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.