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The excelente is a type of Spanish gold coin which was a moniker for the dobla maravedi, a coin worth twice the value of a maravedi. Usually lumped alongside the many types of doblas, the excelente is a specific type of dobla coin known as the dobla castellana, a gold coin issued throughout Spain as well as neighboring Iberian territories and subsequent Spanish colonies from the 11th century until the latter part of the 16th century.
The excelente was originally based on an Islamic coin known as the dinar which was then converted into a Christian type of coin later called the maravedi. In an area of Spain known as Castile where Moorish influence was strong and the use of Islamic coinage fairly common, the subsequent Christian rulers minted their own type of gold coinage, and one of them – the double maravedi later became referred to as the dobla castellana. Originally depicting the coat of arms of Spain on the obverse, and an equilateral cruciform symbol on the reverse, these early types of coins soon evolved into the more typical coins of the period embodying the symbols of the monarchy alongside images of the current rulers. Of the many Spanish coins stylized as ‘excelenete’, the dobla castellana featuring the busts of Ferdinand I of Spain and his queen, Isabella on the obverse became the most well-known excelente coin. So called due to its superior detail and reputedly unsurpassed purity (near 24-karat pure gold composition), the ‘excellence’ of the coin was well noted by the peoples of the time who had lauded it as one of the most beautiful coins to ever be minted by their reckoning, although its reputation would later be attributed to other coins of a similar or somewhat similar make, while the doble castellana excellente coin itself would eventually undergo a phasing out until it faded into obscurity after the death of King Ferdinand’s Queen Consort. Another reason for the appletation ‘excelente’ was to separate the coin from many other coins minted illegally by independent mints not under the ordinance of the monarchy. Such coins were usually passed off as authentic dobles, but which were made of inferior metal only resembling that of gold such as brass, billon (vellon) or silver alloyed with minute amounts of gold for the sake of coloration.
The excelente of Ferdinand and Isabella took on a more modern form in start contrast to the early modern symbolisms often nearly uniform in all coinage dating from the mid-1400s to the latter parts of the 1500s. Featuring a unique double bust of the then reigning monarchs of Spain (hence the name ‘dobla’) it also featured the coat of arms of the nation on the reverse in place of the more common equilateral cruciform symbol replete in so many examples of coins dating from the period.
After the end of Ferdinand and Isabella’s reign, the excelente coin became a moniker attributed to remnants of the previous rulers’ coinage, as well as to any subsequent gold doble minted which possessed exemplary properties. While its baseline the maravedi became re-minted as a silver coin, the production of dobles as a gold coin remained, and while it was called many other names depending upon its place of origin, the term ‘excelenete’ has become a byword for coinage of good quality, as opposed to shabbily made gold coins replete in the eras prior to the standardization of the aesthetics and procedures of minting. Examples of excelente coins can be both early Spanish gold coins (i. e. maravedis, pistoles, pesetas) or latter early-modern gold coins (escudos, ducados). While this may seem an incongruity of sorts, the excelente, while it ceased to be a coin proper, continued onwards as an appellation to coinage. The production of excelentes was discontinued by around 1490 and was replaced with other types of coinage, yet the appellation continued to be in common use until it too was ‘phased-out’ with the standardization of gold coinage by the middle of the 16th century.
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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for coinandbullionpages.com © coinandbullionpages.com 2012
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