|Actual Metal Weight:||1.2057 ozt|
|Face Value:||50 Pesos|
|Mint:||Casa de Moneda de Mexico (Mexican Mint)|
Among the most beautiful and coveted gold coins of the 20th century is the 50 Pesos Gold Centenario from Mexico.
These large gold coins are magnificent not just for their high gold content, but also for the unique and artistic cultural imagery that make these coins distinctively Mexican.
One of the most obvious aspects of the coin's appeal is its hefty size. Each Gold 50 Pesos weighs 41.66 grams in gross weight. With an actual gold weight (AGW) of 37.5 grams, or 1.2057 troy ounces, the purity of the coin is .900 fine (90% pure) gold.
Compared to other gold coins around the world from the same era and even today, this weight in gold is higher than usual.
Moreover, these Gold Mexican 50 Pesos Centenarios embody the the country's national identity and carry deep historical significance while also being priced at a very low premium over spot.
Gold Centenarios: A Legacy of Independence
First minted in 1921 to honor the centennial of Mexico's independence from Spain, the aptly named Gold Centenario is a legal tender coin that celebrates some of the most evocative symbols of Mexican culture.
The 100th anniversary of independence in 1921 references the long war between the inhabitants of New Spain, which was then a territory or colony, and the Spanish Crown. The rebellion actually began in 1810, and the struggle lasted an agonizing 11 years before the war ended in 1821.
Mexico organized as a federal republic (similar to the United States) in 1823 and, after repelling attempts by the Spanish monarchy to reconquer the territory in subsequent years, Spain formally recognized Mexico's independence in 1836 according to the Santa Maria-Calatrava Treaty.
It is estimated that somewhere between a quarter-million and half-million people died in the war from both sides combined. The conflict is remembered as the Mexican War of Independence, distinguishing it from the Mexican Revolution in 1920.
The two primary phases of Mexico's struggle for sovereignty were led by a trio of freedom fighters: First, by the secular Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (often referred to simply as Hidalgo), and later by a pair of generals named Guadalupe Victoria and Vicente Guerrero.
Best-Known Gold Coin from an Historic Mint
The impressive Gold Centarios coins are issued by the Bank of Mexico, the country's central bank, and are struck at La Casa de Moneda de México (the Mexican Mint).
La Casa de Moneda de México is actually the oldest minting facility found anywhere in the Americas. It was established all the way back in 1535 by the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the New World.
By comparison, the United States Mint didn't come into being until 1792. Moreover, the first silver coins and gold coins weren't produced in the U.S. until 1794 and 1795, respectively.
Mexico remains active in the production of bullion coins. A similar design to the Centenario is used for the country's gold and silver Libertad coins today.
In a fashion reminiscent of the original Gold Centenario, the Libertad series is primarily a bullion coin program but has also drawn considerable interest from coin collectors due to the gorgeous design and relatively low annual mintage totals of Mexican Libertads.
The mint's operations are now located in San Luis Potosí while the original structure has been converted into a museum.
Today, the Bank of Mexico stands out as one of the only central banks in the world to publicly provide a fully audited list of the gold bars that it holds as foreign exchange reserves.
Mexico's Long Association With Gold and Silver
In the roughly five centuries since it was first colonized by Europeans, the region that is today the country of Mexico has been an abundant source of natural resources, especially precious metals.
It was the promise of gold and silver bullion that drew the Spanish forces, led by Hernán Cortés, into conquest of the Aztec Empire.
Although the conquistadors were also, oddly enough, searching for the mythic "fountain of youth," their primary motivation always remained a desire for bullion.
This desire was so strong, in fact, that the Aztecs made a telling discovery about these strange new arrivals. They were baffled by how the Spaniards reacted with pandemonium at the sight of objects adorned in gold. Cortés offered an explanation through a translator that attempted to cut through the cultural barriers: He said, "I and my companions suffer from a disease of the heart that can only be cured with gold."
By stark contrast, for the Aztecs, gold was simply the "excrement of the gods."
The Aztecs placed greater value in materials such as turquoise and colorful feathers than in gold, though there is plenty of evidence that they were familiar with how to smelt the metal.
Precious metals continued to play a role in Mexico's history long after the initial contact with Europeans. For hundreds of years, the Spanish silver dollar, also known as the 8 reales or pillar dollar, saw wide circulation on the North American continent -- and around the world -- during the 18th and 19th centuries.
A Design Renowned for Its Beauty
It's become a virtual tautology that popular or historic coin designs are lauded as "among the most beautiful ever minted." If you spend any time researching different coins, you will come across this kind of language with regularity.
Of course, it's frequently true: coin designs, which are properly part of medallic art, are often breathtaking. There are plenty of other coins, meanwhile, that may be historic but aren't especially pleasant to look at.
Despite the generous overuse of complimentary language in numismatics, the invocation of "beauty" is without question justified when referring to the Mexican Gold Centenario.
Gold Centenario Reverse Design
The eye-catching image on the reverse of the coin was designed by artist Emilio del Moral.
It shows a pair of well-known volcanoes in Mexico, Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhautl, flanking the statue of Winged Victory (also known as The Angel of Independence) in the background.
