British Honduras Counterstamped Coins

Started by Deeman, December 31, 2021, 02:32:53 PM

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Spanish 8 réales counterstamped with a crowned 'GR' between circa 1810 to early 1820's freely circulated in British Honduras (and the West Indies in general). They have no official status as an adopted coinage having been privately done by local merchants. Prior to 1810 the primary barter item with the local Indians were cutlass blades. These British naval swords were manufactured with a 'GR' stamp at the base where the blade meets the handle and it has been hypothesised that a similar mark on coinage was an attempt to make that currency acceptable in trade. Stamping coins in this manner would not require official authority since it didn't affect their currency value in the settlement.

There are three types of crowned 'GR' countermarks: rectangular indent, oval indent and incuse letters.


Rectangular indent

British Honduras, host coin 1809 Ferdinand VII 8 réales, Mexico City mint, assayer TH, counterstamped rectangular crowned GR.

British Honduras, host coin 1816 Ferdinand VII 8 réales, Peru Lima mint, assayer JP, counterstamped rectangular crowned GR.


Oval indent

British Honduras, host coin 1818 Ferdinand VII 8 réales, Mexico City mint, assayer JJ, counterstamped oval crowned GR.

British Honduras, host coin 1821 Ferdinand VII 8 réales, Mexico Zacatecas mint, assayer RG, counterstamped oval crowned GR.


Incuse letters

British Honduras, host coin 1800 Carlos IIII 8 réales, Mexico City mint, assayer FM, counterstamped incuse crowned GR.

British Honduras, host coin 1818 Ferdinand VII 8 réales, Mexico City mint, assayer JJ, counterstamped incuse crowned GR.


Coins of Ferdinand VII

Charles IV's prime minister, Manuel de Godoy, had become unpopular among both the nobles and the Spanish people by his willingness to have catholic Spain make treaties with atheist Revolutionary France against Britain.

An uprising took place on 17 Mar 1808 in Aranjuez, south of Madrid, where the royal family and the government were staying while on their way south, anticipating a French invasion from the north. The mutineers made Carlos dismiss Godoy, and, two days later, the court forced Carlos to abdicate in favour of his son, who became Ferdinand VII.

Ferdinand reigned from 19 Mar 1808 to 6 May 1808. However, French troops occupied Madrid, and Napoleon summoned Ferdinand to the frontier and obliged him to return the crown to his father, who granted it to Napoleon. Napoleon made his brother, José Napoleón Bonaparte, king of Spain and held Ferdinand in France for the duration of the war. Ferdinand returned to the throne on 11 Dec 1813 and reigned until 29 Sep 1833.

The colonies were cut off from Spain by the French occupation and the Peninsular War of 1808–14. They were ruled by independent juntas who refused to recognise José Bonaparte, instead declaring allegiance to the deposed Ferdinand VII, even though the independence movement was well underway. The Spanish Napoleonic coinage was used only in Spain. The American mints continued to mint coins with the portrait of Ferdinand VII. The minting of royalist coins effectively ended in 1821, when republican forces captured the mint at Lima.


Highly interesting coins. Hadn't seen them before. I don't have documentation on the numismatic history of  Honduras or British Honduras, but I have the nearest thing, The coins of independent Peru by Horace P. Flatt (Terrell, 1994). It is relevant because the Honduras area was long part of the Captaincy-general of Peru and its mint, Lima, served the Honduras area.

The Peruvian economy was severely damaged in 1776 when upper Peru (now Bolivia) became part of the viceroyalty of Río de la Plata since this change left Peru without major ports. Moreover, the Peruvian mines at Cerro de Pasco were increasingly flooded, stopping silver mining. Steam pumps solved the problem until they were destroyed as a by-product of battles between royalists and patriots in 1820. The production of coins in the Lima mint, virtually the only source of revenue of a vast area, was reduced to a trickle. In short, the Peruvian economy had basically come to a standstill. The country had to import not only its manufactured goods, but even its food.

Project this dire situation on the faraway Honduras area, where everything must have been worse. It would be understandable for plantation owners who could not even distribute what they produced to start looking at the local market: Indian tribes.

It is equally clear that the supply of British cutlasses had been cut as well. Moreover, while these heavy weapons were probably good for cutting sugar cane, they were also good for cutting people, so opinions on the wisdom of distributing arms may have diverged. The counterstamped coins may well have been a last ditch attempt to get some trade going in the area.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.