1538 8 Reales Silver Dollar May Realize $500,000+ in Heritage Aug. 17 Philadelphia Sale


The legendary First "Dollar" of the Americas — struck in 1538 and recovered from the shipwreck of the "Golden Fleece" — may sell for $500,000 or more at Heritage Auctions Aug. 17 in Philadelphia.

Charles and Johanna Early Series Rincon 8 Reales
Charles and Johanna “Early Series” Rincón 8 Reales ND (c. 1538) •M•-•M• AU50 NGC

The finest example of just three known to exist, the historic silver coin was struck in Mexico City just three years after the Spanish Empire established its virreinato in the New World.

"Spain was the first to colonize the Americas and the 1538 Carlos and Joanna 8 Reales represents its dominance in the world political order," said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President of International Numismatics.

"Not only is this dollar famous among coin collectors, it truly is an important historic artifact from the 16th century and the development of the New World."

This earliest of crown-sized coins were struck just two years after the establishment of the mint by royal charter in 1536. It represents a minuscule group of just three known pieces discovered in a chest of some 2,000 silver coins recovered from a shipwreck nicknamed as the "Golden Fleece." Sunk sometime around 1550 in the northern Caribbean, the nickname comes from the royal stamping on several gold ingots recovered during the 1990s.

Latin script on the 1538 coin reads KAROLVS ET IOHANA D / HISPANIE ED INDIARVM RE, which translates to "Carlos and Joanna, by the Grace of God, Monarchs of Spain and the Indies."

Struck by native New World mint workers, the coin features a Gothic style of numerous letters and the crowned royal shield of Spain. It carries the initial of the mint’s first assayer, Francisco del Rincón, who served his two-year term of office between 1536 and 1538. It weighs 27.13 grams.

"The coin is designed to proudly assert Spain’s newfound wealth and aspirations," Bierrenbach said. "It features the motto ‘PLVS,’ or ‘beyond,’ which is in direct defiance of the ancient motto Ne Plus Ultra, meaning ‘nothing further beyond.’ It is a powerful message that the new superpower considered itself a leader in global affairs."

Heritage Auctions (HA.com), the world’s largest auctioneer of rare coins and currency, will offer the 1538 Carlos and Joanna 8 Reales, the finest "First Dollar of the Americas" known to exist, at an evening auction Aug. 17 in Philadelphia. The auction begins at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments