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The mystery of the 2 REALES 1834/5 GJ
What should be borne in mind is that all the coins with overdates have one thing in common, which is that the overstruck date is normally over a date earlier than that of the overstriking. However this rule has an exception.
Dale Seppa’s compendium ECUADORIAN COINS– An Annotated checklist – Edition 2016 on page 18 reports the existence of a 2 Reales coin with overstruck date 1834/5 GJ, a coin whose overstriking is unusual in that the overstriking is on a future date compared to the overstriking rather than an earlier date as is normal.
In this compendium DALE SEPPA mentions that the coin is certified by NGC as VF DETAILS with Hairlines, the same as was auctioned by DFS (Daniel Frank Sedwick) in May 2013 at a price in excess of US$800. In the auction DFS mentions that this piece is the only one known up till now, with a value estimated between US1000 and US$2000. The auction can be seen at the link:
Mr. Seppa also mentions in his compendium that he had not the opportunity to find the records and the verification code assigned by NGC, to be able to study this unusual overdate and confirm it, but it is clear that it concerns a 2 reales of 1835 GJ overstruck with a 4. This we can easily confirm because the only difference which exists between the 2 reales coins of 1834 and those of 1835 is the period at the end of the word CONSTITUCION (all the 1834 coins have a period at the end of the said word, whilst the 1835 coins do not have the period). The overstruck coin from the DFS auction (1834/5) does not have the period, as is indicated in the description from the DFS auction, which clearly confirms that it is a coin from a die of 1835 overstruck with a 4.
The coin from the DFS auction passed through the hands of several Ecuadorian collectors until I acquired it in March 2017, together with the white holder for the Slab and the NGC certification label with which it had been auctioned in 2013, since the coin had been removed from its container. The verification code on this certification was 2782907-001.
In April 2017 I sent this coin to NGC again, so that it could be reviewed by the certification experts for the second time. The result obtained was exactly the same as the previous certification. 2 reales 1834/5 GJ with the grade VF DETAILS, with the same defect of Hairlines. This new certification has the verification code 2812314-001
That is to say that four years after the first certification NGC again validated the same overdate of 4 over 5, with the same grade of condition and recording the defect of Hairlines, without being informed that it involved the same piece that had been certified in 2013. This we can easily confirm by comparing both NGC photographic records of 2013 and 2017, where can be seen even the same Hairlines below the letter R on the obverse (2 marks below the R).
This causes us to ask the following questions:
- How did this improbable overdate happen?
- Why was a die of 1835 corrected with a 4?
First Mr. Dale Seppa was contacted so that he could review the overstrike, since he had already announced its existence and had not had the opportunity to obtain photographs in 2013 for a more detailed examination. He succeeded in confirming that the overdate existed, and that in his opinion it was genuine and an authentic original mintage of the coin. Mr. Michael Anderson also checked this aspect, arriving at the same conclusion about the improbable overdate.
So, how do we explain what happened? We can only offer some hypotheses based on the research and conclusions reached by historians about the events of the period 1834 to 1836.
1. – We must take into account that one of the engravers who prepared dies in the period of 1834 and 1835 was Mr. Eduardo Coronel, who, according to Melvin Hoyos in his “La Moneda Ecuatoriana a través de los tiempos”, was dismissed as mint engraver for irresponsibility in his duties. It is not explained what irresponsible duties Mr. Coronel committed to be dismissed, but we must wonder if this could have been one of the irresponsible errors in his duties.
2. – Melvin Hoyos also mentions in his work that Mr. Eduardo Coronel was found with a die stolen from the mint. This, according to the unpublished Numismatic History of Ecuador of IZA Terán Carlos, occurred in March 1836, and production in this year was ordered to begin only on 14 June, according to what is said in Melvin Hoyos’ book, second edition, page 110. All this allows us to make the following observations:
- a.- It is impossible that the theft of the die related to one produced in 1836, since the minting of coins was ordered in June 1836 and Mr. Eduardo Coronel was found with the stolen die in March of that year.
- b.- We can infer that the stolen die must have been of the year 1835 or earlier, which were those which existed before Mr. Coronel was found out, but it is very probable that he would have taken one of those most readily available at the time, which would have to be one of 1835, to be used in his criminal activity in 1835 and/or 1836 until being found out.
- c.- According to the unpublished Numismatic History of Ecuador of IZA Terán Carlos, it is said that Mr. Coronel carried out his forgeries in the same mint where he was found with a stolen die in March 1836.
- d.- In the early days of the Republic, forgers used to steal part of the silver from coins of good fineness, making fraudulent coinages of base fineness, and thus making a profit from the metal they obtained.
Considering these observations, we can develop certain hypotheses, such as the possibility that the stolen die was probably of the year 1835, and the date could have been altered by Mr. Coronel to that of the previous year (1834/5) with the objective of being able to incorporate his base pieces, produced in the same mint, very probably from 1835 to early 1836, trying to hide them among coins of a year of which there already existed a complete supply in circulation; for which it is necessary to remember that the 1835 mintage began in March and lasted until December, so that at the beginning not enough of the 1835 coinage could have existed to conceal the false coins. Another hypothesis could be that he did it to avoid the quality controls of coins minted in 1835, being dated as 1834 they would be exempt from control if the coinage was not part of the production current at the time. Or he could have changed the die simply so as not to have in his possession a die of a year currently in production. But any of these hypotheses would require that the piece under consideration would be an adulterated coin of the time, coined in the mint itself, and that the piece would have to contain little or almost no silver. This would have been detected by NGC or by any of the persons who reviewed this coin; furthermore collectors with any experience could see that the coin is of good silver. Alternatively the Quito's mint could have struck this piece in good silver after the die was recovered from Mr. Coronel, either for the record or simply by mistake.
3.- The third hypothesis is based on a simple question: What relevant fact occurred in 1835 which could affect the design of that tears coins?
On 13 August 1835 the second Ecuadorian Constitution was promulgated, abolishing the idea of the confederation with Colombia and changing the name “State of Ecuador in the Republic of Colombia” (abbreviated on the coins as “El Ecuador en Colombia”) to “República del Ecuador”). Therefore it is necessary to ascertain in which months the 1835 2 reales were produced, since if all or part of them were made after 13 August there is reason to think that the date could have been corrected intentionally so that the design did not contradict what had been established by the new Constitution. In such a case it would be easier to correct the date than the name of the country. If this hypothesis were correct, this extremely rare specimen would indicate the intention to avoid the 1835 coinage being inconsistent with what had been approved by the Constitution on 13 August of that year.
Perhaps having had the intention of correcting the date, they tested the viability of a few specimens and in the end decided not to make the correction, leaving us this example which would become a witness to the political and constitutional changes in the country.
This event, the change of name to República del Ecuador, coincides with the exact year of the manufacture of this overstruck coin. Probably we shall never know the real reason why and how it was done, but what is certain is that the piece has this unusual detail, which was verified by NGC on two occasions (in 2013 and 2017). Furthermore it was reviewed by persons with much experience of colonial and pre-decimal coins, such as Daniel Frank Sedwick, when he offered this piece in his auction house in 2013, describing it as the only one known up to that time, and Messrs. Dale Seppa and Michael Anderson, who had the opportunity to study this improbable overstrike.
Definitely it must be a very scarce coin.
Xavier Alban Rubio