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Antique Mexican Coins: A Comprehensive Guide for Novice Collectors

It is a country with a great numismatic tradition and thousands of beautiful variants of ancient coins perfect for collecting.

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Monedas Antiguas Mexicanas

Mexico is one of the most interesting countries for any novice coin collector. It is a country with a great numismatic tradition and thousands of beautiful variants of ancient coins perfect for collecting.

In this guide we will review the entire history of Mexican numismatics. We will stop at the best known and most valuable specimens of each stage, but without going in depth on any one in particular. It would be impossible to do so without making this text (already quite extensive) impossible to read.

By the end of reading, you will have a general idea of the most valuable ancient Mexican coins. You will be in a position to delve deeper into those stages, types of coins or specific pieces that are most interesting to you.

The Viceroyal Mexican Coinage

The history of Mexican numismatics begins in 1535 when Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza created the first mint in Mexico, and in all of America, by mandate of King Carlos I and Queen Juana.

Historians seem to agree that the first minting of ancient Mexican coins occurred specifically in April 1536. One year after the royal authorization for the manufacture of American coins was issued.

Interestingly, from the very beginning, Mexican coins have always been marked with a Latin M to indicate their place of origin.

Thus, the first coins in all of the Americas are Mexican.

Ancient Coins of Carlos and Juana

The first issues of ancient Mexican coins are known as Carlos and Juana coins, because they show the names of the Spanish kings on the obverse. The phrase was minted in Latin (CAROLUS ET IOHANA REGES), according to the customs of the time.

Monedas de 8 reales de Carlos y Juana
8 reales coins of Charles and Joanna

The coins of Charles and Joanna were stamped by hand, striking the coin blanks until the designs were stamped on them. Even so, their workmanship is impeccable.

As a curious fact, on these coins we can find the PLUS ULTRA motto, present on many Spanish coins throughout history, even on Franco’s pesetas. These coins are extremely rare and scarce. It follows that they are very valuable and desired by collectors with high purchasing power.

Just to give you an idea, in 2008, two examples of the 8 reals of Charles and Joanna were auctioned for between 300 and 400 thousand dollars. It is estimated that, at present, one of these could be auctioned for up to 1 million dollars.

Macuquina Coin

The Mexican Macuquina coins replaced the pieces with the design of Carlos and Juana. These coins were minted under the reign of Philip II and up to the first reign of Philip V.

The first macuquinas did not have a date, however, from 1607 onwards they began to be dated. It is assumed that it was at this time, since there is no known macuquina prior to this date.

Moneda macuquina mexicana
Mexican macuquina coin

During this period, the priority was to mint coins in large quantities to satisfy the demand for money in the Spanish Empire. For this reason, quality standards were very low.

Many macuquinas have a coarse workmanship and finish, with irregular thickness, but minted in precious metals. It must be said that at this time the Mexican coin became the best known and most valued international currency in the international markets.

Here are some examples of old Macuquina Mexican coins and the value paid by coin collectors for them.

Mexican coins columnarios (1732-1772)

Coins minted between 1732 and 1772 are known as columnarios, when they featured on their reverse two hemispheres suspended over a sea with waves. These coins are also known as coins of worlds and seas.

It is important to clarify that this is not a new monetary unit, but a coin design that was produced between these dates. The known columnari are among the most beautiful pieces of silver ever minted.

They were minted in Mexico, but also in other mints such as Potosi and Lima.

Moneda Mexicana Antigua Columnario 1733
Ancient Mexican Coin Columnario 1733

Currently a collector who wants to buy a Columnario coin for his collection, will have to pay an important sum of money.

NOTE: It is said that the columnarios served as inspiration for the creation of the North American dollars, although this has also been said of the 8 reales coins of Carlos and Juana.

The Pelucona Coins (1732-1759)

The Mexican gold coins minted during this period are known as peluconas. The name is due to the fact that one of their faces showed the effigy of the King with an exuberant wig, very fashionable at the time.

