World Coins

Proclamation medal for Mexico’s short-lived king

A rare Proclamation gold medal of the short-lived king of Mexico, Augustin de Iturbide, highights Stephen Album Rare Coins’ Jan. 19 to 22 auction.

Medal images courtesy of Stephen Album Rare Coins.

When fighter Augustin de Iturbide couldn’t beat Vicente Guerrero in the Mexican War of Independence, he joined him. 

In 1821, Iturbide met with Guerrero and agreed to the Plan de Iguala, Guerrero’s goal for the full independence of Mexico, which was achieved on Sept. 27, 1821. In May of 1822, the Mexican Congress awarded the Imperial Crown to Iturbide, and he was crowned as Augustin the First in Mexico City on July 21, 1822. 

His reign would be short-lived, however, but long enough for Proclamation medals to be issued. A gold example of an 1823 Proclamation medal for Iturbide highlights Stephen Album Rare Coins’ auction No. 27, which runs from Jan. 19 to 22. 

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The proclamation medal for the Feast of the Proclamation on Jan. 24, 1823, weighs 35.34 grams and measures 39 millimeters in diameter, meaning it’s heavier than a 1-ounce gold Libertad, but about the same diameter. 

The design, by engraver J. Guerrero, shows the ruler on the obverse, surrounded by inscriptions proclaiming his role as emperor “by divine providence.” 

The reverse carries the familiar crowned eagle on cactus, and inscriptions relating to the Jan. 24, 1823, proclamation ceremony.

The medal is cataloged as Grove 11 in Medals of Mexico Vol. II, 1821-1871, by Frank W. Grove.

Proclamation medals are highly historic and important, and due to their overall rarity, seldom offered in the marketplace. Though generally issued in silver, some were made in gold and bronze. Since these medals were thrown to the crowds during the proclamation ceremonies, likely more were spent or melted than saved. 

Generally speaking, Proclamation medals were produced in various cities to display loyalty and allegiance to the new monarch. In the Spanish Empire, they were produced in various colonial cities and were issued during the festivals and ceremonies arranged in honor of the new king. 

Though festivities celebrating Iturbide’s ascension to power were notable, his initial popularity did not prevent him from being ousted on March 19, 1823. Exiled to Italy and then to London, he tried to return to Mexico in 1824. Immediately arrested, he was shot by local authorities. His body was finally buried in 1838 in the cathedral of Mexico City with the title of “Liberator National.” 

Despite generous production figures, Proclamation medals survive to the current day in quite small numbers. Medals for an earlier king were often melted, repurposed into medals for a new king. 

The offered example appears to have been used as a pendant and is in Extremely Fine condition. 

One other example sold in the Numismatica Genevensis SA auction of December 2008, where the piece, in approximately About Uncirculated condition, brought about $14,940, according to the Album sale catalog.

This example has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. 

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