The Coins of Queen Isabel II

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of Spain 1833 - 1868

ROYAL DECREE of 1836 December 1:


The coinage is to be minted with the same types, sizes, and contours as currently being made, but placing on coins obverse "Isabel II por la gracia de Dios Y la Constitucion" and the reverse "Reina de las Españas" and on the edge of the 20 reales "ley, patria, Rey" while retaining thin reeding on other denomination coins. (1)

Isabel II niña

- painting by Carlos Ruiz de Ribera, 1836

8M-1836a : 1836 8 maravedís Segovia mint PCGS AU details

copper, 29mm, medal alignment, Edge exhibits a laurel leaves pattern

Type: Pearl Bun Head Right - Denomination on Reverse - DIOS

The coins of the Kingdom period (1833-1848) include:


Copper:  1, 2, 4, 8 maravedís

Silver:     1, 2, 4, 10, 20 reales

Gold:      80 reales


During this time the province of Cataluña also struck their own coinage:


Copper:  3 and 6 cuartos

Silver:     1 peseta


The Philippines relied on countermarked Spanish colonial coinage at this time with a limited number of copper 1, 2, and 4 quartos

2M-1858B : 1858 2 maravedís Barcelona mint PCGS AU55

copper, 19mm, medal alignment, Reeded Edge

Type: Pearl Bun Head Right

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Kingdom Period (1833 - 1848)

Isabel II inherited the throne in 1833 upon the death of her father, Ferdinand VII. The first numismatic period of Isabel's reign (1833-1848) is referred to as the Kingdom period. During this time the coinage denominations and appearance continued much as they had in Ferdinand's time except for the introduction of Isabel's name and image.

The earliest coins bearing Isabel’s image were likely inspired by the queen’s appearance at court wearing a pearl necklace and earrings with her hair pulled up into a bun topped by a small crown of pearls. The royal engraver, Mariano González Sepúlveda, created dies depicting Isabel II in a similar manner on copper, silver, and gold coins of the Kingdom period. She was also portrayed thus in a contemporary portrait painted by Carlos Ruiz de Ribera.

In 1833 several proclamation medals were issued in silver and gold in sizes similar to existing coins, but without a stated denomination. Many of these likely saw use in commerce based on their weight. A few regular issue 4 reales and 80 reales coins were struck as early as 1834, but most denominations were issued beginning in 1836.

At this point in history, Spain was comprised of several political factions. Chiefly, the liberals (also known as Constitutional party) and the royalists who favored the Carlist faction. The liberals were comprised of moderates (sometimes referred to as conservatives), progressives, and radicals. In simplest terms, the royalists were fighting to preserve the old ways under which each town and region was independently governed by various local men of power. The liberals sought a new way in which greater freedom and opportunity was given to Spaniards and wanted to centralize government authority for the purpose of assuring consistent policies in the administration of Spain.

Ferdinand VII had led an absolutist government that favored the old ways. In Isabel II the liberals saw an opportunity for change. They sought a return to the progressive Constitution of 1812. Isabel's mother and regent, Maria Cristina, made overtures to the liberals to assure her leadership. However, she did not seem genuinely supportive of liberal ideals which sought to limit royal power. During the summer of 1836 the guards at the summer palace revolted and forced the Queen Regent to implement a constitutional monarchy. This explains why the decree of 1836 has very little in the way of coinage specifications. Its primary purpose is to assure that “CONSTITUTION” appears on the coins.

Spain issued only one type of 2 maravedís and most were minted at Segovia or Jubia from 1836 to 1850. However, Barcelona also issued this type in 1858. This is unusual since maravedís had been officially abandoned in 1848 with the change to decimal coinage.

This particular example is one such Barcelona issue. It has pleasing chocolate brown surfaces with light areas on the obverse and deep, almost iridescent toning on the reverse.

Spain issued three types of 8 maravedís. All of them pictured Isabel II on obverse and a stylized cross with castles & lions on the reverse. The first type had a legend that ended DIOS with denomination on the reverse, the second type was a crudely cast coin from Pamplona (the only official cast coin of Isabel's reign), and the third was like the first except that the denomination is on the obverse and the legend ends CONST. since the legend was modified to "... GRACIA DE DIOS Y LA CONST."

