Coins of Peru

Spanish Colonial Peru (ViceRoyalty of Lima, 1568 - 1824)

Early Independent Peru (1822 - 1881)

rev 12/25/19
Latin America Map
Peru Page 2
Back to Home

Colonial Peru 1568 - 1826

The mint of Lima was the first South American mint and began striking coins in 1568. The 1st Assayer: Alonso de Rincon struck all silver denominations (1/4 - 8 reales) from 1568 - 1570. Colonial coinage concluded for almost all denominations in 1824, however, some 2 reales were struck in 1826 before the final Spanish surrender on Jan 22nd, 1826.

Spanish King Charles III
8 Reales 1782, Lima mint
NGC ms-63 (uncirculated)

(Sedwick's Coin Auction)

Charles III.

Colonial Peru
8R, 1808,  almost uncirculated


Charles IV abdicated in favor of his son Ferdinand VII in 1808. Normally a transitional portrait would be used on the coinage: e.g. the portrait of the previous King with the titles of the new King, at least until the countries could discover what the King looked like. See the Mexico_1R_1809.html following for an example.

The Regency of Peru, however, decided to place a portrait of an obviously Peruvian Indian on their coinage with the title of Ferdinand VII. A different Peruvian Indian was used in 1809 & 1810.

Independent Peru

Coins were issued during the wars of Independence

Peru has a very diverse numismatic legacy. Possessing silver mines it was re-invaded by the Spanish after proclaiming independence and striking it's own coins. Early coinage, although beautiful (1826-28 series), was simplistic: inviting counterfeiting. During 1836-39 Peru was part of the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation. This permitted an infestation of low-silver content Bolivian coinage (moneda feble) to drive out all the good currency in Peru. Peru's southern mints were also attacked during wars depriving them of specie from which to make coinage.

Numismatically collectors avoid the coinage of Republican Peru. One prominant dealer told me that it's only collected as an adjunct by Colonial Collectors as "post-colonial pieces". Thus uncommon or rare Peruvian coins are not particularly desireable.

This page needs to be reorganized. I plan to split it into Peru, a section on the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation with South Peru, North Peru, and then returning to one Peru ca 1840.

To learn more here are a set of books: "The Coins of Independent Peru" by Horace P. Flatt, vols 1-6

1/8 Real  1823  restrike
(Karl Stephens, ca. Nov. 2004)

This copper coin (the size of a current US 1 cent) was officially restruck by the Peruvian Government on 1921 using original dies to celebrate the century of Independence.


8 Reals   1822
(photo from Goldberg's Auctions)

This is the first type of Peruvian Republican coins and is known as The Peso of San Martin.

The link to Goldberg's "Milennia Collection" which featured a number of amazing Peruvian {& other Latin American} coins is here. Millennia Auction

Note that the Goldberg's page is http and not https, so you may get a security warning.

8 Escudos  1826  Lima mint,
uncirculated, NGC-62
Heritage Auction, Aug 3rd 2017, lot 30424
probably ex-Eliasberg
photo by Heritage Auctions

The 1st gold coin of Independent Peru
   Finest known specimen.

I had a hard time viewing this coin as it was always out on inspection. Nobody at the auction firm could give me an eyes-on as they said the coin was 'out for inspection'. Finally, the day before the sale someone found it and called me with a description. In the end no one else ended up bidding on it, thus I got it at minimum which was abt the same as the Eliasberg (2005) price. No hairlines, no friction {wear}, however the planchlet on the reverse is a little rough as made. No laminations tho.

Listing of this coin at Wiki Coin Facts with photo.

Peruvian mint records are very sketchy around this time period and we don't have the actual number struck. There was also a gold 1/2 escudo struck in 1826 which is much much more common, even in ms. I believe this piece was struck before the smaller 1/2 escudos and then the left-over gold was used to strike the smaller coins. It wouldn't make much sense to strike the 1/2 escudos first and then hope one had enough gold left over for the 8 escudos.

8R  1826  Lima mint, 1st Standing Athene
choice uncirculated
(Don Canaparo, at the 2001 NYI)

I think there are 3 main types of the silver Peruvian Standing Athene coins with major varieties within each type.

The 1st, or Small Standing Athene was issued 1826 - 1828 for the Lima mint.

