Friday, 05 October 2012 16:41

New Mexico's Money

Contributed by
Rate this item
(2 votes)

This is a Spanish 2 Reales COB coin minted in Lima, Peru in 1727.  The designation "COB" is from the Spanish cabo de barra, or the end of the bar.  To produce them, a shallow trench was dug into sand and molten silver poured into it.  When cool, a piece was cut from the end, crudely clipped until the weight was correct and then struck with the dies, which accounts for the irregular shape.  These coins were used throughout the Spanish colonies.

The Spanish government, as best as possible, attempted to limit entry into New Mexico.  Most trade was conducted by barter, with only people of means able to use hard currency.  In 1807, Zebulon Pike was dispatched by President Thomas Jefferson to find the headwaters of the Arkansas River, was arrested by the Spanish on the Conejos River, having mistaken the headwaters of the Rio Grande for the headwaters of the Arkansas.  He was taken to Chihuahua via Santa Fe and ultimately released.  While there must have been some contact between the new America and New Mexico, it was probably very limited and definitely discouraged by the Spanish who were concerned about the intentions of their new neighbor to the east.

On August 24, 1821, Spain accepted Mexico's independence.  On November 16, 1821, William Becknell became the first American to arrive in Santa Fe with a pack train of goods that he sold for a huge profit.   What becomes the Santa Fe Trail quickly grows and a steady stream of goods flows into New Mexico and south into Mexico.  Becknell’s second trip to Santa Fe in 1822, which was the first to use wagons (he had three) yielded a profit of $60,000 on $3,000 worth of goods – an astonishing 2,000%!  In 1831, the Mexican government began to levy various duties and taxes on the American traders on both the goods imported into Santa Fe and the specie, gold dust and furs exported.  While this made the trips less profitable, there was still significant money to be made.  Specie was generally packed in sacks made of raw beef hide, which would shrink upon drying and press the contents tightly to prevent friction.   Two of these packages, each containing between one and two thousand dollars, would constitute one mule load.  So much silver was carried to Missouri that, for a time, the Mexican dollar was the principle currency there.

By the late 1830s, Santa Fe had become the trading hub between the United States, central Mexico and Mexican California.  Merchants making their way over the Great Plains would stop in Santa Fe, where they would meet with their counterparts from Los Angeles and Mexico City. The result was that as central Mexico fell into turmoil, New Mexico grew economically and shifted into the orbit of the United States.

--Mike Lord

Read 2677 times Last modified on Friday, 22 November 2019 17:33
Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Ed Romero Wednesday, 10 October 2012 17:55 posted by Ed Romero

    Cool post Mike. I feel this process for money may come back as the government issued coins and paper becomes valueless. Of course we will each have to use our own silver and gold.

Login to post comments

Additional information