19th century coins from

Kingdom of Araucania & Patagonia

Orélie-Antoine period

Considerable numismatic controversy surrounds the coins of the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia. What is certain is that the first pieces appeared during Orélie-Antoine's third trip to Araucania in 1874. It was a piece from Dos Centavos.

metal: dark copper

point after France

height of the letters of “Nouvelle France”: 1.7mm

height of the letters of "CENTAVOS": 2.2mm

diagonal line of the number 4: open

11 stars exceeding the Nouvelle France inscription

This is in any case the first original period piece, because it corresponds perfectly to the drawings below, published in 1875 in the Revue Belge de Numismatique.

The Belgian review already asked the question where these pieces had been produced and concluded that it must have been done in England.

This assumption is understandable, because all the preparations for this third trip had been made in England with the assistance of English merchants and bankers. If the piece had been made in Brussels, the authors of the review would have known about it.

Through the existing parts on the market we can conclude that a significant quantity of parts must have been produced, because we can see that the die degraded as production progressed.

A first hint of a break appears above "NOUVELLE France", between the "L" and the "E" and between the "F" and the "R", the piece still having the point after this inscription.

At this time the slice is still perfectly flat:

Has it been tried to repair the area? In any case the dot after "NOUVELLE FRANCE" disappears, but the beginnings of a crack return between the "L" and the "E" appears again.

However, production continues and the die is deteriorating more and more

At the same time the quality also decreases, the slices become rounded.

These pieces are not very common, but nevertheless we can find them from time to time in auctions, which makes us think that they were the ones that were taken by Orélie-Antoine to South America and therefore published in 1875 in the Revue Belge de Numismatique.

Much rarer, however, is this second coin with a modified obverse:

metal: light copper

no point after France

height of the letters of "Nouvelle France": 2.0mm

height of the letters of "CENTAVOS": 2.5mm

diagonal line of the number 4: closed

11 stars aligned with the Nouvelle France inscription

For this coin, thanks to research at the Royal Mint of Belgium, we were able to find confirmation that at least this variant was minted in Brussels.

The die which perfectly corresponds to the piece represented is found in the archives of this institute. Probably engraved by Léopold or Charles Wiener who donated their creations to the national bank. The coins were certainly produced in the Charles Würden workshop in Brussels.

There are also 1 Peso and UN Peso coins in copper and silver in normal size and in piedfort with the same obverse, alignment of the stars on the Nouvelle France inscription and closed number 4. These coins appeared curiously at the beginning of the 20th century, which led Professor Nadrowski to say in the Numismatic circular Vol 12 London 1904 that they were probably produced by Berlin speculators, because it was in Berlin that they appeared in the first place.

We rather think that King Achille, who had excellent connections in Brussels, had this die of the Dos Centavos made in Brussels and at the same time had some tests made for the 1 Peso and UN Peso while having kept them for himself.

Which would explain their sudden appearance at the beginning of the 20th century and also their rarity due to the few pieces produced.

They may have been in the estate of Achille I, who died on March 16, 1902, and sold to Berlin merchants.

There are many variations, value in numbers, value in letters, copper material, silver material, normal size, piedfort size, small numbers and letters, large numbers and letters, the reverse always being identical.

Considering the extremely small number of existing pieces, the theory of manufacture by Berlin merchants seems doubtful. The cost of engraving the dies would have made a much larger production necessary to be profitable and consequently a greater presence on the market.

Especially since these are not circulating but collectible currencies.

So Achilles I may have actually done all these tests in Brussels to decide which model to choose and a second die was made in England where the production costs for the series were lower, and the quality accordingly, too.

It is perhaps for this work and its financing that Achille was named Prince of Aucas, Duke of Kialéau by Orélie-Antoine on December 30, 1873.

Kingdom of Araucania & Patagonia