Spanish Pillar Dollars are considered by numismatists (including us here at Cannon Beach Treasure Co) one of the most stunning coins ever minted. A transitional currency between the rough "Cob" style Pieces of Eight, and the later Portrait Dollars" this regal design bears the Pillars of Hercules, with the Old and New World between them. The Spanish Crown rests above, under the legend: Two Become One. Most of the coins on El Cazador were "Portraits," making this coin all the more rare!
Sometimes called the shipwreck that changed American history, the story of the ill-fated El Cazador begins in New Orleans…
In the 1770’s the Spanish controlled Louisiana Territory’s economy was failing, and so Charles III of Spain ordered captain Gabriel de Campos y Pineda to sail the Spanish brig of war, El Cazador (The Hunter), to Veracruz, New Spain (present day Mexico), on 20 October 1783. There she was to be loaded with silver Spanish coins, mostly 8 reales, “Pieces of Eight,” that were to be used to bolster the region’s economy. On 11 January 1784, El Cazador set sail for New Orleans and was never heard from again.
Some historians speculate that had El Cazador made it to New Orleans, and its treasure been able to bolster the economy, Spain might not have given the territory back to France in 1801. And, in turn, the United States would not have been able to acquire it for 15 million dollars in 1803 (60 million francs) from the French. Remember, Napoleon was the Man in France in 1803 (The Napoleonic Wars raged from 1803-15), and the 60 million francs were supposed to be used for the construction of five new canals in France. Instead, Bonaparte spent the whole amount on his planned invasion of the United Kingdom, which, by the way, in case you missed it, was eventually scrapped.
The coin in this glittering pendant was recovered from the remains of the once proud Spanish galleon, El Cazador. It is doubly rare in that it is a “Pillar Dollar” Reale, rather than the more common Portrait style. While we will never know how history may have been changed if she had made it to New Orleans, we do know that it is a living testament to a time when kings ruled the lands and pirates ruled the seas!