When Napoleon in 1808 took over the rights to the Spanish crown and confined Ferdinand VII a prisoner at Bayonne, the results and consequences of this action were of far-reaching import. This usurpation on the part of Napoleon caused intense feeling in the Spanish possessions in the New World, and a struggle soon arose between the supporters of the monarchy and the adherents of freedom. Standards of revolt and of independence were set up by different leaders in various parts of South America and Mexico, meeting with changing fortunes for about ten years. Gradually the different political divisions won their freedom and established themselves as Republics.
The coinage of Spanish America for the second and third decades of the Nineteenth Century is indicative of the stirring events and changes of this period. The topic under discussion, however, is with a series of two-real pieces issued at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in 1823, during the last months of Mexican domination under Iturbide or Augustin, and the transitional period after his downfall. The series is remarkable on account of the variety of designs and combinations of dies bearing the date 1823. The issues seem to have begun and ended within that year.
In an article written in 1888 by José Esteban Lazo entitled Historia de la Moneda en Honduras, no mention is made at all of this 1823 issue. As the account goes much into detail concerning other periods of the coinage, it seems probable that examples of this coinage are no longer found in Honduras, and that no records are now extant. Repeated inquiries have borne no fruit. Señor Lazo, however, mentions a coinage at Tegucigalpa in 1822, but coins bearing this date are apparently unknown. It is possible that these have disappeared completely, or were direct copies of other coins and cannot now be distinguished.
The following translation of an account of this coinage by Señor Lazo is of interest:
"In the year 1822 Don Juan Lindo, a member of the Mexican Cortes, brought from Mexico to Tegucigalpa a die to 'coin' reals and half-reals in cut money. The minting took place in the building of the Convent of San Francisco, but there were many falsifications, and it was resolved to give up the minting for this reason. There are no facts in regard
to the number struck."
With the exception of some proclamation pieces struck by Augustin of Mexico in Guatemala, Chiapas and Quezaltenango in 1822, the above coins constitute the only issues in Central America of this revolutionary period.
The regular coinages of the Republic of Central America began at Guatemala in 1824, and coins of the same design, the common type with sun,mountains and tree, were struck in Honduras in 1830. These had the mint mark T, for Tegucigalpa. Costa Rica adopted this design in 1831. In the meantime, similar pieces were inaugurated in Nicaragua in 1825. Salvador had a provisional coinage from 1828 to 1835.
For a better understanding of this coinage of 1823, a brief word regarding the history leading up to this period is necessary.
On the whole, Central America remained loyal to Ferdinand and the Junta Suprema during the time the greater part of Spanish America was in revolt. Although feeling ran high and opposing parties were formed, no real rupture occurred until 1821. Especially was this true as long as Ferdinand remained in the power of Napoleon. On his release in 1814, he aroused much antagonism by a manifesto setting aside the constitution. This, under compulsion, he restored in 1820, but conciliatory actions on the part of Spain were too late. Revolutions in Mexico, for a time suppressed, were breaking out again under Iturbide. On February 24, 1821, the Plan of Iguala was formulated, when Guerrero and the Spanish Viceroy O'Donaju joined with Iturbide and proposed an independent monarchy with a ruler from the Spanish Royal Family. Chiapas in the Captain-Generalcy of Guatemala was the first to break away and link itself with Mexico. Independence was proclaimed Guatemala on September 15, 1821, when was decreed that representatives should chosen for a National Congress of Central America.
The officials at Comayagua, in Honduras, took an oath to support the Plan of Iguala, which meant a virtual submission to the Mexican Empire. The Partidos of Tegucigalpa and Gracias, and the ports of Omoa and Trujillo, would not agree to this and maintained relations with the Guatemala Assembly, to which they sent representatives. Independence from Spain was declared on October 16, 1821.
The idea of a union with Mexico became every day more popular. Iturbide had grandiose ideas of Imperial sway and was determined on the acquisition of the whole of Central America. On January 5, 1822, the Junta by decree made the whole of the country a part of the Empire of Mexico. Salvador and certain sections of Honduras still held out.
