Silver Bar Physical Object

Accession Number
Alternate object names
Silver;Ingot;Silver Ingot
Creation Date
circa 1622
Silver ingot number 650 (note the Roman numeral DCL stamp) recovered from the wreck of the 1622 galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha. The ingot was cast in the Andean mining city of Potosí and was being shipped to Spain by Miguel de Munibe on his own account. Munibe’s mark is the combined “MB” stamped into the surface. Other marks include tax stamps, the purity value, Atocha silvermaster Jacobo de Vreder’s “V,” and the assayer’s “scoop,” where a sample of silver was removed at the foundry for purity testing. The ingot is 35.2 centimeters long and weighs 34.6 kilograms (76.26 pounds).

35.5 x 13.5 x 10 cm. 87.68 troy pounds. 32.73 kilograms. 72.15 pounds.

Exhibition Label
Object/Case Caption (2023):

Silver (Peru and Mexico, 1621)
Gifts of George Breed, Richard Bulman, Dr. Edwin and Jane Davis, Wayne Densch, Kim Fisher, Mel and Dolores Fisher, Joseph Hoffman, Jamestown Inc., Norman Johnson, Demostines “Mo” Molinar, John Scott, Jerold B. Shapiro

1986.003.007, 1986.008.0065, 1986.008.1496-98, 1986.008.2290, 1987.004.0001, 1987.011.0001, 1987.021.0001-2, 1997.001.0001, 1997.002.0001-3, 1997.011.0015, 1999.016.0001, 1999.001.0001, 1999.007.0002, 2001.009.0006, 2001.014.0001, 2003.008.0001, 2004.004.0001, 2011.004.0001, 2019.005.0001

The millions of silver ingots successfully shipped to Spain were melted down to make coins or other items. Only those recovered from shipwrecks reveal details of the trade.

The Nuestra Señora de Atocha was carrying 1,038 silver ingots, most weighing about 70 pounds. Each one was assigned a serial number, then marked to show where it was mined and its purity. The largest single owner of the Atocha’s silver was King Philip IV, but nearly two-thirds of the cargo was being shipped by private individuals. To make sure that there were no mistakes during transport, owners marked their ingots with their logos. If they were shipping an ingot to someone else, they added that person’s logo too. Details were carefully recorded by the silver master on each galleon, who made sure that taxes and freight charges were paid on personal treasure.

[image: diagram]

1. Silver master’s stamp
2. Shipper’s logo
3. Purity mark
4. Tax stamp
5. Assayer’s scoop
6. Serial number
7. Receiver’s logo

This ingot was being shipped by A. de Aguirre to H. de Almonte. Their personal logos – a linked “AGE” and an “H3” – are marked on the face of the ingot, as are the circular, shield-style stamps that prove that the 20% tax was paid to the crown on the value of the silver. The large Roman numeral VUII, indicates it was the 5,002nd ingot produced in Potosi that year. The deep scoop in the middle of the ingot was made by the assayer when he sampled the ingot to determine its purity, which is specified by the Roman numerals IIUCCCLXXX, indicating that it was 2,380 parts pure silver out of 2,4000. Two Vs at either end are the marks of Nuestra Señora de Atocha silver master, Jacob de Vreder, showing that he registered the ingot as it came aboard the galleon.
Previous Exhibit Case Caption: Removed March 29, 2023 Silver Ingots Recovered from Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita Gifts of Mel and Doloras Fisher, Jamestown Treasure Salvors, Kim Fisher, Paul Wimmler, Wayne Densch, John Scott, Joseph S. Hoffman, Edwin and Jane Davis, Demosthenes Molinar, George Breed, and Norman Johnson. The Atocha carried 1.038 silver ingots, mostly from the rich silver mines at Potosi and Orunro. Each ingot weight about 70 pounds, with a collective weight of over 34 tons. What was an ingot’s value? A sailor’s monthly salary in 1622 was about 3.5 ounces of silver. A single bar, therefore, would represent 26 years of pay. “If God brings the ship safely to Spain.” – Jacove de Vreder, Atocha Maestre de Plata The duty of the ship’s silvermaster, or maestre de plata, was to track the details of the valuable cargo and ensure its safe arrival. Lists were created as the items were brought aboard the noted owners, descriptions, registry numbers, and other pertinent information. This manifest, or registro, was used to confirm the items safe arrival, then it was filed with government officials. Silvermasters earned their salary based on the amount of treasure a ship carried. The silvermaster on the Atocha, Javove de Vreder, would have earned a sizeable income, but he and the treasure cargo were both lost as sea when the Atocha sank. Official shipments abord the Atocha included the following cargo” • Payments to King Philip IV of Spain • From the City of Lima collected for fines and sales tax, • From the City of Potosi on mined silver (133 ingots) • From the Cartagena de Indias on 1.400 African slaves (1 chest of ingots) • Revenues from papal indulgences for the Catholic Church • Personal shipment by Lorenzo de Arriola of Potosi (60 ingots) • Personal shipment by Martin & Marie Salgado of Lima (15 ingots) • Personal shipment by Simon de Torres of Oruro 95 ingots) • Private shipment to establish a priest’s residence in Spain 93 ingots) • Silver items of Doña Isabel de Pernia (35 lbs) Silver Tax The Spanish government assessed a tax known as the quinto real, or royal fifth. It required payment of 20% the value of each silver ingot shipped. A round stamp distinguished the bars whose owners had paid the royal tax. In addition, a six percent freight and transportation fee was also assessed. This fee went into a common fund to pay for the protection of the ships. These silver bars also bear a large “V,” probably the mark of the Atocha silvermaster Jacove de Vreder. He would have stamped his mark after registering the silver ingots, noting the payments of fees and taxes.