The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 21, Number 37, September 16, 2018, Article 28


Raúl Olazar submitted this article on the first gold coin of Paraguay, translated to English by Juan Cálcena. Thank you both! -Editor

Most Paraguayans have the erroneous belief that there were tons of gold coins in the Triple Alliance War, also known as The Great War (Paraguay against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay from 1864 until 1870). Although most of the population had then robust belongings, the goal of this article is to demystify that there were — or perhaps still are — large amounts of gold coins buried somewhere beneath the Paraguayan lands. This sort of legend is locally known as Plata Yvyguy, which translates from the Guaraní language to “buried money”.

Another goal is to recognize, from previous researches, that the citizens, in some cases, buried their belongings and these were some precious metals or copper coins hoping that at the end of the war they could find them again. Silver or gold coins from other countries were also buried, but not in large quantities, because those were the main currencies back at the time.

Paraguay has modern numismatic items such as commemorative gold coins issued by the Central Bank of Paraguay under various circumstances and on different topics. But these were issued a long time after the Triple Alliance war ended.

Numismatics is not something to which most collectors practice in Paraguay. Most of the information is still hard to find when it comes to research certain currencies. Amongst them, for example, the first national gold coin a Paraguayan gold doubloon or four strong pesos. Many mysteries still surround the first gold coin minted during the Francisco Solano López government (1862-1870) as for example the produced quantity of these coins.

Thanks to the research of several numismatists both foreigners and Paraguayans there are some very good references about this coin that came to be called only a design.

During the Triple Alliance war, the Asunción’s high-class mistresses gathered on February 24, 1867 and reached an agreement, which consisted on gifting their jewels and jewelry in order to help to pay the costs of war. President Francisco S. Lopez accepted this offer. From the Paso Pucú barracks, a Paraguayan defense area, he ordered that the twentieth part of the donation to be used for the coinage of the first currency of Paraguayan gold coin, according to a decree signed on September 11, 1867. Research has shown that just a few coins were made and therefore would only have circulated among relatives or close friends of Lopez.

Two designs of different assayers are known from this coin: one of them was the French Luis Carlos Bouvet and the other Leonardo Charles. Research indicated that only the Bouvet design had been issued because there was more than one copy. Charles’s design has only one coin and was property of Enrique Solano López, son of Francisco S. López. Its whereabouts is nowadays unknown.

Professor Juan B. Rivarola Paoli sentenced that these coins are just a pattern and can’t be called a massive produced Paraguayan gold coin.

In 1854 and 1855 Mr. Bouvet designed some coins for the Paraguayan state. In one of those coins, in the obverse, there was an Astraea figure and in her left hand there was a sword and a scale balancing. On the other hand, there was a laurel leave. She is seen in the middle of a palm and olive leaves. The date, of 1855. The reverse bears the legend REPUBLIC OF PARAGUAY; the Paraguayan heraldic lion with a Phrygian cap and the pike flanked by the inscription PEACE AND JUSTICE and in exergue, the value of 4 PESOS FTES

1855 Paraguay 4 pesos reverse 1855 Paraguay 4 pesos obverse

Within the donation of jewels, it is mentioned that an inventory of jewels and women jewels was ordered, in which the mistresses had to declare their holdings in precious metal and rhinestones.

It is presumed that there were few women who contributed to the donation because it was voluntary. Even so, it’s still unknows to this day why the Government only accepted 5% of the amount stated in this inventory. President Francisco S. Lopez had answered a letter published in the Semanario (a newspaper) in September 1867, that the national income was enough for the expenses of the State and the budget for the war and that, consequently, only one twentieth of that generous offer was accepted to mint the first paraguayan gold coin, which would not be given to circulation but would serve to commemorate the female detachment from wealth in time of war.

On the Charles design the only available information is the that it belonged to the Lopez collection, said the Argentine Enrique Peña, who mentioned that Don Enrique S. Lopez had shown him the aforementioned design.

REVERSE: The legend REPUBLIC OF PARAGUAY. In the center, a lion sitting and facing the right side. Behind him, the radiant Phrygian hat and at the top, the phrase PEACE AND JUSTICE and in the lower side, the value of 4 strong pesos.

