World Coins

Countermarked Spanish colonial coin turned art sold

A charming example of a form of folk art, an engraved shipwreck-related coin from Spanish Colonial America, sold in Stacks Bowers Galleries’ March 29 online auction, realizing $1,320.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Coins have been used to document and commemorate historic events for millennia, sometimes with their design as struck and other times with post-production alterations.

A charming example of a form of folk art, an engraved shipwreck-related coin from Spanish Colonial America, sold in Stack's Bowers Galleries’ March 29 online auction, realizing $1,320, including the buyer’s fee.

The coin is a Peruvian silver 8-real coin that was countermarked in the 1830s in the Philippines.

The reverse of the host coin was smoothed down and a pictorial of a ship at anchor in a harbor with mountains in the background is engraved, with the following engraved above BEFORE THE WRECK / F.W. LERF / NOV. 12, 1900, and U.S.S YOSEMITE / GUAM / L.I engraved below. An ornate hanger is added to the top for suspension.

On the obverse of the coin is a crowned Y.II countermark, which is an 1830s Philippine revaluation mark.

Taking a ship for the war

The USS Yosemite was originally a ship named El Sud, which the Navy purchased in April 1898 and refitted as a fighting ship during the Spanish-American War era. Its crew was chiefly composed of members of the Michigan Naval Bridge, a volunteer auxiliary force.

While it served as a station ship at Guam, a tremendous typhoon hit Nov. 13, 1900, blowing the ship off its moorings and causing enough damage that it was decided to scuttle the ship out at sea.

F.W. Lerf was likely a sailor aboard the Yosemite when it was wrecked, though we find no record in the Social Security Death Index matching that profile, leaving his identity a mystery.

Not the only example

The consignor, Steve M. Tompkins, reports seeing one other similar example, pointing to a possible production of multiple pieces, for members of the crew.

According to the auction house, “The choice of host is fascinating, a Peruvian 8 reales that was countermarked in the 1830s for use in the Philippines — this coin must still have been in circulation nearly 7 decades later in the Pacific islands.”

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