Here's an article from a San Antonio newspaper interviewing a man who unearthed some 1817 Jolas and recently sold one. These are rare and important coins, and if you ask me, the buyer got a bargain.
Nearly 50 years after unearthing artifacts near the Rio Grande, a North Texas collector has sold a rare 1817 Spanish coin produced in San Antonio for $52,875.
The tiny Spanish jola, used by citizens of New Spain, is a precious remnant of the period after much of San Antonio's population was wiped out, and the first Texas republic crushed by Spanish royalists, in the 1813 Battle of Medina. The coin was made four years before Mexico seized independence from Spain, and 19 years before Texas won independence from Mexico.
“San Antonio was on the frontier, and the people were as poor as church mice. There was a lot of bartering, but they needed a way to make small change,” said Bob Shelton, a 72-year-old retired jeweler in McKinney who has hunted for artifacts since he was 15.
Lately, Shelton has been recounting the story of the Spanish coins minted in San Antonio. Manuel Pardo, acting governor of New Spain, chose a local merchant, Manuel Barrera, to make copper jolas, worth 61/4 cents — half a real.
“Barrera probably found out it was not an easy job,” Shelton said.
The process was primitive, using a steel die, or mold, to strike an imprint on the blank copper planchet with a hammer. The dies wore out quickly, Shelton said.
In December 1818, Pardo's successor, Antonio María Martínez, the last Spanish governor of Texas, recalled the Barrera coins, which were replaced by an 1818 series. The jolas are the only Spanish coins known to have been made in what now is the United States.
About a year ago, Shelton met a collector who had a similar coin and had learned of its origin. Through Heritage Auctions, which sold Shelton's jola to an anonymous buyer in a Philadelphia auction on Aug. 5, he had the coins certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service. Hong's jola sold the same day for $25,000.
Shelton said his last 1817 jola will be sold at an Oct. 18-21 auction held by Heritage in Dallas. It is one of about 10 known to be in existence, compared with about 80 from 1818, he said. Dozens of them were found by the San Antonio River in a 1959 city excavation.
There are still mysteries that surround the 1817 coins, including the reason they were recalled, and the symbolism of a six-pointed star or flower on the back. But Hong said they're important relics from a time when the winds of revolution were blowing.
“That's a good bit of history for San Antonio,” Hong said.
To read the complete article, see:
Coin minted in 1817 in S.A. sells for $52,875
Wayne Homren, Editor
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