Minted in the U.S.A.



Another unexpected acquisition.

In April of this year I wrote a journal entry about bidding on a coin, fully expecting to lose, only to be pleasantly surprised at the end to find myself the high bidder. This acquisition is the result of another such auction.

Certified El Salvadoran C.A.M. Pesos are almost always available on eBay as a "Buy It Now." These are generally offered well above FMV, so when a true auction comes along, it's time to step up. When this one appeared, I registered a bid that I thought could possibly win, again expecting to be outbid in the last few seconds. Much to my surprise though, I won it for significantly less than my max bid, about half of FMV, and substantially less than half of a comparable, concurrently running "Buy It Now."

This coin is one of the 2.1 million 1914 CAM Pesos minted by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia for circulation in the Republic of El Salvador. This was the the last of four minted by the U.S. Mint, and the final year CAM Pesos of this design were struck.

As with other coins I collect, there seems to be some discrepancy over which side of this coin should be designated as the obverse. I have chosen to go with NGC on this one even though several sources (including K&M) have taken the opposite approach.

The obverse is dominated by a left facing bust of Christopher Columbus, or Cristóbal Colón in Spanish. Below the bust are the denomination "UN PESO" and the words "AMÉRICA CENTRAL." The First Monetary Law was adopted in El Salvador in 1883 using "Peso (weight)" as a monetary unit. It is interesting to note that on October 1, 1892, the Legislature reformed the monetary law and changed the name to "Colón", to honor the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. The denomination of "Un Peso" was retained however until 1919 when it was replaced by the colón. The colón was initially pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 2 colónes = 1 dollar. In 2001, the colón was effectively replaced by the U.S. Dollar at an exchange rate of 8.75 colones per dollar.

The reverse is composed of a flag-draped Coat of Arms which has the image of a shield with a volcano, behind which rises the sun and 14 stars. Note that the flag on the right also contains the same image of the volcano, sun and stars. Below the shield are a quiver crossed over a bow & arrow, and the base of the palm wreath which frames the shield. Above the shield are two cornucopias of flowers and what appears to be the hilt of a sword with a Phrygian cap. The rays above the Cap hold the text "15 SET. DE 1821," which is the date El Salvador gained independence from Spain, September 15, 1821. "REPUBLICA DEL SALVADOR,"or literally "Republic of The Savior" dominates the upper outer periphery of the reverse. At the lower outer periphery there are three elements. The "900" to the left represent the 0.900 fineness of the silver, 1914 to the right is the date. and in the center are the letters "C.A.M." which stands for the "Central American Mint." The Central American Mint, Ltd. was a private mint located at San Salvador, which operated between 1892 and 1896. This designation remained on subsequent coinage even when minted by other mints.

There are two varieties of this and three other dates in this series. KM-115.1 was minted in Brussels in 1914 and exhibits a weaker strike, narrower shoulders and more semicircular chest line on the bust . It can easily be distinguished from KM-115.2 minted in Philadelphia and San Francisco which exhibit a sharper strike, a wider right shoulder and a more parabolic chest line.

Circulated examples of these coins are easily obtainable, however certified mint state coins can be elusive and unduly expensive when available. I've been actively searching for one of these for many years, and I'm pleased to add this well struck, lightly toned specimen to my collection of "Foreign Coins Struck at United States Mints."


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