Maria A. P. Woolson

                           EMILIO PAOLETTI   &   MARIA ALESSANDRA WOOLSON  
                     Buenos Aires  -   2013


Numismatics, or the study and collection of coins and medals, is a discipline with a broad capacity to represent a historic testimony of commercial exchanges and transactions among social groups. These exchanges and interactions have a relevance that extends beyond the economic history of a group of people as they represent the fundamental story of what happens between human beings, and reveal their unequal negotiating ability in their desire to maximize their own well being.   

This book, as did its predecessor 8 Reales Cobs of Potosi (2006), maintains a treatment and study of these coins not only as pieces described in detail from the perspective of the collector, but also as artifacts of historic value that engage “the socioeconomic and political context of the times” (9). Similarly, the descriptions for the majority of coins included is circumscribed to the silver cobs of 8 Reales, given that its limited monetary circulation has enabled their excellent preservation over time. The fundamental role these cobs of 8 Reales played within the monetary system of Spanish America should also be noted; these coins were adopted as a means to “effectuate remittances to Europe and payments of large transactions” (277) and as a form of refuge to accumulate wealth. This study also represents the results of more recent research about Potosi’s silver coinage that describes and illustrates the majority of cases in which the assayers’ initials were re-engraved during the operating years of the Potosi Mint, and includes an account of the essential changes in coin design that developed over their 200-year production.        

During those 200 years of production, few assayers minted coins, avoiding reuse of the dies from previous assayers. As a result, a close examination of those cases that could otherwise be seen as anomalies is important. For example, the combination of assayers’ initials Z (for Pedro Zambrano) over initial V (for Jerónimo Velásquez) does not exists because it probably never happened, given that the latter assayer’s trial and execution incriminated all dies bearing his initials. Similarly, the creation of a completely new design in 1652 represents a period of transition that illustrates the response to new administrative dispositions from the crown seeking to control cob production and to a mercantile repositioning of the colonial coinage. In addition, it is possible that other specific cases, where the absence of pieces could be misinterpreted as a lack of re-engraving practices, may exist. Indeed, there are technical aspects in the study of these cobs that often render the task difficult and  can lead to misinterpretation. For example, there are pieces that were minted during periods of poor engraving practices and as a result their designs are of difficult visualization. Moreover, gaps of information are often not verifiable due to the precarious documentation available today, most of which originates in chronicles and narrative accounts. An example of the latter is the case of monogram TR-FR-TFR. 

This book should therefore be approached as a basis from which to expand the study of the re-engraving practice of one assayer’s initial over a predecessor's, on hand-made cobs, and hopes to encourage a continued search for new evidence on the topic, whether it be generated from the numismatic interest of collectors or from the broader disciplinary social sciences framework.

To conclude, I would like to thank Emilio Paoletti for the opportunity to collaborate with him on this project and for his long-standing interest and dedication to numismatic research from Potosi and the Viceroyalty of Peru, who generously facilitated a photographic reproduction of pieces from his private collection.

María Alessandra Woolson


I would like to thank all who have supported this project, in particular to the people whose research and publications have reaffirmed the present study. Among them I would like to especially mention Mr. Roberto Mastalir for his valuable advise and suggestions, as well as the support Richard Ponteiro, Dan Sedwick, Héctor Carlos Janson, Juan Cayón and María Teresa Sisó de Aureo & Calicó.

In addition to new research contributions by Maria Alessandra Woolson, this publication is founded on the book  “8 Reales Cobs of Potosí”, written and published in the past decade. Finally I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Argentine Numismatic Society who made this study and publication possible.

                                                                                                                         Emilio Paoletti
Quiero agradecer a todas las peronas que apoyaron este proyecto y en particular a aquellas cuyas investigaciones y publicaciones permitieron la reafirmación del presente estudio. Entre ellas, deseo destacar al Sr. Roberto Mastalir a quien agradezco especialmente sus valiosos consejos y el apoyo de Richard Ponteiro, Dan Sedwick, Héctor Carlos Janson, Juan Cayón y María Teresa Sisó de Aureo & Calicó.

Junto a nuevas investigaciones aportadas por Maria Alessandra Woolson, esta publicación se apoya en lo ya publicado con el texto de “8 Reales Cobs of Potosí”, libro escrito en la década pasada.  Por último, un sincero agradeciemineto se destina a la Academia Argentina de Numismática que avaló la realización de este estudio y la publicación de este volumen.

                                                                                                                         Emilio Paoletti