Note that the Standing Athene here has no hair as it is completely covered by her cap.

col 3 end 1826 LA


8R  1828  Lima mint, 2nd or Classical Standing Athene
uncirculated NGC-62
(Heritage, Jan 13, 2016 NYICS Auction lot# 34768)

This is the earliest of the 2nd or Classical type.

col 3 end 1828 LM


8R  1829  Cuzco mint, 1st Standing Athene frosty uncirculated
(James Elmen:
World-Wide Coin Auction, May 2009)

Although Lima discontinued the Early or Small Standing Athene in March 1828, replacing it with the larger Peruvian Standing Athene, Cuzco maintained the design for one more year.

Apparently the Cuzco engraver decided to embellish the design somewhat by giving the Athene hair which is plainly visable here. This trend of Cuzco & Lima having different designs continued well into the next type, the 2nd or Classical Athene.

This coin is apparently not from the Arequipa hoard as those pieces were obviously cleaned.

This coin is actually quite high grade but would probably slab only at the 63 level as the planchlet has numerous small flaws which the grading services detract for.


8 R 1833 2nd Standing Athene
I bought this at the New York International in 2000

The 2nd, or "Classical Standing Athene" appears to be the most common. Although mintage declined after 1828 (the 1st year of this sub-type) due to boiler explosion at the mint, it increased after 1830 with 1833 being the peak year [unfortunately].

col3 end 1833

Seal of the State of South Peru
Estados Sud Peruano

The State was declared on March 18th, 1836 when the 4 Southern Departments broke away and formed their own state.

South Peru, Arequipa mint
2 Reales 1838 NGC-62

A degree of South Peru was that all silver coins have a fineness of 10 dineros 20 granos. There were 12 dineros for pure silver, each dinero being divided into 24 granos. Hence these coins should be (10 + 20/24)/12 or .902778 pure silver by law. In practice the minor coins, such as this 4 reales & lower, were struck to 8 dineros fineness. This is 8/12 or .666 fine. These coins circulated without difficulty in Southern Peru although merchants began paying a premium of 30% for coins of full fineness (.9027). This caused the good silver coins to leave Peru.


South Peru, Cuzco mint
8 Reales 1838 NGC-63
Dan Sedwick Auction, Oct 26th, 2012

The crowns [8 reales] were always struck in the full legal fineness (at least in Peru). This piece is thus 10 dineros, 20 granos or .9027 fine silver.


Seal of the State of North Peru
Estados Sud Peruano

The State was declared on 11 August, 1836.
The Seal listed for the Republic of Northern Peru during the War of the Confederation appears to be the same as that of Peru. I doubt they are the same, so until wiki gets clarified, I'll omit it.

Republic of Northern Peru
8R, 1837,  uncirculated

(World Wide Coins auction, Dec 2003)

North Peru was broken away from the rest by Bolivar

Seal of Peru
drawn by Guillermo Romero of Peru, Wikipedia user id: Huhsunqu

The country was reunited in 1839.

8 Escudos 1840 Standing Liberty
uncirculated (NGC-62)
Goldberg's Millennium Auction, Los Angles, CA; May 26,2008, lot# 1192

A mirror like or proof like finish appears characteristic of all Cuzco gold.
Finally after much waiting I was able to obtain a nice mint state Athene Standing 8E at a very reasonable price.

The assayer's initial appears on the reverse: an "A" for Andres Pinto.

cmd to open link in a new window
Goldberg's Millenium Auction on Peru
Peru's early coinage depicted the Greek goddess Pallina Athena, patron goddess of wisdom, mathematics, strategy, heroic endeavor,& etc.

Gold 1 Escudo 1850
almost uncirculated
(Heritage auction:  2010)
(possibly ex Mortimer Hammel sale, 1982)
The 1850 1 escudo is unpriced in Krause as apparently it's rare. A high grade specimen appeared in Stack's Mortimer Hammel sale of 1982 but was unplated. After discussions with Stack's we were unable to find any other auction appearances so it's possible that this is the Hammel specimen. I also tried to buy the mint state 2 escudos immediately after this one (which I had seen previously at Eliasberg) but was unsuccessful.

Extremely well struck: also made at the Lima mint

Gold 2 Escudos 1854
pcgs-63 (uncirculated)
(Heritage Long Beach Auction:  Sept, 2011)
(ex Eliasberg sale, 2005)
Unlike earlier issues (? F.C.), the 1854 2 escudos is always softly struck as is the case here. Like most of the minor gold this issue was struck at Lima (M mintmark rev) instead of Cuzco. Cuzco was much more conviently located for shipping gold bullion to which is why the vast majority of larger gold coins were struck there. That the minors were struck at Lima is indicative that they were produced in small enough quantities that the difficulty of sending gold there did not matter. This coin has a straight (albeit irregular) reeded edge.

