First American coin discovered in north coast of the Dominican Republic

During the early sixteenth century, there was very little money circulating on the island of Hispaniola (now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

This situation made commerce and trade very difficult. In reaction to the complaints expressed by the Spanish colonizers, then Governor Nicolas de Ovando requested from the King of Spain to send legal tender. King Ferdinand of Aragon decided to solve the problem immediately, and a few months after the death of his wife Isabel of Castille, nicknamed “La Católica”, specifically on April 15, 1505, he ordered the issuance of silver and copper coins to be used on the island of Hispaniola.

Without further delay, the first coins were issued in Seville and were made specifically to circulate in the New World.

By 1505 the Spanish colonists had the coins in their hands.  Approximately 500,000 pieces were sent of various amounts. Today, these coins are extremely rare and valuable.

In a Taino archaeological site currently being excavated in Playa Grande, on the country’s north coast, archaeologists found a well-preserved copper coin, minted in Seville in 1505.

It is one of the early American coins that more than five centuries ago were shipped to Santo Domingo, ushering in the continent’s numismatic history.

The coin’s inscription reads, in the front: + FERNANDVS: ET HELISABET: DEI.  On the back: + REX: ET: REGINA: CASTEILEGIO: ARAGO.

How these coins made it to the hands of the Tainos is another story which we are still excavating.

Adolfo Lopez

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