On the overthrow of Iturbide in March, 1823, Central America became autonomous, A Resolution was adopted on March 29. 1823, which called together a Congress of all the provinces to carry out the Act of September 15, 1821, which had been annulled by the fifteen months' incorporation of the country with Mexico. Various steps were then taken to enter into a union with the other provinces to constitute an independent Central American nation. Congress assembled on June 24, 1823, and an Ordinance of Independence was adopted on July 1, and ratified on October 1, of this eventful year.
The series of coins under discussion were crudely executed and were struck in base silver. At least nine distinct dies were used producing eight combinations. This in itself is unusual, especially if the pieces were struck within the year 1823. The dies were undoubtedly made within that year, and all the coins were most likely struck before 1824. No great number could have been issued, judging by their extreme rarity. It is a remarkable fact that these coins are all of the denomination of two-reals.
The sequence of the dies, with the exception of No. 1, is difficult to determine exactly. The coins themselves with their several die-combinations are even more complicated when assigning their proper order. The present arrangement is consequently merely tentative. The initials on the pieces may give a clue if the precedent of the South American mints is followed which placed the initials of the mint officials on the coins.
In the Tegucigalpa series are found two sets of letters—M. P. and L. A. It can be safely said that the coin bearing the head of Augustin (No. 1) was the initial coinage, as it must have been struck before the downfall of the Emperor in March. This piece bears the letters M. P. The other dies bearing the same letters should follow; then the coins with the initials L. A. showing a change of mint personnel. The L. A. coins are combined with the M. P. initials on the other side, but this might be explained by the fact that the earlier dies were used in conjunction with those newly cut. The practice apparently was to use indiscriminately any pair of dies on hand for the sake of economy.
This consideration of the letters M. P. as initials of mint officials might be challenged. They might possibly stand for the abbreviation of Moneda Provisional. On coins Nos. 4 to 7 the inscriptions read M. TEGVSIGALPA and M. PROVISIONAL. In these instances the M undoubtedly stands for Moneda. It would seem extremely doubtful that the letters M. P., Nos. 1, 2 or 3, can be anything else than the initials of mint officials. Certainly No. 1 cannot be considered a provisional issue; and the transposai of the letters on the reverse of No. 2 would militate against such a theory.
Medina considers the initials L. A. stand for Año Libertad in his description of No. 6. He has undoubtedly mis-read the inscription, placing a second 3 after the date, interpreting it as the third year of liberty. There is no second 3 on the coin.
Again, if the legend be read Año Libertad the letters would be A. L. instead of L. A. as they appear on Nos. 7 and 8.
1. Obv. Crudely executed head of Augustin to left, ENPER (sic) · AGVSTIN · 1823.
Rev. Crowned Mexican eagle on cactus.
M.P.— 2 R.
Base silver. 22 mm. Plate I
American Numismatic Society. Inedited.
There is no indication of the minting place on this piece, but the mint is clearly established by Nos. 6 and 8 which have the same reverse die used in conjunction with dies inscribed TEGUSIGALPA.
2. Obv. Castles and lions within the compartments of a cross, enclosed within four sets of double semi-circles; at sides, M—P around, PLVSVLTRA; the rest of the circle filled with a rope pattern.
Rev. Pillars of Hercules above two wavy lines. In three lines divided by two horizontal lines, P-2-M | LV-SVL-TR | T-823-G. Good silver. 26 mm. Plate I
American Numismatic Society. Inedited.
Although this piece has many of the characteristics of the Caracas issues of 1817-18211, the workmanship is considerably different. It can also be compared with the extensive series of one-real and two-real pieces which were struck on thin and thick planchets, and noted chiefly for the many impossible dates they bear.2 The piece is included here particularly on account of the letters M.P. The trans-ppsal of the M.P. to P.M. on the reverse is in accordance with the customs of the Lima and Potosi mints. It is suggested that the T G is an abbreviation of Tegucigalpa.
