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When was this coin minted?

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Yes, it is a trick question.


My question is about an 1808 dated 8 reales with the bust of Fernando VII and the mint mark of Potosí from the Spanish Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (modern day Bolivia). The answer lies in the tumultuous history of the period. Here's an illuminating discussion from a recent Heritage Auction catalog description:


This apparently anachronistic issue was due to the Royal Ordinance of April 10, 1808 which was sent to the mints of the Americas before Ferdinand VII surrendered his throne to Napoleon on May 9... and reads as follows: "regarding the fact that the coinage ought to be minted with my royal name and no other alteration, I have instructed that until the (new) master dies are received the coins shall be minted as until now with the bust and name of my august father and without variation of the date and that later some coins shall be minted from the new master die and my bust and name and the date of 1808 proving that I have reigned in it (in that year)". Naturally, this royal ordinance was originally intended to be only provisional and effective for 1808 since the new master dies were expected to be sent and received in that year. However, Napoleon's invasion of Spain meant that the new master dies would not be sent until 1811. In the interval 1808-1811, the various mints gave different interpretations to the aforementioned ordinance: some (as Guatemala, Potosi, Nuevo Reino and Popayan) kept minting with the previous bust of Charles IV while others (Mexico, Lima, Santiago) engraved local renditions of Ferdinand VII, thus creating the so call "imaginary bust" issues.


The previous text described an 1808 8 Reales of Fernando VII minted in Guatemala, but the key details apply to the issues of the Potosí mint, as well. This establishes that Fernando VII "proper bust" issues could not have been minted in 1808 due to the absence of dies with the official portrait. Calbeto includes this note in his 8 reales compendium, "1811 - Abril 7. Con oficio de esta fecha se remiten a las Casas de la Moneda de Popayan, Potosi, Lima y Santiago, los cuños para las moneda reales de a 8 y de a 2.", which confirms the date when dies were sent from Spain to the colonial mints.


The revolutionary forces of the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata (from Buenos Aires -- modern day Argentina) took control of much of Upper Peru, including Potosí in 1810 but were forced out of the region after losing the Battle of Huaqui in June of 1811. The earliest point when 1808 dated examples could have been issued would have been during the second half of 1811 after the royalists returned to power and after the "proper bust" master die was received from Spain. "Proper bust" issues are also known with 1809 and 1810 dates -- these were probably minted in 1811 or possibly 1812. However, no examples are thought to have been issued with 1811 and 1812 dates. Although production could have started in 1811, it would have been interrupted in 1812 due to revolutionary armies moving through the area once again. The next confirmed issues from Potosí are for the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata in 1813 after the mint once again fell under control of the revolutionaries but reverted to the Fernando bust, with the 1813 date, after royalists reasserted control.




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