The coin featured this month comes from Peru and completes my three part series on Seated National Personifications.
Some time ago, I remember Collectors Society member Jackson opining about a Peruvian gold coin he won at auction almost by accident. What caught my eye about this coin though is that with a few exceptions, it resembles the Seated Liberty motif on our coins. After reading Jacksons post, I thought to add a coin like his to my Inspirational Ladies custom set. However, I did not want to buy a gold coin to do it. Fortunately, this design is prevalent through several denominations of Peruvian coins, and I found an inexpensive silver coin to add to my set.
The nation of Peru declared their independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. They finally won their independence by defeating the Spanish troops in the Battle of Ayacucho on December 9, 1824. As a result, this battle effectively ended Spanish rule in South America. Peru is also a country rich in natural resources and culture. The abundance of gold and other minerals led to the conquest of Peru by the Spaniards beginning in 1532. Before 1532, Peru was the center of a highly developed Inca civilization and central to that civilization is the worship of the sun god Inti. Curiously, my coin of the month incorporates all of this history in the images present on my coin.
Immediately following their independence from Spain, the Republic of Peru began incorporating Lady Liberty into their coinage. Lady Liberty first appeared on Peruvian coinage in a standing position wearing a Grecian garment and a helmet. She is seen holding a pole atop of which is a Phrygian cap, and the rim of a shield resting on the ground. Engraved on the shield is the Spanish word libertad for liberty. Browsing through the Krause Catalog of World Coins it seems that Lady Liberty first appears in a seated position beginning in 1858. This motif would continue to appear on a variety of regular circulating and gold Peruvian coins before disappearing in 1970.
The basic decimal monetary unit in Peru is the sol, which is the Spanish word for sun implying that the monetary system in Peru has its roots in ancient Incan culture. Accordingly, the coin of the month for April is a 1916 NGC MS-64 1/5 Sol (KM# 205.2). This coin has a silver fineness of .900 and an ASW of .1447 Oz. with a mintage of 425,000. The total weight of this coin is 5 grams, which directly correlates to the exact weight and fineness of the US twenty-cent piece. Incidentally, many of Perus other silver coins also have their weight and fineness equivalency in US silver coins. As an aside, there are other similarities and ties between the US monetary system and that of Peru, including that certain Peruvian coins were struck in the United States and appropriately mint-marked.
The obverse of this coin has as its center device the Peruvian coat of arms. The inscriptions in the field at the edge of this coin denote that it is from the Republic of Peru, minted in Lima, which is the capital of Peru, has a silver fineness of .900, and that the assayers initials are F.G. The Peruvian coat of arms has as its central device a shield divided into three parts. The upper-left portion of the shield with a blue background is a vicuna representing the fauna of Peru. The upper-right portion of the shield with a white background is a cinchona tree representing the flora of Peru. (The cinchona tree is also the source of a powerful anti-malaria drug called quinine). The bottom portion of the shield with a red field is a cornucopia full of gold coins and represents the mineral resources of Peru. Surrounding the shield in a semi-circle is a palm and laurel branch tied by a bow into a wreath to represent victory and glory. The wreath above the shield is a Holm Oak Civic Crown. The civic crown has its roots in ancient Rome and is the second highest military honor a person could receive. To earn such an honor a person was required to save the life of a Roman citizen in battle, slay his opponent, and hold the ground on which this took place. The only battlefield testimony allowed in determining the worthiness of the recipient was that of the soldier whose life was saved.
The reverse of this coin has as its central device Lady Liberty, who appears in a seated position holding with one hand a shield depicting an image of the radiant sun god Inti, and a liberty cap atop of a pole with the other. In front of Lady Liberty is a short column with a banner wrapped around it and a wreath resting on top. Written on the banner is the word Libertad, which translated, is Liberty. The inscription around the rim of the reverse is Perus national motto and is translated, Steady and happy for the union. In describing the reverse of this coin an article in the E-Gobrecht Newsletter, Volume 5, Issue 5 suggests that the wreath on top of the column is a Laurel Wreath. However, I believe that rather than a laurel wreath, the wreath on top of the column is another representation of the civic crown. The reason for this is that a civic crown is thick, tightly bound, and closed in a circle; a laurel wreath looks as if to be two separate laurel branches tied together by a bow on one end and open on the other. Rather I believe the ornamental leaves towards the top of, and around the column are laurel leaves symbolizing victory. The civic crown then, in this case, signifies that liberty is attained and held through self-sacrifice, courage, and determination.
All around the world Liberty is a highly valued virtue as evidenced by the coins of the three nations I have highlighted in this series. These three nations are not the only nations of the world to depict Lady Liberty in a seated or standing position. In fact, the issue of the E-Gobrecht Newsletter I referenced has a list of coins from other nations in which Lady Liberty is seated that I may develop into another custom set.
For those of you who collect anything seated, may I recommend the E-Gobrecht Newsletter. They have an extensive archive of newsletters with an abundance of good information. The link to their site is: http://www.seateddimevarieties.com/LSCC.htm Now until next time, collect what you love and love what you collect.