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The Spanish Milled Dollar – America’s money

America’s first silver dollar was actually Spanish…….

In early colonial times and even before the American Revolution, there was a chronic shortage of circulating coinage in the colonies. England forbade the early colonists to mint their own coins, forcing the settlers to barter or use foreign money to conduct business. It was commonplace during this time to use French, Dutch, German, English and Spanish currencies to conduct business.

1754MO MF MEXICO 8R KM-104.1 MS61

From 1600 to 1792, the Spanish Milled Dollar or Pillar Dollar, became the most utilized money of the era and set the standard for future US coins.  It is dubbed “America’s First Silver Dollar.” Minted in the silver-rich Spanish colonies of Mexico and Peru, these large, one ounce silver coins had a patterned edge to prevent dishonest merchants from “shaving” the edges. “Milled” refers to the fact that the coin blanks, or planchets, were made on a milling machine and were of consistent weight and size, perfect for the new economy. Merchants would either take the whole coin as tender or cut the coin into halves, quarters or eighths to “make change.”

It is believed the origins of the “$” symbol came from the column and stripes on the obverse of the coins.  The obverse portrays the Pillars of Hercules surrounding crowned, conjoined globes and ocean waves below, hence the name “Pillar Dollar” and was valued at 8 reales or “Piece of eight.”  1753MO MF MEXICO 8R MS 61 006

Thomas Jefferson even recommended to the Continental Congress on September 2, 1776 that the new country adopt the Spanish Pillar as a monetary unit of value. Years later in 1792, the coinage act created the

United States Mint. Ironically, our first U.S. dollars were not as popular as the Spanish dollars, which were heavier and made of finer silver. The Spanish Dollar was THE standard coinage in America and it remained legal tender in the United States until the Coinage Act of 1857.

1754MO MM Mexico 8R MS 62   1754MO MM Mexico 8R MS62 REV

Capstone Acquisitions




Information gathered in part by:
The Official Red Book. A Guide Book of United States Coins 2015.

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Athenian Owl silver tetradrachm coin

Athenian Owl silver tetradrachm is considered to be one of the most recognizable coins in history because they were the first widely used coins in international trade. For this reason, the classical Owl silver tetradrachm was trusted from kingdom to kingdom and were used by noted individuals such as Pythagoras, Democritus, Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes.

The first generation style tetradrachm is famous for its portrayal of Athena, with her almond shaped eye, archaic smile as well as for the charming owl reverse produced around 6th century. Around 480 B.C. a wreath of olive leaves and a decorative scroll were added to Athena’s helmet. On the reverse a crescent moon was added. During the period 449 – 413 B.C. enormous quantities of tetradrachms were minted to finance expansive wonders and building projects such as the Parthenon and to cover the costs of the Peloponnesian War.

Attica-Athens-Tetra-Owl-MS-5-5-Holder 9-17-15


Early in the fifth century BC Athens became the foremost naval power in the Greek world. This was partly due to the discovery of silver in her territory. According to the historian Herodotus (ca. 484-425 BC), there was a debate about what to do with the newfound wealth: ‘…Build? Expand? Party like the Romans? The revenues from the mines at Laurium had brought huge sums of money into the Athenians’ treasury. The hero Themistocles persuaded them not to distribute it, but rather to use the money to build two hundred war-ships.’ (Herodotus, Book 7, Chapter 144) Themistocles advice turned out to be spot on–It was largely due to the Athenian fleet that the Greeks won their war at this time against the Xerxes and the Persian Empire, they secured the mainland of classical Greece from Persian invasion

In ancient times, the story goes, Athens had no patron, but both Poseidon and Athena wished to take the city under their protection. To settle matters, Zeus proposed a contest – whichever of the two could give the most precious gift to the city would be allowed to be its patron. On the day appointed by Zeus, Poseidon and Athena met on the plain outside the city. Poseidon presented his gift first – he struck his trident into the ground, and from the trench it made a well of water sprang up. The water, unfortunately, was salt, and not much good for drinking or irrigating.Attica-Athens-Tetra-Owl-MS-5-5-BS 9-17-15

When it was Athena’s turn, she knelt and dug a small hole in which she planted an olive branch. The branch began to grow, and within moments, it was a towering tree bearing rip fruit. Her gift was judged far more useful, and indeed it was. Though the olive is widely seen now as a symbol of peace, at the time it meant survival. The olive tree provided food, oil, shelter and fuel for fires. Thus, Athena became the patron goddess of Athens and took the city under her protection.


