Colonial Indian gold highlights NYC auction
- Published: Dec 17, 2015, 11 AM
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.
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