Sedwick sells historic 'Heart' silver coin from Potosi Mint

One of six examples of rare religious relic known for 1704
By , Coin World
Published : 12/01/15
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One of the finest known of the rare Heart silver 8-real “cob” coins struck at the Potosi Mint realized a hammer price of $100,000 during Daniel Frank Sedwick LLC’s Oct. 29 auction.

The buyer’s fee is 17.5 to 19.5 percent, depending on payment method.

The Heart cob coins are part of a limited series issued by the Potosi Mint (in modern-day Bolivia) that the auction house suggests were made for religious purposes. 

The 1704-Y silver coin sold in the Sedwick sale is one of six known from that year, and one of 40 examples of Heart 8-real coins known, according to a census by members of the firm. The Heart cob that Sedwick sold is also unholed, which is atypical for the type. 

The Heart coins originated in the 1690s, during the reign of Charles II of Spain. A limited number of Heart cobs are known from a few other mints, but the quantity and quality of pieces issued by Potosi stand out. 

Heart coins were made in all four denominations, 1, 2, 4 and 8 reales, but the high denomination pieces are by far the rarest. 

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Explaining the rarities

Sedwick, the owner of the auction firm, calls the Heart coins “some of the most intriguingly beautiful silver cobs ever made.” 

In 2013, when the firm offered a single Hear t8-reale cob, Sedwick suggested that the Heart coins were part of the Catholic tradition of votive offerings known as “ex-voto.” These votives are often in the form of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “Also, many of the ancient ex-votos on display in Catholic churches around the world are silver and even coin-sized,” writes Sedwick in the 2015 catalog.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents Jesus’ divine love for humanity, and though initial devotion to the Heart began in the 13th century, a renewed reverence began in the 1680s and 1690s. 

Saint Mary Margaret, a French nun, reported visions of Jesus with the promise of his blessings on homes where an image of his heart was presented. Her convent held a feast of the Sacred Heart in 1686 and dedicated a chapel in 1688, prompting the spread of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, according to Sedwick.

Her death in 1690 further popularized the devotion throughout Europe and into the New World.

Coins made for a king

Early Heart cobs are 1-, 2- and 4-real denominations, but the first Heart 8-real cob known today was made in 1702. This isn’t coincidental, Sedwick suggests, noting, “One of the biggest followers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was the new king of Spain himself, Philip V.”

The new king began his reign on Nov. 1, 1700. As a Frenchman, the king was “well aware of Margaret Mary's visions and brought his strong devotion to the Sacred Heart with him to Spain," Sedwick wrote.

Fifteen different dates of Heart 8-real cobs from during King Philip V’s reign are known from Potosi.

Though that doesn’t address the question of why, some scholars suggest the coins mark specific tragic or important events in Potosi, “it is also possible these dates refer to years of special occurences within the Church. Without any documentation authorizing the minting of the Heart coins, we will never know for sure why they were made, or for whom,” according to Sedwick.

The firm offered 14 examples of Heart coins in the Oct. 29 auction, its 18th sale. 

The star of the offering, the lot described here, is pedigreed to the Enrique Pena Collection, the Freeman Craig Sr. Collection, and to the Paul Karon Collection.

The firm graded the coin About Uncirculated.

For full details of the sale, visit the firm’s website.

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