The PNNA Memorabilia Catalog

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by Greg Franck-Weiby

The design is that of the Massachusetts Bay Colony 'pine tree' type, dated '1652', but struck from 1667-'82. The size of this piece is approximately that of the six pence of the pine tree series. The original type had the denomination in Roman numerals below the date; on the PNNA type, the Roman numeral is the number (54th) of the annual convention. The Massachusetts Bay Colony coinage (the pine tree was the last of four types struck 1652 - '82) was the first coinage minted in territory now part of the United States.

by Greg Franck-Weiby

The design is adapted from the 'Carlos y Juana' type of the Mexico City Mint in the ViceRoyalty of New Spain. The Mexico City Mint was founded in 1536 and began production in 1537. This type was minted until 1572, despite the fact that Juana (mother of Carlos, for whom he was regent for her of the constituent Kingdom of Castilla) died in 1555, and Carlos abdicated in favor or his son Phillip II in 1556. The variety with the waves below the pillars was introduced in 1542. (A similar type was minted at Lima, Peru, 1568-'72.) This was the first European style coinage minted in the Western Hemisphere, and it was contemporary with the oldest city in what is now the United States - St. Augustine, Florida.

The pillars are the 'Pillars of Hercules', a poetic name for the Straits of Gibraltar. Medieval geographers believed that there was 'nothing beyond' ("ne plus ultra" in Latin) the Pillars of Hercules, just empty ocean. When Columbus proved them wrong, the Spanish proclaimed 'plus ultra' (i.e. 'there is more beyond - and it belongs to us!') on their coins. On the Carlos y Juana type, abbreviations for 'plus ultra' were inscribed across the coin in a line broken by the pillars, with dots or numerals above to indicate the denomination (1, 2, or 4 reales or 'royals'). For this souvenir/commemorative piece, the date and Roman numeral number of the convention (55th) were substituted (the original coins had no year date on them). This PNNA type is actually closer to the size of a silver half real, but the original half reales of the Mexico City Mint only had a large initial letter instead of the pillar design.

The other main difference between this and the originals is that the crown above the shield was left out to allow more space for the inscription. The shield symbolized, not 'Spain' as we think of it now, but rather the Kingdom of Greater Castilla (eastern Spain was the then separate Kingdom of Aragon, which Carlos ruled in his own name - but Castillian merchants had a monopoly of trade with the Spanish colonies in the Americas). Greater Castilla consisted of the older Kingdom of Leon ('lion' in English, hence the two lions on the shield), while the newer territory was the Kingdom of the Castles ('castilla' in Spanish, hence the two castles on the shield). At the bottom is a pomegranate ('granada' in Spanish), symbolizing the Kingdom of Granada, the last Moorish territory in the Iberian peninsula, conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.