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Doubloons: What They Are?

Gold doubloons are often associated with sunken pirate ships or booty found hidden in caves and caverns. The word originated from the Spanish word for “double”. The Spanish used them as currency from the mid-16th century to the mid-19th century. The typical weights of a doubloon, because there was no advanced minting technology, were anywhere between 6 grams to 8 grams. The Gold pieces were “made from 22 karat Gold”. (Treasurology) Other manifestations of the piece were minted to be heavier. They were mostly round, but they were hand-stamped causing an irregular shape.

While these coins were prevalent from the 16th to 19th centuries in the Spanish colonies, their popularity extended to other parts of the world including France, Switzerland, Germany, and Prussia. The Gold weight of the piece is something unique to their time but still holds importance to their value today.

The weight of a Gold Doubloon

The most familiar coinage weight system we are accustomed to are ounces or grams. Conversions of the weights are important to understanding our metric system of Precious Metals. To understand the weight of the Gold doubloons, it is important to understand the Spanish weight system. Much like the ounce or gram system, the Spanish had a weight system in the form of reales and escudos. Reales were used for Silver coins while escudos were used for Gold coins. Gold coins were issued in escudos until approximately 1833. The common denominations were 1/2, 1, 2, 4 and 8 escudos. Four escudos are commonly known as the doubloon and eight escudos is a double.

Each escudo maintained a certain Gold weight and “was minted from 0.1209 to 0.125 oz of Gold.” (Hegewisch) This gives an approximate value of every escudo minted in the Spanish colonies.

The Value Today

Though these special bullion pieces were primarily minted in the Spanish colonies from the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century, their value remains high today. Spanish and Portuguese Gold doubloons are rare; any in existence today are worth collecting or investing in because they were in some cases the only source of currency for some time. Some were made in other parts of the world shortly after the Spanish stopped striking them, and widely popular because of their Gold content and history.

The first piece in the United States struck “more than 225 years ago is expected to fetch at least $5 million at auction.” (Daily Mail) In reality, the coin, known as the Brasher doubloon, went for nearly $7.4 million. This was unprecedented but speaks to the popularity of the coin, and, at the very least, the style of the coin. Gold doubloons are popular everywhere and the value can certainly be greater than the standard 1 oz Gold price.

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