Coin Obverses

Obverse of Mexican Spanish colonial bust 8 reales
Obverse of Mexican Spanish
colonial bust 8 reales

The obverse of the Spanish coin is the side with the king's portrait, name, and the date. In almost all cases, the reverse is used as the vignette.  Why so few obverses? Here are some speculations:

  • Americans had a dislike for royalty stemming from our British colonial experience. Note designers would not choose to put a king's face or name on an American note.
  • The obverse had the date, usually much earlier than many of the notes' issue or due date. Designers might have been concerned that those whom they hoped would accept a note would consider the coin's earlier date to be a sign of the note's obsolescence, and hence questionable value.
  • The obverses of the coins changed when there was a new king. The reverses stayed invariant except for mintmark and assayer mark.
  • The coin's denomination is on the reverse.
Rufus Allen, New York, NYC ?, 1862, 12 1/2 cents

Rufus Allen (?), NYC, NY scrip

unidentified issuer, Massachusetts, New Bedford, 1837, 12 1/2 cents

New Bedford, MA (?) scrip

unidentified issuer, Massachusetts, New Bedford, 1837, 12 1/2 cents

New Bedford, MA (?) scrip

I have only encountered one United States note that depicts a Spanish coin obverse.  It is a "stationery" note.  These were like blank forms that could be completed by the issuer.  Anyone could buy the note forms, fill them out, and issue their own money.  The stationery notes probably appealed to the small merchant who wanted to save the expense of having a custom note designed and printed.  The note shown has the imprint "Sold at Valentine's 50 John St NY"

Both of the New Bedford notes are "cut-out canceled," which removed the signature of the issuer.

While this collection has few Canadian obsolete notes, there appears to be a greater proportion that display a Spanish coin obverse.  Perhaps the Canadians, then an English colony, were more comfortable with depictions of royalty.