The Golden Fleece is a shipwreck that sunk circa 1550 in the northern Caribbean. It is noteworthy for its yield of gold and silver coins that were used to produce coins issued under the Spanish crown of Joanna and her son Charles I, as featured on the this coin! The coin itself is a fabulous rarity, famous as the first coin type struck in the New World at the first mint in the New World- Mexico City! The 4 Reales is also important as the design is believed to be the origin of the dollar symbol, as later iterations would add banners on the pillars of Hercules, reading “PLUS ULTRA” (more beyond) to form the $ symbol.
About the coin design
The obverse features the great “Pillars of Hercules” with the text PLUS ULTRA which translates to “MORE BEYOND.” They are encircled by the Latin legend that declares ownership of Spain and the Indies. The Pillars of Hercules had long marked the Strait of Gibraltar separating the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and in Greek mythology represented the barrier to the known world, a barrier not to cross. Thus, the pillars featured on colonial Spanish coinage symbolized and inspired the efforts to expand the empire beyond the known world.
The reverse features the arms of the joint Castile and Leon, with a legend that translates to “Carlos and Joanna Kings”- the mother and son co-rulers of Spain and the Spanish Domain. The coat of arms is flanked by letters on either side that designate the Mexico City mint (“M”) on the left, and the letter “A” on the right that designates the assayer of the silver.