This majestic statue is located in Mexico City. It was inaugurated in 1910.
Winged Victory, who is bare-breasted, holds a laurel wreath in her arm above her head as she stands upon a pedestal. Her other hand holds broken chains, symbolizing newfound freedom.
A dual date featuring "1821" to the left and the year the coin was issued appear on either side of the bottom rim.
Other inscriptions include the denomination "50 PESOS" in stylized text to the upper-left, along with the weight and composition "37.5 Gr. ORO PURO" to the right.
Around the outer rim, a geometric pattern surrounds the top two-thirds of the design.
Each coin measures 37 mm across in diameter and 2.8 mm in thickness.
Gold Centenario Obverse Design
The obverse design of the coin captures distinctive aspects of Mexican wildlife and cultural symbolism.
Mexico's coat of arms is placed at the center of the design. It shows a golden eagle, one of the country's native animals, devouring a snake. This represents the triumph of good over evil in accordance with classical European heraldry, but it is also a reference to an important tale within the founding mythology of Mexico City, when the city was known as Tenochtitlan by its pre-Columbian indigenous inhabitants.
The eagle is perched atop a prickly pear cactus, one of the most recognizable plant species native to Mexico. The serpent's tail is held in its talon, as well.
A wreath of oak and laurel leaves curls below the scene. An inscription for the issuing country encloses the top portion of the image, reading "ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS."
The edge design is lettered, bearing the inscription "INDEPENDENCIA Y LIBERTAD," meaning "independence and liberty."
The same geometric pattern fills the outer rim, but encloses the entirety of the design.
Minting History of Centenarios Coins
The word "centenario" is Spanish for "centenary" or "centennial."
Hence, this series of coins began in 1921 as a way to honor the 100th anniversary of Mexico breaking free from Spanish imperial rule.
Mexico's holiday of independence, the approximate equivalent to the 4th of July in the United States, is celebrated each year on September 16th.
The Gold Centenario saw an initial mintage run from 1921 to 1931. The coin was was again minted from 1943 to 1973.
Most of the coins minted from 1949 onward continued to use the dual dates of "1821" and "1947," presumably because there was little reason for new dies to be made. This is partly due to the coin's intended use as bullion: Its face value of 50 Pesos is nowhere near the actual melt value of its gold.
Like the modern bullion coins that followed in the Centenario's footsteps, the denomination is merely a mechanism for imparting legal tender value. It's purely symbolic of the state's official imprimatur that the gold content is backed by the full faith and credit of the Mexican government.
There is plenty of historical precedent for coins being issued with the year-date frozen in time, such as restrikes of the 1780 Maria Theresa silver thaler and the 1915 Franz Joseph gold ducat. Both of these examples were minted by the Austrian Mint under the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Moreover, the long production run of the Centenario well into the second half of the 20th century makes these Mexican gold coins unique in that most other countries around the world had ceased all gold coin production by the 1920s and 1930s.
Connection to the Gold Libertad Coin
The Gold Libertad is the official gold bullion coin of Mexico. In many ways, it's the modern inheritor of the Centenario's legacy.
For starters, the early Libertads minted between 1981 and 1994 used the original design by Emilio del Moral that appeared on the Gold Centenario.
The Libertad's weight in pure gold, however, was slightly less than its predecessor. Each of the newer coins contains 31.1 grams (1 troy ounce) of fine gold, as opposed to the 37.5 grams of gold found in each Centenario. This earned Gold Libertads the nickname "Gold Onzas," using the Spanish word for "ounces."
The series went on hiatus from 1995 to 1999, although the silver version of the coin continued regular production.
From the year 2000 to the present day, the Libertad adopted an updated design. It uses the same thematic elements but offers greater detail, a new artistic perspective, and a more contemporary feel. The coins depict the Angel of Independence (Winged Victory) statue from an angle rather than the forward-facing image created in the early 20th century.
The backdrop, which still shows the twin peaks of the volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhautl, adds more context to the nature scene.
In real life, this famous statue is now surrounded by the urban sprawl of Mexico City.
Fractional sizes of the coins containing 1/20 oz, 1/10 oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/2 oz of gold were introduced in 1991, although the quarter-ounce and half-ounce sizes also saw a one-time issuance in 1981.
Why Buy Mexico Gold Centenario 50 Pesos Coins?
As explained above, the legal tender face value of these 50 Pesos Gold Coins doesn't accurately reflect the intrinsic value of its gold content, which measures 1.2057 troy oz.
They are all struck from .900 fine gold, which was the traditional purity standard used for gold coins by many different countries. The rest of the alloy (10%) is made up of copper.
Despite using the same purity as most of its peers, the Centenario is significantly heavier than most other gold coins from the same era. By comparison, the $20 Gold Double Eagle, the largest gold coin produced in the U.S. during this period, contains 0.9675 troy ounce of pure gold.
Compared to other 20th-century gold coins, the Gold Centenario boasts relatively low annual mintage totals, as well. This means that they are, in a relative sense, more scarce than most other "pre-1933 gold coins".
Among a wide range of other good reasons, the lower mintages and unusually high weight of fine gold have made the Mexican Centenario appealing to both bullion investors and numismatists (coin collectors).