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The Eight Escudo

597647. SOLD $19500

PERU, Colonial. Felipe V. King of Spain, second reign, 1724-1746. AV 8 Escudos (34mm, 26.95 g, 12h). Lima mint. Dated (1)727 L M. Coat-of-arms / Crowned pillars of Hercules set on ocean waves; L – · 8 · – ·M/ P · – · V · – · A/ 7 · – · 2 · – 7. Calicó 580; KM 38.2. In NGC encapsulation 6458806-002, graded MS 61.


The earliest reference to the eight escudo coin is from 14 June 1587, when Spanish king Philip II visited the new Segovia mint, and the piece certainly saw major production by 1611. This should not be surprising – with the vast amounts of precious metals pouring out of the Spanish colonies in the New World, larger denominations were then in vogue, leading to the creation of not only a vast, crown-sized coinage in silver (eight reales), but in gold as well. In fact, though it was first created in Spain, the eight escudos was actually struck in much greater numbers in the Americas.

Though formally termed an eight escudo piece, the colloquial names of this coin developed in a confusing manner. As the weight of the piece was set at 27.069 grams, just a few tenths of a gram shy of an eighth of the Castilian mark, the coin became known as an onza in Europe. Sharing the name with both the coin and the weight led to some misunderstandings in the official records.

A second colloquial name, more popular in the Americas, took an even more convoluted route. When the first excelente, a coin bearing the confronted portraits of the two monarchs, was produced under Ferdinand and Isabella, any Spanish gold coin could be broadly referred to as a dobla, from the old Arabic double dinar. As the new excelente weighed twice that, it was termed a doblón, or double dobla. This coin was equivalent to a two-escudo piece, and when the four escudo was struck, it took the name doblón de a cuatro. The eight escudo thus became the doblón de a ocho – “double double of eight.” In English-speaking America, this was unfortunately abbreviated to simply “doubloon.”