On the Athens Owl, she is most often depicted wearing a warrior’s helmet. In the earliest version of the coin, her face has few distinguishable features, and the helmet is more suggested than drawn. As time went on, her visage became far more detailed, and the helmet drawn in all its glory. One mark of the latest period of Ancient Grecian coins is the shape and orientation of Athena’s eyes – open corners, giving the face a more lifelike appearance.

The ancient slang names for the coins of Athens were “owls” and “ladies” (in Greek). “Owls” were so popular as a “work-horse” currency of the ancient world that the design remained essentially unchanged and somewhat archaic long after other cities began to produce coins of a more refined artistic style. The Athenian Owl is still very popular many people consider the Athenian owl to be “the” ancient coin–the most important, the most beautiful, the most historic, the one you need to own.

What made the Athenian silver tetradrachm popular and long lasted status as trusted money? The people on the street, that’s who. They hustled from town to town, selling goods in the Greek world. They knew that they could trust the Athenian silver tetradrachm as payment because it contained full weight of the best silver. Athens was the strongest economic force in the Greek world. Their mines provided the Athenians with an abundance of fine silver for coin production.

The Owl tetradrachm belongs to a large group of issues of the 480s-440’sBC, the period of the construction of the Athenian fleet. The two designs on the Athenian coins both allude to the patronage of the city by the goddess Athena. On the front of the coin is the head of the goddess herself, and on the reverse is her bird, the owl. These design remained unchanged on Athenian coinage for over three hundred years. Athens carefully regulated the manufacture of its silver tetradrachm. In fact, the penalty for counterfeiting the Athens Owl was death, but that didn’t stop counterfeiters from trying.

The coin’s reverse is equally intriguing, portraying Athena’s symbol, the owl, now an international symbol of wisdom. The letters ‘AOE’–or more precisely, “Alpha Theta Epsilon” or “Athe”–form an abbreviation of “Athens”.

Stories have been said that President Theodore Roosevelt loved the Athenian Owl and kept one in his pocket for inspiration. His love of the Owl coin was primarily responsible for the Golden Age of American coins during the early part of 20th century. Working with the talented Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the most renowned American sculptor at the time. They ushered in the $20 Saint-Gaudens double eagle gold piece. Many American and Europeans consider the coin, which features classical Greek design elements, to be the most attractive ever minted in the U.S.

A little history for the day.
Capstone Acquisitions

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Happy Halloween!

Halloween History & Origin – from Wikipedia

Halloween is the one of the oldest holidays still celebrated today. It’s one of the most popular holidays, second only to Christmas. While millions of people celebrate Halloween without knowing its origins and myths, the history and facts of Halloween make the holiday more fascinating.

Some people view Halloween as a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating, and having theme parties. Others view it as a time of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits that should be avoided at all costs.

As the Christian debate goes on, celebrating Halloween is a preference that is not always viewed as participating in an evil holiday. Halloween is often celebrated with no reference to pagan rituals or the occult.

Halloween History

Halloween is on October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar. It was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead. Halloween was referred to as

All Hallows Eve and dates back to over 2000 years ago.

All Hallows Eve is the evening before All Saints Day, which was created by Christians to convert pagans, and is celebrated on November 1st. The Catholic church honored saints on this designated day.


Origin of Halloween

While there are many versions of the origins and old customs of Halloween, some remain consistent by all accounts. Different cultures view Halloween somewhat differently but traditional Halloween practices remain the same.

Halloween culture can be tr aced back to the Druids, a Celtic culture in Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe. Roots lay in the feast of Samhain, which was annually on October 31st to honor the dead.

Samhain signifies “summers end” or November. Samhain was a harvest festival with huge sacred bonfires, marking the end of the Celtic year and beginning of a new one. Many of the practices involved in this celebration were fed on superstition.

The Celts believed the souls of the dead roamed the streets and villages at night. Since not all spirits were thought to be friendly, gifts and treats were left out to pacify the evil and ensure next years crops would be plentiful. This custom evolved into trick-or-treating.

