Spain, Copper "Pirate" Cob

Date: c. 1556 - 1717
Spanish Empire

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Item Description:

These Spanish copper cob coins, minted between the reigns of King Philip II and Philip V from 1556 to 1717, circulated during an iconic era known as the Golden Age of Piracy. This period, spanning roughly from 1650 to 1730, marked the peak of piracy in various regions, notably Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

While these copper cobs are not technically "pirate" coins—since pirates didn't mint their own currency—they have nevertheless secured a strong association with pirates in popular culture. This is primarily due to the historical fact of these coins' widespread use among seafarers in the New World's ports during that era. Indeed, Spanish currency held a favored status among all maritime traders, both legitimate and otherwise.

Sporting a crude, irregular shape characteristic of the "cob" style—derived from the Spanish word 'cabo', meaning 'end' or 'piece'—these coins showcase a castle on the obverse and a rampant lion on the reverse. These symbols powerfully represent the Spanish monarchy and the former Kingdom of León, respectively. Each coin was worth varying amounts of maravedis, a unit somewhat comparable to cents in the Spanish real currency system.

Furthermore, many of these coins underwent counterstamping—a process that updated an older coin's denomination or inscription with a new design. This practice was particularly common with Spanish coins due to the vastness of the empire. Counterstamping was far more practical than creating new coins, as the latter would necessitate the transportation of copper across extensive distances.

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