft metal. After the coins were weighed, excess metal was trimmed away by hand.
Doubloons in American History
Colonial America was awash in coins from all across Europe. Dutch Thalers mixed with English pounds, French Francs, and Spanish gold pieces of eight. As it happened, a considerable number of these coins were put into circulation by pirates sailing north from the Caribbean to commercial centers such as New York. The Spanish gold doubloon most definitely made its way to New York and was certainly used in commercial trade there. In fact, an American version of the doubloon was first minted in 1787 by a man named Ephraim Brasher. The so-called “Brasher Doubloon” is now one of the most valuable and coveted rare gold coins in the world.
Claim Your Own Pirate Doubloons
Northwest Territorial Mint offers gold doubloon replicas that were featured in Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Find them, 5 to a package and ready to add to your treasure, here.
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