New World Silver

Christopher Columbusís voyage to Central America in 1493 was immediately followed by Pope Alexander VIís division of the Americas between Spain and Portugal. By 1541 the conquest of South America was complete. Gold taken from the pre-Columbian peoples was melted down and made into coins. For nearly three centuries the mines of South America, such as the famous Potosi silver mountain in Central Bolivia discovered in 1545, supplied Europe and the Far East with large quantities of gold and silver. Up to the eighteenth century, the precious metals were often minted into crude Ďcobí coins near the mines, as an easy way to ship the bullion elsewhere. Spanish-American silver was to have a vast influence in India and the Far East.

Silver 'cob' of 8-reales, obverseSilver 'cob' of 8-reales, reverse
Silver 'cob' of 8-reales, Bolivia
Ferdinand VI of Spain (1746-1759)
© Fitzwilliam Museum

English and Dutch Trade Coins

New World Silver in the Far East


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Department of Coins and Medals, © Fitzwilliam Museum.