Unique gold bar, 'birth certificate' realize $224,200

1832 bar from Brazil leads bidding in Sedwick sale
Published : 11/22/11
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A unique 1832 gold bar from Brazil and its “birth certificate” realized $218,500 during Daniel Frank Sedwick’s Oct. 25 and 26 treasure and world coin auction No. 10.

The price for the piece, which circulated as money, is a record for a South American gold coin, according to the firm, and reflects the 15 percent buyer’s fee.

The auction in total realized an estimated $1,425,000, including a 15 percent buyer’s fee, according to a representative of the firm. The firm did not provide an exact figure.

The bar was accompanied by the guia, or “guide,” which Sedwick calls “essentially its birth certificate.” The guia is an official one-page document produced at the foundry and legalizing the ingot as currency. It bears the owner’s name and ingot’s number, purity, weight and date.

Last offered publicly in 1948, the 39.74-gram gold ingot is a relic from a half-century period when gold bars were made from native-mined metals and used in place of coinage (according to the Spink Numismatic Circular of March 1903, the circulation gold coinage in Brazil was prohibited from 1750 to 1808). They later circulated alongside coinage.

The piece in the Sedwick auction, numbered 114, is one of about a half-dozen surviving examples issued under Dom Pedro II, the last ruler in the Empire of Brazil, as production waned before the practice finally ended.

The ingots were issued to monetize new gold into circulating currency and to make sure taxes were paid in the process. Made from natural gold brought in to official refineries for testing, smelting, marking and taxation, the ingots were typically sent to Europe where they were melted. Today, an estimated 218 genuine examples are known to exist, with slightly more than half of these in private hands, the rest housed in national museums in Brazil, Portugal and the United States.

Rarer still is each ingot’s original guia, which also records the foundry name and bears the signatures of its officials at the bottom to show that the tax was paid. According to Sedwick: “The guia was a fragile and somewhat unassuming piece of paper that was almost always lost or inadvertently destroyed, but it bore the utmost importance in establishing legitimacy and value. Probably fewer than 10 surviving ingots still have their guias.”

The ingot in the Sedwick auction is flat and irregular, shaped like an extended rectangle approximately 69 millimeters long, 11 millimeters wide and 3 millimeters tall. Most of the stamped markings appear on one side, including the arms of the Empire of Brazil, the serial number, date, numbers indicating its weight as 1.375 ounces and 6 grains and fineness as 23 karats (.9583 fine) gold, and an intertwined monogram AAB (for assayer Antonio Avila Bittencourt) within an incuse circle with beaded border. Three ribbed lines in the fields between the stamps are security cancellations to prevent further stamping.

The reverse shows a portion of the round seal for the Serro Frio foundry at the bottom. The seal, being wider in diameter than the width of the ingot, is incomplete, showing only a portion of its design details and the first two letters of the foundry’s name, SE[RRO].

The guias not only provided the documentation confirming their manufacture, but they were required to accompany the ingots, which could be confiscated if not accompanied by the document. As with other guias, the prescribed monetary value (in this case, 17,380 reis) is written on the guia and not stamped on the ingot itself.

The auction also included a collection of dated gold 2-escudo coins of Bogotá, dubbed the Santa Fe Collection.

The collection contained nearly 100 dated Bogotá 2-escudo cobs, representing more than 50 different dates, showing changes of styles and assayers over the 130 years of their production.

A buyer’s fee of 18 percent applies to successful bids, with a 3 percent discount for items above $5,000. Prices listed below reflect the appropriate fee.

Catalogs are archived online at the business’s website, www.sedwickcoins.com.

Telephone the firm at 407-975-3325, write to it at P.O. Box 1964, Winter Park, FL 32790, email the firm at info@sedwickcoins.com.

Some highlights:

Mexico, Mexico City, 1715-J gold 8-escudo coin, from the 1715 Plate Fleet, KM-57.2, 27 grams, “choice full date,” “full but off-center shield with full but flat crown above, well-centered but partially flat cross,” About Uncirculated “for actual wear,” $9,440.

