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Spanish 4 Reales Cob

This silver coin doesn’t have much eye appeal but it’s certainly unusual as an English detecting find. The flan is irregular, has an edge split and is weak and/or flat in places but enough detail shows up for me to identify it. The coin was found by Phil Thomson, who described it as a Spanish 8 reales piece. However, when I inquired about the weight he said it tipped the scales at 13 grams, so the denomination is 4 reales.


Coins like this one are known as cobs. The name derives from caba de barra, which translates from Spanish as ‘end of the bar’. This means that pieces were chopped from the end of silver bars. Whilst some silver discs might have been produced in this manner, others, including this one, were made from irregularly-shaped pieces of silver.

Spain ruled over several countries in South America and many of them produced cob currency. These coins, together with other precious gold and silver items, were then shipped back to Spain. However, many ships were sunk during storms shorty after setting sail into the Atlantic. Others were captured by pirates before they reached Spain

The cob series is huge and includes different rulers, types and mints. They are often badly struck and this can make them very difficult to pin down. This cob has on the obverse a very complicated shield of arms and on the reverse the quartered arms of Castile and Leon.

Phil’s coin

Rather than it being struck in one of the Spanish colonies in the New World, Phil’s example was made in mainland Spain. To the right of the shield is IIII, indicating the face value of 4 reales. To the left of the shield is S over R, the S being for the mint (Seville) and R is the initial of the assayer responsible for the grade of silver. I traced what appeared to be an example of the same coin, which was struck for Philip IV of Spain (1621-65) in 1636. There will have been a date on Phil’s coin but it doesn’t show up


The condition of this find leaves much to be desired. On the plus side I’ve seen far worse Spanish cobs and this one has an interesting story behind it. If I was cataloguing it for sale at auction I would place upon it a pre-sale estimate of £80 – £100 and would feel confident that it would attract a buyer.

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