Mexican coins have a long history. The country has been a major source of silver and gold since the days of the first Spanish conquerors. The first coins were minted in 1536 in direct imitation of Spanish models. Early coins were hammered into shape and featured portraits of Spanish kings and queens along with coats of arms and religious and other symbols. The Republic of Mexico continued to use traditional Spanish denominations even after independence in the early 19th century. Later issues feature patriotic emblems and heroes of the fight for independence and the revolution of the 1900s. Mexican coin prices vary according to rarity, condition and collector demand.
The Viceroyalty of New Spain issued coins using local metals. The coins featured an "M" to denote their Mexican origin. In the 18th century, a steering-wheel press allowed fine coins to be made in great quantities. Many were works of art, such as the "coins of worlds and seas" that featured images of ocean waves lapping the base of two hemispheres topped by a crown. The coins graphically recalled the might and extent of the Spanish empire. Since 1823, Mexican coins always have borne the emblem of Mexico on the front, or obverse, side: an eagle on a cactus clutching a snake in its beak withi the words "Republicana Mexicana" beside or below the emblem.
Mexican coins can be found in a variety of denominations. The earliest were exactly the same weight as the contemporary Spanish currency known as the castellano. In the 1700s and for about a half century after independence, Mexico employed a fractional currency of escudos and reales. Sixteen reales equaled one escudo, and both reales and escudos were divided into amounts as small as 1/16. Currency became decimal in 1863. Silver and gold pesos consisted of 100 centavos. Pieces range from 1 peso, through two, two-and-a-half and five pesos, up to 5,000 pesos.
Many of Mexico's coins feature detailed images of Mexico's history and rulers. The Mexican national emblem is exquisitely captured in gold, silver or base metal. The eagle is shown either in profile or full face. Coins of the Republic have also featured a liberty cap and portraits of patriots such as Jose Maria Morelos and Benito Juarez. Coins showing the scales of justice celebrated the fall of Maximilian, the Austrian emperor, in 1867 and were standard issues until 1905. In the early 1900s, a particularly elaborate design, the peso del caballito, showed a triumphant figure on horseback. The one-peso coin celebrated Mexico's independence.
Collectors of Mexican coins are often entering into an unfamiliar marketplace. Serious buyers and sellers should learn where individual issues were made, and of what materials. The metal content of Mexican coins was changed many times during the course of the 20th century. Debasement of coins led to considerable fluctuation in value. Coins that look similar may be worth totally different amounts. A small number of written resources can aid the collector. "Resplandores" by Mike Dunigan and J.B. Parker, "Hookneck" by Clyde Hubbard and Dave O'Harrow, and Richard Long's "Gold Coins of the Early Mexican Republic: 1823-1873" can all provide useful background information and details about rare issues. For example, "hookneck" refers to a style of eagle on certain 19th century coins.
Always discuss potential sales before sending coins to online dealers. Describe your coins as precisely as possible, noting any mint marks and dates. Pay attention to coin condition. Mint condition is best, though very old coins often are worn down. As the bullion content of Mexican coins changed frequently and dramatically, buyers and sellers should also track current commodities prices. Collectors should distinguish mostly gold or silver issues from those that contain large amounts of base metal. Old coins will almost always be worth more than their pure bullion value.
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