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  HOME | Bolivia

Old Spanish Heart-Shaped Coins Will Be Focus of Bolivia Conference

LA PAZ – A number of heart-shaped coins minted in Potosi during the Spanish colonial epoch will be studied at a numismatic conference to be held later this month in Bolivia, organizers announced Thursday.

The silver coins, which were minted only in Potosi starting in the mid- to late-1500s, are nowadays coveted by collectors and will be displayed at the First International Convention of Historians and Numismatists, to be held in that Andean city from Oct. 20-23.

Daniel Oropeza, in charge of organizing the event, told EFE that the heart-shaped coins were fashioned by hammer blows and are popularly known as “macuquinas,” from the Quechua word “maqayquna,” which means “made by hand.”

Oropeza emphasized that nowadays such a coin is considered one of the jewels of the coin world and is emblematic of Potosi, the southwestern Bolivian city where the “Casa de Moneda” – or mint – was located during the Spanish colonial period and is now a museum.

The coins’ mint mark links it with production at Potosi’s Cerro Rico mine, which is still being exploited for its silver content today.

Oropeza said that the importance of the coins is based, among other things, on their purity – 93 percent silver – adding that there are many hypotheses about why they were shaped like a heart, but it probably has a religious significance.

He said that during the Spanish colonial period Basques had a dominant presence in the Alto Peru region, which includes modern-day Bolivia, and they were devotees of St. Augustine, whose main symbol was a burning heart.

He said that the coin was the largest one minted during that period and enjoyed a symbolic value all over the world due to the fact that it was forged by hand and for what it represented to the religious faithful.

Some 42 top internationally known numismatists, along with many other experts from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, the United States, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Spain, France, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay will be attending the conference.

Each of those nations will contribute 10,000 domestically-minted coins to the museum to create a coin portfolio for display to the public, Oropeza said.

Just as “all roads lead to Rome,” he added, so too do “all coins lead to Potosi,” which he termed “the Vatican of the coin world.”

 

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