Spanish exploration is widely remembered today thanks to Christopher
Columbus, but Portugal battled the Spanish in a race to explore the
globe during the Age of Discovery.
Portugal was the first modern European nation to begin an overseas
empire after its sailors captured the North African coast outpost of
Ceuta in 1415. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first man to
sail directly from Europe to India in 1498 after passing the Cape of
Good Hope around Africa.
Portugal established its first of three west-coast outposts in the
Indian town of Goa in 1505 — a century before Britain’s East India
Company made its mark on the subcontinent of India.
Portugal was unsatisfied with holding just an outpost at Goa; it
wanted to control the surrounding region. A rare gold coin from
Portugal’s efforts to capture control of Goa from the local population
in 1510 highlights Classical Numismatic Group’s Jan. 6 and 7 auction
in New York City. The auction is being conducted in conjunction with
the New York International Numismatic Convention.
The gold manoel (or cruzado) was struck sometime between January and
August 1510, at a mint in Goa in the months of the town’s first
occupation by viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque.
This extremely rare coin type had long been known only from a line
drawing published decades ago, and subsequently reproduced in modern
catalogs on the subject, according to CNG. Although gold half manoels
were known, the existence of this larger denomination had been a
subject of scholarly speculation. However, a small hoard of gold coins
discovered in the vicinity of Goa in October 2005 contained two
examples of this type.
The coin offered by CNG, a previously unknown example and not one of
those reported from the hoard, represents the fourth known example and
is the plate coin for the current edition of Gold Coins of the
World by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg.
Albuquerque was imprisoned by a rival, but finally released and
recognized as viceroy late in 1509. He then began consolidating
Portuguese control of Western India, unsuccessfully attacking Calicut
in January 1510, before besieging Goa.
From January to August, the Portuguese controlled the town, when
this coin was struck. Unable to hold it for long, Albuquerque
abandoned Goa in August. In November, however, he returned with
reinforcements and recaptured it.
As a result, the Portuguese gained a long-term colony under their
control and a naval base from which they could conduct future regional
operations, according to CNG.
The coin features the badge of Manoel I o Venturoso (the Fortunate)
on one side, created from an armillary sphere set on base. An
open-work cross pattée appears on the reverse.
The coin is offered in the latest group of coins from the collection
of Dr. Lawrence A. Adams and was acquired in CNG’s Triton X auction
Jan. 9, 2007, in New York City, where it realized $27,600, including
the 15 percent buyer’s fee.
Graded by the auction house as Good Very Fine, with “light toning in
devices, traces of deposits, slightly wavy flan, some minor edge marks
and possible clipping,” according to CNG, it has an estimate of
$10,000 in the 2016 sale.