Monday, July 16, 2012

A Brief Intro to 960 Reis

What is the story behind 960 Réis coins?

The 960 reis (pronounced 'heysh' [or 'heys', depending on accent]) coin of Brazil is a unique, fascinating example of numismatic history. It can easily be said to be the most popular and well-known collectible coin of Brazil, comparable to the US Morgan Dollar. In the same manner as the Morgan, the 960 reis contains many die varieties, errors and true rarities. They can be collected by type, date, variety, error and uniquely to the 960 reis, by overstruck coin. Heritage Auctions has described the 960 in this way:
"The prolific issue of the 960 Reis is undoubtedly one most interesting, charismatic and collected issues in the world. With its incredible variety of mint marks, die types, host coins, one can spend a lifetime researching and collecting just the issue and rarely come across similar coins! The issue of 1819 from the Rio Mint, for instance, has over 200 die varieties alone, couple that with the hundreds of different host coins used as planchets and you have thousands of different possible combinations!"

A Brief Background

During the Age of Discovery, Portugual made many great voyages and discoveries, leading to many colonies around the world. Brazil was discovered in 1500 by Pedro Cabral, initially looking for a westward route to the Indies to follow up on Vasco de Gama's successful voyage from Europe to India. Once the natural resources of Brazil were dicovered, colonization of Brazil became a priority for Portugal.

War in Europe

During the Napoleonic Wars in Euope, Portugal sided with Britain against France. In an effort to halt all continental trade with Britain, Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807. France would be mired in conflict in Iberia for six years. It didn't take long for Napoleon to take Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, forcing Prince Regent João VI to flee with the royal house to Brazil at the end of 1807.

The Portuguese Court in Brazil (1808-1815)

Rio de Janeiro became the seat of the Portuguese Empire in 1808 with the arrival of the royal family and house. The presence and maintenance of the Royal house in Brazil required an amount of funds that previously were scarce in the colony.

In September 1808, Dom João declared that circulating Spanish 8 reales, valued on the market at 750 to 800 reis, be counterstamped to make them official coinage of Brazil, and at the same time raising the accepted value to 960 reis. This created a profit for the Royal family, helping to fund the costs of the Kingdom. Starting in 1810, the entire 8 reales coin was overstruck with the Brazilian design, instead of just using a counterstamp.

The coins of this period include the counterstamps from Minas Gerais and the Colonial type of 960 reis overstrike.
1817-R 960 Reis. Colonial Type.
1817-R 960 Reis. Colonial Type.

United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve (1815-1822)

João VI elevated Brazil from Colony to be held with at the same rank as Portugal in December 1815.

The coins of this period include the special series of 1816, the Colonial type with a legend noting Brazil's elevation, and the United Kingdom type.
1819-R 960 Reis. United Kingdom type.
1819-R 960 Reis. United Kingdom type.

The Empire of Brazil (1822-1889)

Pedro I declared Brazil independent on September 7, 1822. The monetary system was reformed starting in 1833 and the denomination of 960 reis ceased being produced in favor of multiples of 100 reis for all metals.

The 960 reis coins of this period are of the Imperial type.
1832-R 960 Reis. Imperial type.
1832-R 960 Reis. Imperial type.

Coins in Brazil

The monetary system in use during this period throughout the Portuguese Empire was the Real (hey-ow). Commonly, there were copper and silver coins in denominations of 10, 20, 40, 80, 160, 320, 640 and 960 reis. 960 reis can generally be divided into four series:
  1. Counterstamps (1808-1809) - These were small counterstamps on Spanish silver crowns indicating that they were official for use in Brazil at the value of 960 reis.
  2. Colonial (1810-1818) - From here, the 960 reis were overstruck on top of the 8 reales coins.
  3. United Kingdom (1818-1822)
  4. Imperial (1823-1834

Counterstamps (1808-1809)

After the decree in September 1808 to begin issuing coins valued at 960 reis in Brazil, the ability to counterstamp was limited to the state of Minas Gerais, later including Mato Grosso.

Overstriking (The Patacão)

The overstruck 960 reis started being produced in 1810 by taking Spanish and Spanish colonial 8 reales coins that widely circulated in Brazil and overstriking them with the Brazilian design, raising the domestic circulating value of the coin, producing a profit for the government and halting circulation of non-Brazilian coinage in the country. Very rarely, the overstrike was done on a non-Spanish crown-sized silver coin, including US Dollars.

The 960 reis was called "patacão" or "3 patacas", where a "pataca" valued 320 reis (very early-on, this was the value of the 8 reales).


960 reis were struck in the states of Rio de Janeiro (R), Bahia (B), and in Minas Gerais (M). Official counterstamps were struck in the state of Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso.


Since dies for these silver coins were made by hand and the force involved in overstriking on existing silver coins was hard on the equipment, there are many different die varieties and errors throughout the series. Numismatic studies of 960 reis have cataloged over 2,200 varieties. Truly, this famous series will never get dull.

1 comment:

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