Gold Peseta

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What is a Peseta?

The peseta was a type of Spanish gold coin that was minted during the middle of the 1800s. Originally minted in 1868 in accordance with the then-recently-formed Latin Monetary Union, the peseta replaced the older types of gold coinage issued in Spain, among them the escudo and the maravedi.[1] The predecessor of the European Monetary Union, the Latin Monetary Union served to unite all the varying currencies of Europe, allowing for what they hoped would be faster trade and a better economy, not truly foreseeing the drawbacks that would arise from uncooperative or slyly conniving parties. Along with France, Belguim, Italy, and Switzerland, Spain as well as a number of other European countries joined the Latin Monetary Union and decided to somehow manage and unify all of the varying currencies that made it so impossible to have any kind of ease in fast monetary exchange. To this effect, the gold peseta (the predecessor of the silver peseta) was patterned after a standardized gold coin, known as the Napoleon, which was minted at the express orders of former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

Unlike the former gold coins of the Spanish kingdom, the peseta was more refined and uniform in shape, being among the many early modern coins that were now ‘milled’ instead of cast and stuck by hand as older escudi were a few centuries before.

Replacing the gold escudo, the earliest mention of the peseta (Catalan, peseta, lit. ‘piece’ / ‘fraction’) as a type of currency was in 1808, where coins of such a type were minted in limited numbers in Barcelona.[1] Officially introduced in 1869 after Spain’s alliance with the Latin Monetary Union, the peseta replaced the escudo solely for its purpose as the currency of choice for use in the LMU.[2] Despite being patterned after the standards of the gold Napoleon the earliest versions of the peseta often resembled the French louis d’or more than it did the relatively (then) newer and more refined looking Napoleon. This emulation of French coinage can be seen as inevitable owing to the fact that by around 1808 to 1814, Spain was under the rule of France. Typically varying in weight and size depending on the denomination, the gold pesetas also varied in its purity, with some coins being made from 23-carat gold, while others being minted using 22-carat gold. As with early modern coins, pesetas usually sported minter’s marks and minting symbols denoting the place of origin as well as the master-minter who designed the coin face. The reach of the peseta as currency was not limited to Spain however, as it was also used alongside the franc as currency in Andorra, owing to its lack of a national currency possessing any sort of legal tender.

After the abolishment of the gold standard, the gold peseta ceased to be minted, only to be later replaced by silver versions, until these too were superseded by banknotes until it was altogether abolished in 2002. While the production of gold coins ceased after the fall of the Latin Monetary Union, one remarkable gold peseta was minted in 1989 – the 80, 000 peseta coin.[3] Featuring the busts of Juan Carlos I and his queen Sofia facing each other on the obverse, and Ferdinand II and Isabella I with a similar pose, the coin possesses an extremely high denomination. The existence of the coin is puzzling for many collectors as it was only made in limited batches and not much information can be gleaned about its purpose or existence (although it could have been made as a commemorative bullion coin, despite its having a face value and it being legal tender). Made from .999% fine gold and weighing a staggering 27 grams, measuring 38 mm in diameter, it is a truly remarkable coin – among the last gold pesetas to be minted after the abolishment of the gold standard. Nowadays, pesetas remain highly collectible coins for both bullion investors and numismatists alike.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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