1867 Paraguay 4 pesos Bouver design reverse 1867 Paraguay 4 pesos Bouver design obverse
BOUVET design

OBVERSE: An Astraea figure and in her left hand a sword and a scale balancing. On the other hand, a laurel leave. She is seen in the middle of a palm and olive leaves. The date, of 1867.

REVERSE: In the upper part, the legend REPÚBLICA DEL PARAGUAY and in the lower part, the phrase THE VALUE OF FOUR STRONG. The Lion seated with the Phrygian cap behind and in the upper part PEACE AND JUSTICE in the lower one the year of minting and / or issue 1867, the engraver's signature was also seen on the front.

1867 Paraguay 4 pesos Charles design reverse 1867 Paraguay 4 pesos Charles design obverse.jpg
CHARLES design

REVERSE: The legend TO PREVAIL OR DIE at the top, at the bottom, the palm and the olive tree, in the center, a five-pointed star on top of a shield that shows a lion fighting against the emblems of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Was a gold coin with a 22 mm module.

Only one specimen of the first coin is known to Paraguayans. This is presumably kept in the Museum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Still very little is known about it. Mr. Miguel Ángel Pratt Mayans, a numismatic expert, mentioned about the existence of at least five gold coins with the Bouvet design.

With the press acquired by Mr. Juan A. Gelly in the naval arsenals of Rio de Janeiro during the Government of Don Carlos Antonio López, the first coins of national stamp were minted. This work was carried out using the same dies used in England. Also, several tests were stamped using the same press: the currency of 1867 and several decorations or military awards.

General Francisco S. López went to Europe to several countries from June 1953 to January 1855 as a plenipotentiary ambassador. He went there to interact, hire technicians, acquire weapons and other issues. He also had the concern of hiring Mr. Bouvet and entrust him to make coins. According to William WF Cristensen, he “was the very competent maker of the House of Coins of France”.

With the designs that were brought from Europe and Asuncion, several tests were made in gold, silver, copper and in some other metals dated in 1854, 55, 64, 66, 76, 68 and 1869. In addition, several foreign currencies were reasealed with a small Paraguayan shield (the well-known lion).

1858 Paraguay design 1854 Paraguay design

The first image obtained of the Charles coin of the first gold coin of Paraguay was thanks to the Professor Mr. José María Conde, president of the Argentine Numismatic Association who had presented the image to Mr. Carlos P. Scala.

All the tests carried out at that time were given to the General who at that time was Francisco S. López. He kept them until he died. In the year 1863 Francisco S. Lopez acquired a thousand coins from Montevideo, all already classified with an important collection of minerals, with their respective furniture and settled in the Old House of the Governors that was located in front of the former Military College.

At the end of 1864 the Great War broke out and everything disappeared, only the designs that the Marshal kept jealously among his belongings were saved. Francisco dead, everything was given to his eldest, Enrique S. López, who at some point needed and sold everything given the situation in which he and his brothers were. So, he transferred that collection of designs to Buenos Aires, part to Mr. Manuel Ricardo Zemborian and part to Dr. Andres Lamas.

In November 1905, by judicial order, all the money and the files of Mr. Lamas were auctioned. A catalog was printed and in it there were several hundred objects, currencies and documents belonging to Enrique S. Lopez. These were acquired at the auction by Enrique Peña and José Marco Del Pont.

The collection was again auctioned in April 24th and 27th, 1972. The auctioneers were the Bulrich of Buenos Aires and the liquidator was Mr. Ferrari, who in payment of his fees chose several coins, including Paraguayan designs and military awards that also belonged to the collection of the Marshal. These were bought by the Fragnoli brothers in Buenos Aires.

When Dr. Ferrari died, the descendants sold part of their collection and four of the important rare designs from Francisco Solano López were bought by Mr. Alejandro Portaluppi and were preserved in his collection.

At some point, these Paraguayan coins were acquired by a Paraguayan so they could return to their country.

Due to all the work done at the time by the Marshal Francisco Solano López in terms of coinage, designs, preparation of stamps, delivery and making of prizes and decorations of war he is known as the FIRST PARAGUAYAN NUMISMATIST.

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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