Peru, Lima, 1699-R gold 8-escudo coin, from the 1715 Plate Fleet, Standard Catalog of World Coins 1601-1700 by Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler, KM-26.2, 27 grams, AU “with hint of toning,” $14,160.

Peru, Lima, 1713/2-M gold 8-escudo coin, from the 1715 Plate Fleet, KM-unlisted, “lightly red-toned” Extremely Fine+ “with excellent details on both sides,” $16,520.

Peru, Lima, 1714/3-M gold 8-escudo coin, from the 1715 Plate Fleet, KM-unlisted, “no worse than XF+,” $26,551.

Colombia, Bogotá, (17)41(M) gold 2-escudo coin, retrograde 4, KM-17.2, 6.6 grams, formerly in what is billed as the Caballero Collection, Very Fine “with deep toning on fields,” $1,610.

Spanish Colonial, gold “tumbaga” bar, serial number M-1014, 310 grams, from circa 1528 Tumbaga wreck off the coast of Grand Bahama Island, five tax stamps, six fineness markings, cut at one end, approximately 9 inches long, 1 inch wide and up to .375 inch thick, gold fineness estimated from 7 karats to 10 karats (.2916 fine to .416 fine), “a natural casting,” $17,700.

Spanish Colonial, silver bar from the 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, 76 pounds, 7.07 troy ounces, approximately 14 inches long, 5 inches wide and 3 inches tall, “all the requisite markings are visible,” “nicely toned all over, with a light dusting of encrustation on the sides,” $38,350.

Bolivia, Potosí, circa 1596 to 1600 silver 8-real coin, Philip II, assayer B (fifth period), Grade 1, KM-5.1, 26 grams, “with [Mel] Fisher certificate #209650,” “minimal corrosion,” $1,093.

Bolivia, Potosi, “Royal” 1653-E silver 8-real coin, .PH at top, KM-R21, 23.8 grams, from La Capitana ( Jesus Maria de la Limpai Concepcion ) wreck, formerly in the Lou Ullian Collection, “not quite round but with full and clearly Royal-worthy details, including full legends and well-struck interiors, on an evenly-thick planchet,” “attractively toned with only a touch of corrosion, comparable to the only other known Royal from this wreck,” $2,300.

Sweden, 1726 copper half-daler plate money, Fredrik I, KM-PM65, 359 grams, 4 inches square, “small but well-preserved example with minimal corrosion, all five stamps full and clear, attractive bronze color all over,” $1,093.

Bolivia, Potosí, 1745/4q silver 8-real coin, KM-unlisted (3a), 26.5 grams, “unique,” bold VF, “attractively toned,” $2,128.

Bolivia, Potosí, 1728-M silver 2-real coin, heart-shaped (called a “Heart”), KM-unlisted, “bold and beautiful like most Hearts,” “attractively toned with usual hole at top,” $7,683.

Bolivia, Potosí, 1795-Q silver 2-real coin, heart-shaped (called a “Heart”), KM-unlisted, “last known date of Hearts,” VF+, $13,275.

Guatemala, 1742-J silver 2-real trial, “unique machine-struck trial,” KM-4, “struck with regular cob dies but on a fully round planchet about 24 mm in diameter with an ornate floral edge design, like what is seen on the pillar coinage struck in Mexico contemporaneously,” 6.7 grams, “beautifully toned Fine+ with old hole near the edge,” $5,600.

Argentina, silver medal overstruck on 1986 Falkland Islands £25 coin using original obverse die for 1808 Argentina (Buenos Aires) Charles IV medal, separately stamped on the other side with EL RIO DE LA PLATA AL RIO TAMESIS RESPONDE (translating to “the Plate River responds to the Thames River”), 17 made, 151.1 grams, “very strange and interesting item made by prominent Argentinean numismatist Carlos Janson, who owned the original obverse die for the 1808 medal and used it to mutilate a large British bullion coin in response to the Falkland War” between the two nations, “housed in original Royal Mint box with card” (from the 1986 coin), $385.

Puerto Rico, 2009 brass with antique silver finish medal, “1899/60 cents,” Columbus commemorative, No. 65 of 100, 45 grams, privately made using a design created by Charles Barber in 1899 that was never minted, Uncirculated, $98. ■

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