3. Obv. Castles and lions within the four compartments of a cross enclosed within four sets of double semi-circles; around, 2 R. M. P.
Rev. Same die as reverse of No. 1.
Appleton Sale, New York, 1913, lot 1371.
Campaner y Fuertes in Memorial Numismatico Español, indicates this combination in the illustrations on Plate VIII by a line connecting the two obverses of Nos. 4 and 6 of this article. Again, we have a coin with no mint indication.
4. Obv. Crowned arms of Spain between the Pillars of Hercules. Around, 2 R·M·
TEG VSIGAL PA L—A 1823·
Rev. Same as obverse of No. 3.
Base silver. 24 mm. Plate I
Ulex Sale, Frankfort, 1908, lot 2202 (illustrated), Medina, No. 253; Campaner y Fuertes, p. 256, No. 18; pl. viii, 9; Maillet, pl. cix, 1.
The drawing of the coin on Campaner's plate, while agreeing in every other way with the piece here illustrated, divides the word TEGV-SIGAL-PA. Maillet's drawing, evidently copied, is consequently the same.
This is the first instance of the name Tegucigalpa as well as the letters L A on the coins.
The Royal Arms on this coin may have significance as indicating that this piece was struck by the Spanish party; but the fact that the name of Ferdinand is not on the coin lessens somewhat such a supposition.
5. Obv. Same as the obverse of no. 4.
Rev. Similar to the reverse of no. 4, but single semi-circles instead of double.
Base silver. 25 mm. Plate II
Am. Num. Soc.; Vidal Quadras No. 10963, pl. 79-8.
6. Obv. Same as obverse of No. 4.
Rev. Same as reverse of No. 1.
Campaner y Fuertes, Pl. viii, 10; Medina, No. 252; Maillet, Pl. cix, 2.
7. Obv. Crowned arms of Spain between the Pillars of Hercules. Around, + 2 R·M· PROVISIONAL·
Rev. Lions and castles within arms of cross enclosed within semi-circles. Around, TEGVSIGALPA L·A 1823
26 mm. Plate II
Vidal Quadras, No. 10962, pl. 79-7; Medina, No. 254; Fonrobert Sale, Berlin, 1878. Lot 7459.
This is the only instance where the word Provisional appears, the M in this case is for Moneda.
Obv. Same as the reverse of No. 7.
Rev. Same as the reverse of No. 1.
Good silver. 24 mm. Plate II
Am. Num. Soc.; British Museum; Jenks Sale, Philadelphia, 1921, lot 7112; Ulex Sale, lot 2203 (?).
The specimen described in the Ulex Sale answers the description of this piece but is given as without date. It may have been obliterated.
Silver reals, two-reals and four-reals from 1817-1821. Although a number of minor varieties occur, the pieces answer to the following description:
Obv. Lions and castles within the compartments of a cross enclosed within four scalloped semi-circles; at sides F—7, above and below 1, 2 or 4, according to the value.
Rev. The Pillars of Hercules, inscription between three horizontal lines, 1, 2 or 4 | PLV-SVL-TRA | B.-1817-S.; below, CARACAS, beneath which three or four wavy lines.
These pieces have never been accurately assigned. They fall into two classes, on account of style and thickness. It has been suggested that most of the thicker coins, because of the general similarity to certain pieces struck at Rioja, Argentina, in 1822, belong to that locality.
The thinner series resembles so closely the style and fabric of the Caracas pieces that the customary assigning of them to Venezuela is doubtless correct. They were most certainly struck during the Revolutionary period in the second and third decades of the Nineteenth Century. The initials are invariably M—L, L—M. The most interesting feature, however, is the dates. Some of those noted are as follows: 23, 24, 25, 111, 142, 149, 172, 174, 181, 182, 184, 186, 471, 721, 736, 751, 752, 777, 781, 784, 800, 814, 822, 823, 931, 1816 and 1817.