This is the third time I attempted to buy this same coin. The 1st time was when I saw it in person at the Eliasberg (Foreign coin) Auction put on by Stack's/ American Numismatic Rarities (i.e.Bowers & Merena) in 2005. I didn't bid seriously as I was mainly interested in the 8 escudos of Peru which went for ridiculous sums. The 2nd time was in Spring, 2010 where this coin appeared just after the gold 1850 1 Escudo but I was unsucessful despite a reasonably stiff bid. The coin reappeared the next year at Heritage's Long Beach sale and was the only lot I succeeded in getting out of the entire auction! I got it for exactly 75% of my 2010 bid. I guess the previous owner was getting tired of sitting on this Peruvian gold which frankly nobody else in the world, except for me, is interested in buying.

2 Reales 1856
uncirculated NGC-62
(Sedwick auction:  Oct. 2012, lot #1632)
(photo by Sedwick auctions)

This is the last year the Standing Athena design was struck for the 2 reales and almost the last year of the Standing Athena type (aside from a few patterns).

I am also seeking any silver specimens from the Southern mints of Cuzco, Pasco, and Arequipa.

col3 4R-1854

4 Reales 1854
choice uncirculated
(Heritage auction:  Jan. 2004)
This is another 2nd, or "Classical" Standing Maiden even though it was made quite late for the type, e.g. the 1850's. However this one has ornate drapery.

I am also seeking any silver specimens from the Southern mints (Cuzco, Pasco, Arequipa) to illustrate the diversity further.

col3 4R-1854

4 Escudos 1855 Lima MB
choice uncirculated
(Heritage Signature World Coin auction
Jan. 7th, 2008)
photo cortesy of Heritage Auctions

This is a very nice choice uncirculated 4 escudos from the Limae mint bought at a reasonable price. After I bought it, I discovered that it is the Krause plate coin as shown on page 473 of the Krause "Spain, Portugal, and the New World" Catalog

The Lima gold, even the 8 escudos, was struck with a frosty finish, not the P/L finish of Cuzco.

For some reason although Cuzco was the primary gold mint, all the 4 escudos, and virtually all of the minor gold (save for a brief issue of 1 escudos), were made at Lima.

I believe this was the last year the Athene design was issued in gold.

Peso of Castilla 8 Reales, 1846, almost uncirculated
(Harlan J. Berk, 2007)

This is the 3rd type of Standing Athene silver: the Peso of Castilla. These coins were named after the treasury minister: Ramon Castilla who later became a famous President of early Peru

The 1851 8R's appear to be the most common date of these. There was a good sized issuance in 1841 which was exported to Europe and melted except for one or two? surviving specimens.

During the 1840's and 1850's there were a lot of problems in making good metal blanks for minting. Thus many of these pieces exhibit metal problems and a number have been harshly cleaned over the years. I've seen many 1851's in unacceptable condition but even though this 1846 appears to have been struck on a poorly prepared metal blank, it was in decent condition and doesn't appear to have been cleaned harshly as most of them were.

It was also reasonably priced: only $75.

I was always very interested in getting a nicer specimen of this type as at this time the 1846 was my only latter Peru specimen.

Peso of Castilla 8 Reales, 1847, uncirculated (PCGS-63)
Heritage auction, May 1st, 2012, lot# 27974
photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions
Even though this specimen is very well preserved you can see that there were still manufacturing problems. In fact the coin surfaces are very clean and the only reason why it was even graded as low as 63 was [I believe] due to the quality of the strike. Although Krause lists this as a better date, I've seen a number of other 1847's so I'm not so sure.

Perhaps to compensate for the good deal I got on the 1846, I paid a ridiculously high price for this one. However somebody has to collect the unpopular coins of Peru...

Peso of Castilla 8 Reales, 1855, uncirculated (PCGS-62)
Heritage auction,
photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions
For some reason I can't resist buying these in uncirculated when I see them. This one is semi-P/L. Even Heritage said it's a rare type in unc in the listing. However being Peru, nobody else bid on it and I got it for a ridiculously cheap amount again.

Latin America Map
Peru Page 2
Back to Home