Austin, TX- 6th Street on Halloween – from Capstone Acquisitions

6th Street, Austin’s most famous entertainment district, is busy on regular evenings, particularly on the weekend. Halloween, as you can imagine, is usually off the charts and barely containable.

It’s hard to believe that after all the hassle it takes to get down there, so many people still go – including myself or used to in my younger days. Depending on where you live in Austin, it usually takes 20-30 minutes to get to 6th, followed by several minutes of bobbing and weaving through one-way streets, pedicabs and jaywalkers. The amount of time it takes to find a cheap parking spot or valet, close to the club you want, is just ridiculous if you don’t know your way around.

Austin Halloween

To be completely honest, it’s not for everyone. I would compare it to the insanity and pure ridiculousness of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, just on a smaller scale. 6th street is blocked off for blocks in each direction, and there are people absolutely everywhere.

There are costumes of all shapes and sizes. The thought and creativity that is put into some of the costumes you will see down there is unmatched. From what I remember, these are not kid friendly costumes. So prepare yourself for lots of cleavage, ass cracks, exposed boobs, fake penises, 6 packs, party balls, and 300 lb people in thongs. You will laugh so hard you might cry. People watching from a vantage point with a cold beverage does not get much better than on Halloween night. Come early and stay late is the mantra.

Here is a great documentary that a fellow Austinite made on the madness and craziness of Halloween on 6th Street:

At the end of every night on 6th Street, the street itself is cram-packed with people heading to their cars, stragglers trying to find their friends, people sitting on the curb eating pizza, drunk kids stumbling, and cops lined up and down the streets to scout for future jailbirds. (Word to the wise: Make sure you have a designated driver or be a hipster and use Uber.)

Have a safe and fun Halloween evening where ever you are. I’ll be relaxing in North Austin Suburbia. On my driveway handing out candy with my brothers, drinking a cold one as our kids run around with their friends. Let the holiday season begin.

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Alexander The Great Coins

Perhaps no other ruler throughout history was as influential in the design of coins and money as Alexander the Great. The coins minted during his reign influenced the future of coinage on three continents, and incorporated symbols that are still widely used in coins today. Of course, coinage was only one of the facets of history affected by Alexander.

Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest generals that ever lived, Alexander was only 20 years old when he became the king of Macedonia. In just thirteen short years, he changed the face of the world. By the time of his death in 323 B.C., he brought the entirety of the Persian Empire under Greek rule. From the borders of India to the Adriatic Sea, from Egypt to the Black Sea, Alexander’s victories expanded the Greek empire across three continents. And across those three continents and that vast empire, the coinage approved by Alexander became the standard on which currency would be based for centuries to come.

The most common of those coins, and those most commonly referred to as an Alexander, were silver coins bearing the head of Heracles on the front and a seated Zeus on the reverse, along with the king’s name. These were minted during Alexander’s life, and continued to be minted in the twenty years following his death by Macedonian generals who divided his kingdom, and for another two centuries by independent cities as international coinage. Thus, there are thousands of Alexanders still in existence. Like the Constantines of Imperial Rome, though, there are so many types and designs that a coin collector could easily specialize in AlexaAlexanderIII-336-323-AV-Slander’s alone. Unlike the Constantine’s however, the differences among Alexanders exist in mint marks and minute differences that makes dating silver Alexander tetradrachms challenging, at best.

Of course, the silver tetradrachms that are most commonly referred to were only one of the denominations of coins minted under Alexander and in his wake. The following were the most common types:


Alexander gold stater
Standardized at 8.67 grams, the gold stater was one of the highest denomination coins. It showed the helmeted head of Athena on the front, and the standing figure of Nike, the goddess of victory, on the reverse. Nike holds a wreath in her extended left hand and a naval standard in the left. The word ALEXANDROU is imprinted vertically behind Nike.

