Madrid, Spain, gold experimental "Ingenio de la Tijera" 4 escudos, 1591, assayer C, extremely rare,

Currency:USD Category:Coins & Paper Money / Cobs - Gold Start Price:30,000.00 USD Estimated At:50,000.00 - 100,000.00 USD
Madrid, Spain, gold experimental  Ingenio de la Tijera  4 escudos, 1591, assayer C, extremely rare,
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Madrid, Spain, gold experimental "Ingenio de la Tijera" 4 escudos, 1591, assayer C, extremely rare, NGC MS 64, finest known in NGC census. Cal-882; Fr-159. 13.46 grams. see separate writeup Please use this link to verify the certification number

One of Philip II's many reforms in the 1500s was to move the Spanish Court from its traditional royal seat in Toledo to the city of Madrid, where it remains today. That included creating a new mint in Madrid where none had existed before. Naturally, Philip was eager to start minting coins there, but only if they could be made of superior quality. Perfect, machine-struck coinage was already being struck at the Segovia mint starting in 1586 using what was known as “Real Ingenio" (“royal machine”). In Madrid, however, the king opted for a different minting experiment known as "Ingenio de la Tijera" (“shearing machine”), which had been developed by the royal blacksmith and knifemaker Miguel de la Cerda, on recommendation by the Third Count of Chinchón, Diego Fernández de Cabrera y Bobadilla.

Miguel de la Cerda’s invention consisted of a special method of pouring silver or gold into perfectly round solid cylinders matching the diameter of the coin dies, with each planchet hand-cut from one end with special scissors, so that no further trimming or flattening was needed. This was meant to save time and resources, while producing attractive coins with full and even details, a far cry from what was eventually produced in earnest at the Madrid Mint starting in 1614. The experiment was first tried at the Segovia and Toledo Mints in 1589-91, but since Madrid was the preferred destination, silver and gold were brought from Toledo to Madrid to carry out the experiment there as well in 1591. Since there was no mint, the workshop of the famous but recently deceased sculptor, engraver and medallist for the king, Jacome Trezzo (also known as “Jacometrezo”) was chosen for the striking in Madrid. Ultimately, however, it was not possible to continue to strike the larger-denomination coins due to lower river current to run the water mills. The highest denomination—and rarest—was the 4 escudos, as it seems no 8 escudos were even attempted, although the silver 8 reales (Cal-660) is known, the only extant example of which hammered in March 2021 by Aureo & Calicó for about $21,500.

The Madrid 4 escudos of this type all bear a mintmark M for Madrid to the left of the shield and the initial C for assayer Melchor Rodríguez del Castillo to the right below the denomination o-IIII, with the date 1591 at the 11 o’clock position in the reverse-side legend. Only three are known, the present specimen being the highest graded and arguably the finest of the three. It shows incomparably fine inner details and nearly full legends (the 1591 date particularly bold), practically no doubling (just a little on the assayer-mark), and lovely luster throughout. As expected, the flan is almost perfectly round and extends beyond the outer border design in places.

For the next few years, de la Cerda was secretive about his invention, and little or nothing is recorded until a second experiment at the Seville Mint in 1597. The next year, 1598, de la Cerda died and passed the rights for his invention to his trustee, Dr. Baltasar Vellorino, who asserted that he was the one who had improved de la Cerda’s design to make 4’s and 8’s possible. Vellorino quickly pushed for a new agreement with King Philip II to implement the invention in his own name and receive 50 percent of the profits for twelve years; but the caveat was that invention would be used only at New World mints, starting with Mexico City. One month later, the King died and the crown passed to his son, Philip III.

The equipment was not shipped to Mexico until 1602, well into the reign of Philip III. Vellorino himself left for Mexico in 1603 and the machinery was all in place by the end of 1606, according to an early 1607 document. Back in Spain, a similar experiment by Segovia’s famous tallador Diego de Astor took place in 1610 at the Segovia Mint and in 1611 in Madrid (again at the studios of Jacome Trezzo). The experiment lost favor, however, and it was claimed in court that the new method was slower than promised and would effectively cause raw silver and gold to bypass Spain and go straight to Asia (Philippines, China and Japan) without benefit to mainland Spain. Researcher Jorge Proctor points out that these dates line up more or less with the first appearance of Mexican Royals (galanos), which were perfectly round and match what the new equipment would have produced (see lot 560 in this auction for an example). Apart from these galanos, there is no evidence this invention was ever fully implemented in the New World.

The “Ingenio de la Tijera” coins from Spain are therefore very important to the evolution of the long numismatic history of Spain and its American colonies. This opportunity to acquire what we believe is the finest example of the highest denomination from Madrid is unique and not to be missed.

For reference, two Spanish journal articles summarize and discuss the documentation:

“Dos experimentos acuñadores en Madrid: las pruebas de Miguel de la Cerda y Diego de Astor en las casas de Jacome Trezzo,” by Rosa Romero Molina, in issue 233 (July-December 1993) of NVMISMA (Sociedad Iberoamericana de Estudios Numismáticos)

“El Proyecto de implantación del Ingenio de la Tijera en las cecas de los Reinos de las Indias,” by Pedro Damián Cano Borrego, in issue 9 (2022) of Revista Numismática Hécate