The coin pictured above is of the first type with legend ending DIOS. The edge has a laurel leaves pattern similar to those seen on earlier Spanish colonial 8 reales silver coins of 1732-1772. This particular example has rich brown toning with a hint of luster on the obverse and a highly contrasted dark and tan reverse.

(1) “Articulo de Oficio.” Gaceta de Madrid. Madrid, Spain. (3 December 1836): No. 728, page 1 (translated).

Vista del parte del Real Palacio de la Cuesta de la Vega

- painting by Fernando Brambila, early 19th century

2R-1850S-RD : 1850 2 reales Seville mint NGC MS63

Assayers: RD = Benito de Roxas - Vicente Delgado

silver, 18.2mm, medal alignment, lettered edge: Reeded

Type: Pearl Bun Head Right - Legend Ends CONST

Spain issued two types of Kingdom 2 reales of Isabel II. They are distinguished by the legend, with one ending DIOS and the other ending CONST. All of them pictured Isabel II on the obverse and crowned arms encircled by the Chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece on the reverse.

The coin pictured above is of the second type with legend ending CONST. This particular example is beautifully lustrous on both sides. The obverse bears a few marks commensurate with the grade. The reverse is virtually flawless.

20R-1848M-CL : 1848 20 reales Madrid mint About Uncirculated (ex O'Callaghan)

Assayers: CL = José Luis de Castroviejo - Eugenio Larra

silver, 36.8mm, medal alignment, lettered edge: LEY PATRIA REY ⚜ ⚜  ⚜

Type: Pearl Bun Head Right - Legend Ends CONSTITUCION

Spain issued two types of Kingdom 20 reales of Isabel II. They are distinguished by the legend, with one ending DIOS and the other ending CONSTITUCION. All of them pictured Isabel II on the obverse and crowned arms encircled encircled by the Chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece on the reverse.

The constant export of Spanish 20 reales during the mid 1800s makes finding an eye appealing example very challenging and Kingdom period 20 reales are the most challenging among these.

The coin pictured above is of the second type with legend ending CONSTITUCION. At just over 67,000 minted, this is one of the lowest mintage issues of the series. This particular example has lustrous prooflike surfaces with beautiful golden and powder blue toning on both sides. A hint of rub on Isabel's cheek and a few marks and minor hairlines in the obverse fields are overwhelmed by the overall beauty of this coin. The finest example of this date seen by this author and the most eye appealing example this author has encountered of the entire Kingdom 20 reales series.

1M-1842a : 1842 1 maravedís Segovia mint PCGS MS65RB (ex Barinaga)

copper, 14.3mm, medal alignment, Reeded Edge

Type: Pearl Bun Head Right

Spain issued only one type of 1 maravedís (1842-1843).

This coin pictured above has lustrous red brown surfaces and almost no marks. An excellent example of the type.

2M-1841a : 1841 2 maravedís Segovia mint PCGS MS64RB (ex Barinaga)

copper, 19.4mm, medal alignment, Reeded Edge

Type: Pearl Bun Head Right

Spain issued only one type of 2 maravedís and most were minted at Segovia or Jubia from 1836 to 1850, with some additional pieces minted at Barcelona in 1858.

The coin above has lustrous red brown surfaces and few marks. Both sides, especially the reverse, have mirrored iridescent surfaces when viewed in hand. A stunning example of the type.

20R-1838M-CL : 1838 20 reales Madrid mint NGC MS63 (ex Barinaga)

Assayers: CL = José Luis de Castroviejo - Eugenio Larra

silver, 37mm, medal alignment, lettered edge: LEY PATRIA REY ⚜ ⚜  ⚜

Type: Pearl Bun Head Right - Legend Ends CONSTITUCION

Spain issued two types of Kingdom 20 reales of Isabel II. They are distinguished by the legend, with one ending DIOS and the other ending CONSTITUCION. All of them pictured Isabel II on the obverse and crowned arms encircled encircled by the Chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece on the reverse.

The constant export of Spanish 20 reales during the mid 1800s makes finding an eye appealing example very challenging and Kingdom period 20 reales are the most challenging among these.

The coin pictured above is of the second type with legend ending CONSTITUCION. With only about 219,000 minted, this is actually the highest mintage of the series. Scarce in grades above VF, this coin is truly rare in uncirculated condition. This particular example has lustrous surfaces with mint frost on many of the design features. The finest example of this date seen by this author.