1789 East Florida Carlos IV Proclamation Medal, or Four Reales. Breen-1079, Herrera-133, Medina-148, Grove-C58, Benjamin Betts-10. Silver, Struck on a Cast Planchet. Plain Edge. EF-45 (PCGS).Approximately 33 mm. 205.1 grains. 92.96% silver, 7.04% copper. Medal turn. Struck on a cast planchet. An extraordinary specimen of this important early American rarity. Attractively mottled deep toning frames both sides, richer and more thorough on obverse than reverse. The centers are an attractive medium gray, while the peripheral toning includes shades of navy blue, hunter green, deep gold, and highlights of pastel. The devices are all sharply defined, though axial misalignment of the dies has produced a stronger strike on the right side of the obverse and left side of the reverse than on the opposite side of the vertical axis. On the softer half of the peripheral legends (left side of the obverse, right side of the reverse), some light double striking is seen, including in CAROLUS IV and ORIENTALE. The cast planchet is broad, with spacious borders outside of the raised outer circle around each die. Some pitting is seen on the reverse, mostly on the right side, a remnant of the casting process that created the planchet. Hints of luster remain in some protected areas of the devices. The obverse is particularly choice, with only trivial scattered hairlines seen. The reverse shows two parallel scratches in the right obverse field, but other marks are insignificant. The sharpness is bold and the visual appeal is superb.
We have seen four of these in silver and a high quality images of a fifth:
1 - The Ford specimen. Last sold in the 2021 Partrick sale. NGC AU-58.
2 - The Adams specimen. Last sold in our August 2023 Syd Martin sale. PCGS AU-53.
3 - The December 2016 Morton and Eden specimen (lot 786) Raw XF with scratches.
4 - The NASCA-Partrick specimen. Last sold in the 2021 Partrick sale. NGC Fine-15.
5 - This one. A new discovery. PCGS EF-45.
Two others are said to exist. The Green-Newcomer-Harper specimen was last sold in the 1949 ANA sale and remains untraced. The Harvey Freeman specimen was published in the 1975 <em>Born of the Sun: The Official Florida Bicentennial Commemorative Book</em> and is also untraced.
We also trace three bronze examples: a worn and holed piece in the ANS Collection, ex: Lyman Lows April 1897 sale, lot 193; the well worn and dug example found by a Virginia metal detectorist in a Civil War camp occupied by Florida troops in Culpeper County, VA and last sold in the August 2023 Syd Martin sale; and another low grade specimen in our (Bowers and Merenas) Boyd, Brand, and Ryder Collections sale of March 1990, lot 1283.
Few early American medals have such an interesting origin story. After Carlos III of Spain died in December 1788, the wheels of the Spanish Empire turned slowly to install the trappings of a new monarch in all of Spains dominions. Though Carlos IV became monarch upon his predecessors death, the official celebration of his ascension in Madrid didnt happen until September 1789. In Saint Augustine, Florida, it took a full year, and the event was scheduled for the first weekend in December 1789.
As the first proclamation celebration since the Spanish retook Florida from Great Britain at the treaty table after the American Revolution, governor Manuel Vicente de Zespedes had every good reason to make a splash with the event. As noted in Helen Hornbeck Tanners 1960 article "The 1789 Saint Augustine Celebration," published by the Florida Historical Society, the celebration was large even though Saint Augustines population was small, "a scant one thousand people." Tanner describes how Zespedes, "in a prosperous and grateful mood.ordered a quantity of silver medals for distribution during the celebration honoring the new monarch." A military procession, led by Zespedes son, was followed by a brief religious ceremony, celebrated by Father Thomas Hassett, an Irish priest who had moved to Saint Augustine from Philadelphia. After these formalities, Tanner writes, "the portraits of the new monarchs were unveiled.simultaneously the air was shaken by the discharge of field pieces mounted at the end of the plaza.[and] in the midst of this joyous din, Governor Zespedes flung into the crowd the silver medals commemorating the great occasion." Most of these medals were seemingly spent as four reales, whose weight they paralleled. Only the Ford specimen, among silver pieces, shows no evidence of wear. Surprisingly, none of the surviving silver pieces appear to have been holed or mounted, unlike so many other proclamation pieces, suggesting that they were quickly spent as coin rather than revered as souvenirs.
Though desirable for its distinctive geographical origin, this issue of Spanish Florida is also special for its cultural origin. Spains first entrees into North America preceded those of other Old World powers by nearly a century. Saint Augustine, founded 1565, was already a civilized place by the time Jamestown and Plymouth were first trod upon by the English. This rare piece is one of the few numismatic relics of the presence of the Spanish in what became the continental United States (the 1760 Florida Proclamation pieces and the 1817-18 Texas jolas are the only other ones that comes to mind). Picturesque and historic, this rarity will take a place of central interest in a cabinet of distinction.