Moneda Pelucona. 8 Escudos Carlos III de 1762.
Pelucona coin. 8 Carlos III escudos of 1762.

Both the columnarios and the peluconas coins are characterized by their beautiful designs and the good grade of the pieces. That is to say, a certain purity of the metals in which the ancient Mexican coins were made.

In auctions this coin, being in good condition, can be sold in Aureo and Calico for 3900 euros, just like the piece I just showed you before. Undoubtedly an important figure, but well worth it for such a beautiful Mexican gold coin.

Round bust coin

Next in the timeline, round bust coins follow. Mexican bust coins were introduced, as a new type of silver coin, by King Charles III in 1771. As such, these coins bear on one side the bust of the monarch, but without a wig.

Moneda de Busto. 8 Escudos "Fernando VII" 1806
Bust Coin. 8 Coat of arms “Fernando VII” 1806

In this period the diversity of coins increases, both in the metals minted and in the denominations. In fact, Charles IV introduced the denomination of ¼ real in silver, and later Ferdinand VII, the ½ escudo in gold. In addition, copper coins were reintroduced, in denominations of 2/4, ¼ and 1/8 real.

Mexican round bust coins are well valued by collectors and investors. Some can fetch very high prices at auctions, such as these:

Subastas de Monedas de Busto Fernando VII
Ferdinand VII Bust Coins Auctions

Finally, we continue with the Independence coins, another historical period in which Mexico created many precious ancient coins.

Independence Coins

The Mexican War of Independence began in 1810, and along with it a tremendously interesting period for lovers of ancient coins. Throughout the 21 years that the war lasted, many coins were minted and are highly valued by collectors today.

During this period, several mints were established in different parts of Mexico, in order to limit as much as possible the transfer of precious metals from the mines to the Mint in Mexico.

Thus, mints were established in:

  • Chihuahua,
  • Durango,
  • Guadalajara,
  • Guanajuato,
  • Nueva Vizcaya,
  • Oaxaca,
  • Real de Catorce,
  • Sombrerete,
  • Valladolid and
  • Zacatecas.

These mints minted mainly silver coins, known as coins of necessity. Although it is also possible to find some exceptionally minted gold pieces in some of these mints.

Royalist copper coin issues

During this period there were some exceptional copper coins minted in the territory of New Spain. The two most famous pieces are the coins of San Antonio de Béjar, Sierra de Pinos and Lagos:

Emisiones de monedas realistas en cobre
Realistic copper coins issues

These Mexican copper coins are inferior in the quality of their designs, but are just as valuable today.

Insurgent Coins

As opposed to the royal forces, the insurgent side minted their own coins. Most of the time using copper as the base metal, as they did not have access to silver to create money.

 Acuñaciones de piezas insurgentes
Coinage of insurgent pieces

Mexican insurgent coins are coarse, and poorly designed. This is justified because they were minted using rudimentary means.

Coins of Morelos

Among the most famous insurgent coins are the pieces minted by Jose Maria Morelos, commonly known as Morelos coins. Morelos coins were fiduciary pieces, which actually represented a promise of payment once the War of Independence was over.

Morelos mainly minted 8 reales pieces. Although there were other coins of smaller denominations, of two, one and half real.

Monedas de Morelos
Morelos Coins

Most of these coins were minted in copper, although there are some in silver, after the capture of Oaxaca. They were minted in different locations (Tecpan, Huautla, Oaxaca, Acapulco, Tlacotepec, Chilpancingo, Cerro de Atijo and Tehuacán).

The design of the Morelos coins is very characteristic, since they present a bow with an arrow on the reverse accompanied by the word S U D. Many coins also present the abbreviation of the name of this Mexican hero. The collector who wants to get his hands on this coin must be willing to pay up to 100 dollars for it.

