There are only three Spanish half-reales in the Jamestown collection, and two are associated with King Philip IV of Spain who first introduced this denomination to Spanish coinage. They are both incredibly worn, and appear to have been clipped during their lifetime. This is likely because these coins were not made by milling, rather they are cob coins, a reference to the bar of silver from which the coin was hammered out. If a cob coin was made to the incorrect weight, the edge was simply clipped to match the coin weight providing the measure for that denomination.
Reale coins are Spanish coins which were produced in silver. 8 individual reales were equivalent to one peso – otherwise known as a “piece of eight.” 16 half-reales would equal one “piece of eight.”
The obverse side of both coins includes the monogram of Philip IV, PVS, with the P and S larger, and the V in between in superscript. The P and S are joined by a line extending from the bottom of the bow of the P through the center of the S. Although there were other King Philips in Spain, Philip IV is the only King to have used this design with initials on coinage. Philip IV was King of Spain from 1621 until his death in 1665, and although we can no longer see the mintmark or the legend on these coins, the initials tells us that the coin was made during the 44-year period of Philip IV’s reign.
The reverse side of both coins includes a Jerusalem cross surrounded by foils (these exterior surrounding lines are challenging to make out on #87155). The Jerusalem cross, signifying the unity of Church and State, on both coins has ball-shaped ends, a style which indicates that these coins were minted for Spain in Mexico City. The Mexico City mint is the oldest mint in the Americas, established in 1535. Within the arms of the cross are Castles and Lions, the symbols for Castile and Lyon, part of the Coat of Arms of Spain. These coins may have once had a border legend, but it is completely worn or clipped away. Philip IV was married to his wife Elizabeth of France when they were only children. Their marriage was part of a political alliance in which Philip’s sister Anne was also married to Elizabeth’s brother, later King Louis XIII of France. King Louis XIII and Anne’s marriage is commemorated on this jetton also found at Jamestown. The four children met each other for the first time as a group on an island in the Bidassoa river that divides France and Spain in November 1615. Politically beneficial marriages between French and Spanish rulers had begun with the marriage of Philip II of Spain and French Princess Elisabeth of Valois in 1559 and continued through Charles II’s marriage in 1679 to Marie Louise D’Orléans. Charles II was Philip IV’s son by his second wife and successor to the throne of Spain. These arranged marriages solidified Spain and France as Catholic world powers, an alliance that was unpopular with Protestant English monarchs throughout the 17th century.