Starting Price: 20000 USD
Price realized: 33000 USD
Cuzco, Peru, 8 escudos, 1837BA, "FEDERACION" type, encapsulated NGC MS 64. KM 167. weight 27.05 grams. NGC #4461035-002.
Historically consequential to the early Republican era of independent Peru, this artistically compelling and eloquent artifact begs appreciation of the fact that, beyond the sphere of our numismatic focus, a mint so remote and infrequently staffed could somehow create such a wonderful relic to celebrate its special status just sixteen years after gaining its independence at the end of a war that stretched over a decade. Our example is clearly a rival for finest extant, since it is currently tied at NGC with two others for the highest awarded grade level, a near-gem MS 64. Confirming that exalted status is the fact that the surfaces are resplendent with unmarred luster and lack of any of the usual laminations or obvious planchet weight-adjustment marks, an unfortunate reality for many coins of that era in a land of limited affluence, where every grain of gold was treasured.
The sunface (fully detailed on this coin) was a revered symbol of the main temple of the great nation. The religious complex of Coricancha (Qorikancha) in the Inca capital at Cuzco contained the Temple of the Sun. It was not only the most sacred site, or huaca, in the Inca religion but was also considered the very center of the vast and powerful ancient Inca world. Honoring it on the largest-denomination gold coin was a special event never again repeated. To produce such a captivating emblem was a significant achievement by the artist and for the nations' rulers to admire.
This FEDERACION issue, which KM indicates as "State Coinage" (KM-167) preceded the CONFEDERACION type of the "Republic" (catalogued as KM-171), both types showing the same central design on both sides, just the legends changed to reflect a change in political entities within the same year.
Note there are also four stars on the obverse, which stand for the four departments comprising South Peru, which are also represented symbolically on the other side as follows: Arequipa (volcano), Ayacucho (cornucopia), Cuzco (Inca Temple) and Puno (Lake Titicaca).
This lovely design has been prized by the most prominent collectors of Republican-period Latin American coinage for over a century. Curiously the great Fonrobert collection catalogue from Berlin in 1878 did not contain an example of the general style other than the small-diameter 1 escudo dated 1838 struck under the subsequent CONFEDERACION; a similar tiny ½ escudo also exists, whereas no specimens of 2 or 4 escudos were apparently produced.
The finest pair of both 8-escudos types of 1837, based on general consensus in recent times, was the duo offered as part of the famed Richard Lissner collection almost three years ago (St. James's / CNG / Teller auction of August 2014). Both are shown in the NGC census as MS 64, the same level as our specimen. Both from that pair were off the market for roughly a third of a century, after being purchased in the September 1982 Mortimer Hammel collection sale presented by Stack's in New York. The buyer of both lots in 1982, holding up bidder paddle 421, was the late collector Irv Goodman from Beverly Hills. Sitting near him, holding paddle 437, was his fellow Los Angeles collector Richard Lissner. As to when the two coins passed from Goodman to Lissner, we cannot report, but they clearly did. Goodman's favorite Latin American country in the 1970s and 1980s was Peru, whereas Lissner was a less aggressive buyer of gold at the beginning of that era. That lovely pair of 8 escudos was again purchased at the Lissner sale by a single paddle number and, based on the individual who held it up, it seems likely that many more decades will transpire before those coins again become available. The sales price for the pair was $72,500 hammer plus buyer's fee, thus totaling $87,725, split more or less evenly between the two coins.
The only other example of the 1837 FEDERACION 8 escudos on record with the MS 64 designation was in the Eliasberg collection (American Numismatic Rarities auction of April 2005), where the cataloguer extolled its design and outstanding beauty while noting that the piece had been off the public market since 1942, or arguably much longer. As this coin was bought by a collector who obtained many lots in the Eliasberg sale, presumably for a hugely significant collection, we can safely assume this specimen will likewise continue to be off the market for many years to come.
For completeness, we mention a slightly lesser example, an MS 62 that graced the Eric Newman collection (sold by Heritage in January 2014) and before that the Col. Green collection, dating back into the mid-1900s. Another nice example of the style, but from the second type of the Republic and dated a year later (1838) was in the Millennia sale (Goldberg auction of May 2008). It was a tad less choice, being judged MS 63.
Perhaps just coincidentally, the pattern here is that nearly every pedigreed piece from the condition census segment of the population of this iconic item has been on the market in the past twelve years. As far as we can conclude, all of them have found "strong hands" to grasp them for the foreseeable future. Just as there were periods around World War II when only a couple of gems of the type seem to have surfaced, the next few years could repeat that pattern. The future cannot be yet known but this currently offered jewel could be the last available in this era to some of the ardent and artistically oriented collectors around the world.
In short, the present coin is a shining gem, a true work of numismatic art that can be appreciated by both the casual collector and the serious numismatist alike. Its design and execution rival that of the exalted 1907 high-relief St Gaudens double eagle of US coin fame, but with a rarity closer to the famous 1933 St Gaudens double eagle! In a note to the consignor, the well-known auctioneer and dealer Bill Christensen once referred to this Cuzco piece as "the most beautiful example you will ever get to own of the most beautiful gold coin of the Americas." Strong words coming from a US specialist! For good reason, then, namely for its beauty and its rarity, we feature this coin both on the cover and on the lot tags for this auction. Its new owner will surely be proud to hold this coin for the next several decades.
For historical background see special article:
North vs. South, Inca-Style: The Story Behind the Coins
[url]http://www.sedwickcoins.com/ta21/North_vs_South_Inca-Style_The_Story_Behind_the_Coins.pdf[/url] (Estimate: $20000 - 30000)