Coins approved by the Zitácuaro Junta

Under the Junta de Zitácuaro, established by Ignacio López Rayón in 1811, a series of very interesting coins were minted, featuring for the first time purely Mexican designs. These silver coins were minted in the denomination of 8 reales.

The minting of coins of the Junta de Zitácuaro continued until 1814 and covered all values, from the half real to the eight reales, in silver and copper metals.

Moneda Junta de Zitácuaro
Junta de Zitácuaro coin

The coins minted by the Junta de Zitácuaro included for the first time the representative elements of Mexico’s national identity. The obverse of the coin shows the eagle on a cactus, in clear opposition to the “Plus Ultra” of the royalist coins.

Royalist, insurgent and unknown stamps

Coins that were marked with a stamp after being captured by one of the warring sides during the Mexican War of Independence are known as resellos.

There are royalist stamps, which are those stamped by the royal forces on coins minted by the insurgent forces. There are also insurgent stamps on coins minted at the official mints.

Resellos realistas e Insurgentes
Royalist and Insurgent stamps

Next, a series of stamps have been identified that have not been able to determine exactly who made them, nor what they mean. These are known as unknown Mexican stamps.

As with other ancient Mexican coins, the value of the stamps depends on a series of factors such as their state of preservation, rarity, possibilities of accrediting authenticity, demand for these coins by collectors, among others.

Coins of the First Empire (1822-1823)

The stage of the First Empire begins in 1822 after the independence, when Agustín Iturbide receives the power, for a short time. A new stage needs new coins.

Thus, gold and silver coins are minted in the denominations of eight and four escudos and eight, two, one and half real.

Moneda 8 Escudos. Primer Imperio 1822
Coin 8 Escudos. First Empire 1822

The coins, beautifully designed and finished, feature on the obverse the naked bust of the emperor with the legend AUGUSTINUS DEI PROVIDENTIA. On the reverse side an eagle a crowned eagle looking to the left with outstretched wings.

There are another coin design of the First Empire, which has the same obverse, but the design of the eagle on the reverse changes substantially. Of course, this other model is priced differently, and is $4000 valued by Mexican coin collectors.

The Republican Coinage

After the previous historical stage, in 1823 Mexico was finally proclaimed as a Republic. The new change of government is accompanied by new designs of old Mexican coins, which modern collectors are going to love.

The minting of gold and silver coins in the denominations of escudos and reales is decreed. Typical of the Spanish octaval monetary system. What is different now? The new Mexican coin designs are based on the iconography of liberty and justice linked to the ideals of the French Revolution.

Moneda Republicana 8 Reales de 1823
Republican Coin 8 Reales of 1823

Starting in 1823, the national coat of arms is added to the obverse of all coins minted. In addition, it is common to find the legend REPUBLICA MEXICANA. The reverses of the different coins minted vary a lot over time.

The Mexican Mint consolidated as the mint par excellence, and the other minting sites became foreign mints. These foreign mints were those of Alamos, Culiacan, Chihuahua, Durango, Guadalupe y Calvo, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, State of Mexico (Tlalpan), Oaxaca, Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas.

This is relevant because many coins were minted in different mints, therefore, pieces with the same design may have different costs or prices depending on the place where it was created.

Some of the mints operated for only a few years, or minted low volumes of pieces, which nowadays reach crazy prices because they are considered rare ancient Mexican coins. An example of this are some coins minted at the Los Alamos mint.

The currency of the Second Empire

Among the most outstanding milestones within the historical stage known as the Second Empire, is the decree of March 15, 1857 to change from the Spanish monetary system to the decimal monetary system.

Although this decree was ratified in 1861, the reality is that the change was never implemented on a massive scale, due to the adverse conditions in which the country was immersed. Only a few coins of one, five and ten cents were minted in 1863, but not much more.

It was not until 1864 when the first “Peso” was minted under the order of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg (monarch imposed by Napoleon III). It was precisely the Archduke who extended the use of the decimal monetary system in Mexico.