Alexander silver Tetradrachm and Drachm
Silver tetradrachms (four drachmas) and drachmas bore the head of Heracles wearing a lion skin facing right on the front. On the rear, Zeus is seated on a throne, facing left, holding a scepter in one hand and an eagle in the other. The word ALEXANDROU is vertically imprinted behind Zeus.Alex-III-Drachm-Lifetime-CH-MS-5x4 Holder 10-6-15

click to enlarge

Alexander bronze coins
The bronze Alexander coins represent the widest variations in both denominations and design. The most commonly found bronze Alexanders feature the head of Heracles on the front, and a quiver and club on the back. The variations of other denominations differ in back design, and include a horseman and Macedonian shield designs.

Alexander’s legacy
Alexander’s lasting legacy was not his reign, but the cultural diffusion his conquests afforded. His establishment of Greek colonies and culture in the conquered lands resulted in a new Hellenistic culture. The evidence can be seen in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire until the mid 15th century. Alexander became the measure against which generals to this day compare themselves, and military academies throughout the world teach his military genius.
In later years the famous Julius Caesar wept upon seeing a statue of Alexander, since he himself had achieved so little at the same age.
Napolean Bonapart of France encouraged the comparisons with Alexander, whose fame as a commander and conqueror was unequaled.


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The Making of Ancient Coins

Until the Renaissance, the process of making coins involved striking a die with hammer to stamp the images onto the faces of the coin. Each coin had to be hand-struck, which led to differences even in coins struck by the same hand and the same die. This has created an abundance of coins to interest collectors, who find that no two coins from the ancient world are ever alike. To understand why that is, it helps to understand exactly how those coins were made.

All ancient coins started with blank discs of metal, called flans. The metal varied with the type and denomination of coin that was being created. The highest values of coins were often minted of gold, usually approaching 95% purity. Those coins had what is called ‘intrinsic’ value, meaning that the value of the metal used in the coin was approximately equivalent to the value of the coin. Other metals that were often used for higher denominations of coins were electrum—an alloy of gold and silver.

Once the metal had been acquired, it had to be shaped into flans of the correct weight and size. One of three methods was used to do this. In the first, molten metal was poured into two-sided clay moulds and then cooled, resulting in blank discs of the right weight. Skilled craftsmen may have been able to skip the moulds and pour out uniform dollops of molten metal onto a flat surface. The third method, which offers the finest control, would have involved pouring a specified weight of granulated metal into a mould, heating it to the melting point, and then cooling it in the mould.

With copper and bronze coins, other methods may have been employed. While gold and silver blanks would have been poured into individual molds, the baser metals were often molded in trays with channels or grooves between the coin shapes to allow the metal to fill the entire mold. Some were cast in long rods of a specific diameter, then sawed or cut apart into a certain number of flat discs the way that a modern baker cuts cookie dough into cookies. The end result was a flat, round piece of metal, ready to be placed in a die.

The die used to strike ancient coins was most often made of metal—most commonly bronze hardened with tin, though iron was used sometimes. The image that was to appear on the coin face was engraved into the die, in reverse—both negative and mirror image. There were two dies used: the first, for the obverse (front) of the coin, was inset into an anvil. The flan was placed on top of this die. The second die, bearing the image for the rear of the coin, was typically engraved into the bottom of a chisel or pyramid-shaped rod. This was centered on the flan, already in place on the obverse die, and then struck with a hammer. The force of the hammer blow would impress the designs from the two dies on the front and back of the flan, creating a coin.

While it’s possible for one person to manage the entire process for striking coins alone, most coins were created by teams of three or more people working together. In engravings and listings of workers for the time, it seems that the process in a mint might go like this: One person would bring the flan from the furnace, where it was heating in preparation for being struck, and position it on the die. A second person would hold the upper die in place, while a third wielded the hammer and struck the coin. The final person would remove the struck coin from the mould just in time for person number one to drop another flan into place. Working in this way, they may have made as many as one coin every three seconds. On a busy day in one of the Imperial Roman mints, there would have been several anvils active at once, churning out thousands of coins a day.

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Our New Look

Welcome to the new Capstone Acquisitions!  Our new e-commerce website will allow you to find the highest quality museum pieces to add to your collection.  Whether you are an avid collector or a first time buyer, we know you will be pleased with the quality of our inventory. We work everyday to find specimens of the highest quality within the numismatic world.  We look forward to constantly giving you new and enticing pieces that have deep historical meaning and value.  As always, we are here to grow your collection and answer any questions you may have. Happy Historical Hunting!