World Coins

Spanish emergency issue of 1809 made during war

One of three examples known of an 1809 silver 5-peseta coin of Gerona in Spain highlights Cayon Numismaticas’ July 3 auction.

Coin images courtesy of Cayon.

When Napoleon invaded Spain during 1808, citizens pushed back, first in Madrid but later in other towns across the country.

One of those towns where his forces met resistance was Gerona (also spelled Girona). 

A local silver 5-peseta coin issued in Gerona during this period of resistance, one of three known, highlights Cayon Numismatica’s July 3 auction in Madrid. 

In June 1808 the local Council of Girona was constituted, declaring war against the French occupation army. 

The people of Girona, together with the regular troops loyal to the king, led by Gen. Alvarez de Castro, resisted the onslaught of the French army, clashing first in June and then July. 


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The final fight turned into a siege, lasting nine months and resulting in a shortage of food and money, among other goods. 

On Dec. 18, 1808, the local board commissioned the issuance of silver coins to meet the shortage, calling on silver from locals and the church. Production began on Jan. 8, 1809. 

The coins feature Ferdinand VII, the ruler of Spain, on the obverse, with the town’s name and shield on the reverse. 

Similar coins punched with the date 1808 were issued in 1809, but bear a different design than that found on the offered coin. 

The firm suggests the appearance of the king in a “heroic pose” on the 1809 coins indicates that it was an attempt to issue a piece with a clear political message. 

The style was similar to that used for coins of the Roman Empire showing an emperor in military attire, symbolizing victory, the auction house said. 

An intriguing rarity

Very few examples of this intriguing coin were made, maybe nine pieces, the firm said, but not definitively. 

Only three examples are known today, and this one offered in the auction is the second best, significantly exceeding the quality of the third piece. 

Two pairs of dies, made by Antonio Dassoy, a silversmith from Gerona, were used to mint this issue. 

The first apparently broke while being used on the 10th coin. The second pair is intact and kept at the Museo de la Real Casa de Moneda y Timbre.

The Gerona issues fit into a landscape of similar emergency issues across Spain, according to the auction house, but the quality and designs varied. 

Those from Gerona and Lerida were both made with deficient metal and weak strikes, for instance. The coins from Seville feature a more affable image of the king, the firm said. 

The main objective of the Gerona issue offered in the auction, according to the firm, wasn’t truly to ease the shortage, but to make a political statement — to send a clear message to the common people about the presence of the Spanish king. 

Striking difficulties, and the end of the siege, made the project almost a footnote to the larger story for survival. 

The item for sale is in Extremely Fine condition and has an estimate of €30,000 ($34,701 U.S.). 

Translation provided by Meredith Yracheta. 

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