Moneda del Segundo Imperio
Coin of the Second Empire

The coins of Maximilian (as they are known) have a perfect design and finish. On the obverse we can see the profile bust of the emperor and the legend MAXIMILIANO EMPERADOR. On the reverse, the imperial coat of arms and the legend IMPERIO MEXICANO, the denomination and the year.

It is true that the silver dimes and nickels have simpler designs than the rest of the higher face value coins.

The Republican coinage (decimal system)

Once the Second Empire falls and the Mexican Republic is restored, the decimal system continues to be used. The obverse design with the national coat of arms and the legend REPÚBLICA MEXICANA (MEXICAN REPUBLIC) returned.

But the reverse is quite different from the previously minted pieces. In fact, they present from the middle downwards a design where the three republican powers are symbolized. The legislative branch with a balance; the legislative branch with a sign with the word LAW and the executive branch symbolized with a crossed sword.

Moneda Republicana (sistema decimal) 5 Centavos 1868
Republican Coin (decimal system) 5 Centavos 1868

In addition, this side of the coin shows the denomination with letters, the mint, the assayer’s initial and the metal grade (fine metal composition).

Inscription “United Mexican States”.

If you know a little about old Mexican coins, you will know that some bear the inscription “Estados Unidos Mexicanos”. However, few people are able to locate in time since when it is possible to read this phrase on coins.

The phrase “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” began to be used in 1905. This coincided with the monetary reform in Mexico that imposed the gold standard, and the establishment by law that all coins should bear the National Coat of Arms and the aforementioned phrase.

Under the Mexican coin law, beautiful pieces like this one were created.

Moneda 10 Pesos de Oro 1905
10 Pesos Gold Coin 1905

This gold coin, with a face value of ten pesos, is made of 900 thousandths of precious metal. As for the design, the precious bust of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla stands out. The collector who wants to get his hands on these 10 Mexican gold pesos must be willing to pay 428 dollars.

The most emblematic piece of this period, however, is Mexico’s first commemorative coin, known as the “Peso de Caballito”. The Mexican commemorative coin was designed by a Frenchman, and celebrates the centennial of the independence of 1910.

Peso Caballito
Peso Caballito

A “Peso de Caballito” in good condition can fetch the not inconsiderable sum of $120 at any numismatic auction or dealer.

Coinage during the 1910 Revolution

The period known as the Revolution of 1910 is a time when Mexican numismatics is enriched in an important way.

Why did numismatics become richer during periods of turbulence?

Well, as it had happened in other stages of national confrontations, the belligerent parties minted their own coins that they put into circulation to finance their struggle. Thus, we know different examples of very famous Mexican coins, at the same time scarce and valuable.

For example, Francisco Villa’s coin known as “Peso de Bolita” and the also famous “Muera Huerta” are examples of these coins in demand by collectors and very valuable. Due to its rarity, and the history behind the “Muera Huerta” piece, it can reach a value of 1700 dollars depending on its state of preservation.

Moneda Mexicana Muera Huerta
Mexican Currency Muera Huerta

From this period is also very striking the Zapatista coin of 2 pesos from 1915. This old Mexican coin is an authentic insurgent work of art, with its design of mountains and a smoking volcano under a sun with a human face; all accompanied by the words REFORMA, LIBERTAD, JUSTICIA Y LEY (REFORM, FREEDOM, JUSTICE AND LAW).

Moneda zapatista de 2 pesos de 1915
Zapatista 2 peso coin of 1915

Not for nothing should anyone who wants to get their hands on this antique coin from Mexico be willing to pay $174 to acquire it and add it to their collection.

Valuable modern Mexican coins

After the Revolution of 1910 the monetary reality of Mexico changes, therefore, the production of coins adapts to the new conditions.

The most important changes are the appearance of a large number of pieces in current metals, and the emergence of “high denomination” coins to respond to inflation. The barrier of the 50 peso coin was broken, and denominations of 1000 and 5000 Mexican pesos were minted.

