Our featured treasure for February is this rather unassuming artifact that, while modest in appearance, is of extreme rarity. This item is an original “riel” strap for making cob planchets.
The odd shape of Mexican cob coinage is a well-known characteristic of these coins. This leads to the question of how these coins were actually made and why they have such bizarre shapes. The answer can be found by observing our Treasure of the Month.
The image above is a strap of silver that was, at one time, poured onto a flat surface and allowed to spread out and cool naturally. This strap of silver did not complete the minting process. It has been divided however into three essentially even (by weight) pieces which are illustrative of the odd shapes that are typically seen in this type of coinage.
For comparison purposes, the image below is an example of how a similar silver strap was poured and ultimately divided into coins and subsequently minted. These coins are not actually from the same strap but are merely an example of how a strap would have looked and how the coins would have been minted. This accounts for their random shapes and sometimes varying weight.
For a more detailed explanation of the minting process, please see the article Straps for Cash by Daniel Frank Sedwick, which is part of the Fleet Society Library.
The rarity of this item cannot be understated. Very few of these unprocessed straps have ever been found. Our featured treasure was acquired by the Fleet Society for our collection from the November 2016 Sedwick Treasure Auction (Lot #216).