Minted in the Spanish colonies from the mid-1500s through the late1700s, these coins were cut from a bar (ingot) of gold and then were clipped to the proper weight (1, 2, 4 or 8 escudos.) As they were hand-hammered in a haphazard fashion, the legend (lettering around the periphery) is rarely legible and they are usually an odd shape, making each coin unique.
The Jerusalem cross is found on one side of all coins, signifying the unity of Church and State. Within the cross, there are two castles and two lions in opposing corners symbolizing Spain’s emergence as a nation following the unification of its earliest kingdoms, Castile (castle) and Leon (lion.) On the coin’s reverse, there is either a shield or a set of pillars and waves.
The Shield Variety
Depicted, is the shield of the reigning monarch. It is a basic version of the Hapsburg shield. The mint mark and assayer’s initials are usually to the left of the shield and the denomination to the right. The date is found at the 11 0’clock positions.
The Pillars and Waves Variety
These coins have somewhat of a tic-tac-toe pattern in which The Pillars of Hercules (the legendary genuine and authentic. entrance to the Mediterranean) stand in the center; the ocean waves are at the bottom of the coin.
Across the center is the motto Plus Ultra (Latin for “more beyond”) signifying that the Spanish empire extended well beyond the Pillars of Hercules. In the upper left and lower right corner is the mint mark; the lower left and upper right have the assayer’s initial The denomination is found at the top center; the date in the bottom center. Dates are of 2 or 3 digits.