1797-99 G.Britain S$1 NGC XF40. 1797-99 Great Britain Silver $1.00, Mexico 1776-MO, 8 Reales, KM # 641. This counterstamp 1797-99 British silver dollar is a mixture of light gray and darker gun-metal gray with hints of blue and green. These colors prove the coin’s originality. The surfaces are extremely clean for the grade with no notable abrasion marks or other distractions. The countermark, which is a miniature of the head of King George III, is heavily impressed on the center of the obverse in an oval cartouche. It originally raised the center of the reverse, which is now worn as a result of being exposed.
The punch with the British king’s head was left over from its use in 1784 when a duty of six pence per ounce on silver plate was imposed. The silver that had been taxed was hallmarked with the king’s head to show that the duty had been paid. The countermarked coin is one of the attempts of the Bank England to get silver back into circulation during a monetary emergency. It was first circulated in 1797 with a value set at four shillings and nine pence, just shy of a crown. Because of the countermark and lower value, it was described as “two kings heads and not worth a crown.”
England was at war with France at this time and needed money to fight. Since world silver prices were high, any full weight coins would be melted for bullion. The Bank of England’s reserves were in foreign dollars. To remedy this situation, it stamped 8 real coins to raise their face value above their silver content so they would not be melted. Some scholars believe that the countermarks were done by Matthew Boulton at his Soho Mint. Others believe that it was done by the government at the Tower Mint.
The host coin, a Mexico City Mint 8 reales piece, KM #106.2, shows a bust of Charles III of Spain, who was a proponent of enlightened absolutism, abdicated in favor of Ferdinand, his third surviving son. Since George III of England was thought to have suffered from a mental illness, the pieces were also called “the head of a fool on the neck on an ass.”
In its population report, NGC shows 7 1797-99 silver dollars C/S on Mexico 8 reales at the XF40 grade level.