Moneda de 2 pesos Nuevos Pesos
2 pesos Nuevos Pesos coin

In 1993 a new unit in the Mexican Monetary System came into effect, equivalent to one thousand pesos in the traditional system. The “Nuevos Pesos” were identified with the symbol “N$”. The series of new pesos were minted in denominations of 10, 5, 2 and 1 pesos. There were also coins of 50, 10 and 5 centavos Nuevos Pesos.

This most modern Mexican coinage is bimetallic, and mostly minted in industrial metals. The exception is the 10 new Mexican peso coin, which had a silver center, although it was later replaced with base metals as well.

Since then most Mexican coins are bimetallic, and many commemorative pieces have been minted and are like candy for Mexican coin collectors. Especially those that are demonetized or in the process of being retired. You can consult the list of pieces to date on the official website of Banco de México.

Frequently Asked Questions for starting a Mexican coin collection

After this exciting journey through the history of collectible Mexican coins, you are probably eager to start your own collection. It is normal, the world of coin collecting and numismatics leaves no one indifferent.

However, first we must review the answers to some of the most common questions on this subject.

Here we go:

Why are Mexican coins so valuable?

Ancient Mexican coins are very valuable because many of them combine the factors that determine the price or value of a collectible coin: history, rarity, availability, state of conservation and demand.

Mexico was the first place in America where coins were minted, and since then there are hundreds of different designs and denominations. Some types, being hand minted like the Carlos and Juana coins, are variants that can be considered unique.

In addition, along with the United States, there is a widespread culture of collecting ancient coins. The existence of a consolidated market also determines its pieces gain value for numismatic lovers in general, and Mexican coins in particular.

Which old Mexican coin is most valuable?

The most valuable old Mexican coin is the 8 Escudos “Carlos II” piece from 1695. This antique gold macuquina coin sold was sold at Áureo & Calicó in 2009 for 448,400 euros, more than half a million dollars at today’s exchange rate.

8 Escudos “Carlos II” de 1695
8 “Charles II” shields of 1695

From the time of Charles II only two specimens are known in the world, hence this coin is considered a very rare piece, and desired by the wealthiest collectors. In addition, it occupies the 6th place in the list of the most expensive coins of all times, Spanish or minted under the dominions of Spain.

Is it easy or difficult to collect old Mexican coins?

The answer is: it depends on the type of collection you want to build, and the budget you can allocate to the purchase of Mexican coins.

There are many specimens of old Mexican coins that you can get for affordable prices. Of course, they will not have the quality and rarity of the most valuable old Mexican coins. But with patience, and having a clear budget in mind, from the beginning, you could have your own collection of old Mexican coins.

Where to buy or sell old Mexican coins?

If you are in Mexico you can buy online, accessing sites like mercado libre or other similar platforms, although the risk of being scammed is quite high.

You can also visit the popular markets where you will find stalls selling coins and banknotes. Here you might find some interesting specimens, but don’t expect to take home a unique piece that will later be valued at thousands of dollars. It is almost impossible for that to happen.

Then you can visit sites specialized in buying and selling old Mexican coins, or coins from other parts of the world. Some famous places are El Azteca, Casa Clio, El Centenario Casa de la Moneda, among others. You should find out which ones exist in your city.

Where will you start your collection of old Mexican coins?

This is the question I can’t answer myself, but I would love to know the answer. After reading this extensive guide to Mexican coins, what will be your steps to start or continue the coin collection of your dreams.

I would also love for you to leave me a comment about what impressed you the most or what you liked the most about the article; or what you were expecting and didn’t find. These comments are an important input to improve the content, or to create new texts where I will go deeper into those topics you suggest.

Kossi Adzo is the editor and author of He is software engineer. Innovation, Businesses and companies are his passion. He filled several patents in IT & Communication technologies. He manages the technical operations at

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