World Coins

Spanish coin from 1788

A 1788 Spanish silver 8-real coin struck in Mexico is rather common, but has a lot of history behind it. The value of a well-circulated piece usually depends upon its remaining silver content.

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Could you please identify this 8-real piece and let me know its value? Thank you for your time and effort.

Robert Matwijcow

Salem, N.Y.

The piece in question has the appearance of a silver 8-real coin, struck at the Mexico City Mint under the authority of the Spanish crown in 1788.

The piece depicts Carolus III (or Charles III) of Spain on its obverse and the Spanish royal coat of arms on its reverse.

A small “o” placed atop a capital “M” on the reverse is its Mint mark and signifies a coin struck at the Mexico City Mint.

Ultimately, this piece would need to be examined by an expert in order to truly determine its authenticity.

From the pictures sent (which could not be reproduced here) it does appear to match up well with authentic coins, but these coins are frequently counterfeited, particularly in China, so caution is needed when buying or selling.

If indeed genuine, the coin is somewhat common. The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800, gives the 1788 8-real coin values of $25 in Very Good, $45 in Fine, $75 in Very Fine and $150 in Extremely Fine.

Mr. Matwijcow’s item is heavily circulated, and would likely be graded as Very Good at best.

More likely, if offered for sale, the coin’s silver content would be the prime determinant of its value. A freshly struck 8-real coin has an actual silver weight of 0.7797 ounce. As this coin has been well circulated, it has probably lost some of its silver weight. If sold to a coin dealer, he or she would probably place an offer based on its silver weight.

While this piece is not an especially valuable coin, it is a historical coin. Spanish silver coinage provided the backbone of the American economy for many decades. In fact, Spanish coinage was accepted as legal tender here until the practice was outlawed by Congress in 1857.

Those interested in pirate lore should know the Spanish 8-real coin is the coin being referred to when swashbucklers demanded “pieces of eight.”

Some may also recall being told the tale that a young George Washington once threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. However, it is much more feasible that America’s future president, in the unlikely event that he did throw a coin across a river, actually tossed it over the much narrower Rappahannock River. And as there were no U.S. silver dollars when the event supposedly took place, the most likely candidate would have been a Spanish 8-real coin.

Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from staff member Erik Martin. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to or call (800) 673-8311, Ext. 274.

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