copper alloy coin
Spanish cuarto

This Spanish copper coin is known as a cuarto, or four maravedis, and was minted in Santo Domingo on the Spanish-controlled Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Dating c. 1542-56, the coin pictured is one of five of these Spanish colonial coins found in James Fort. These 16th-century coins from the early European colonization are extremely rare in North American archaeological contexts.

The obverse, or primary side of the coin, contains a crowned gothic “Y” flanked by the assayer mark “F”. Occasionally, the names of assayers working at different mints during specific times are known and can be determined from marks on the coinage. In this case the individual responsible for ensuring that this coin contained the correct amount or purity of metal was an individual named Francisco Rodriguez. The denomination “4” is also present on the obverse side, and the legend “CAROLUS ET IOANNA”, indicating Charles I and Joanna of Castille, rulers of Spain between 1504-1555.

The reverse side of the coin depicts the crowned columns of Hercules flanked by the mint mark “S” and “P” for Santo Domingo del Puerto, with the legend “REGIS ISPANIARUM ET” (Indiarum), King of Spain and the Indies.