Sunday, August 9, 2015

105. BARRILLA First Philippine Coin during the Spanish Colonial Period

Different types of Barrillas. Top left is a bronze, uniface specimen
dated 1728. The piece below is made of lead dated 1733
Above right is a copper piece dated 1743

There is some question about how the term  "barrilla" originated and when it came to mean fractional coin. The term appears in Spanish documents of the early 1760's. However, the first piece on which "barrilla" appears (misspelled "barilla") is a crude; thick, heavy unifaced bronze or copper piece dated 1728. The coin bears' the seal of Manila - a three-towered castle above a sea lion - incused in the center within a raised circle. Around the outside of the circle, the inscription reads: "BARILLA. ANO DE 1728." The first specimen was found by the eminent numismatist, Dr. Gilbert S. Perez, on  the grounds of the old University of Santo Tomas. Other specimens have been unearthed since then, but the piece remains a rarity in Philippines numismatics.

Showing the reverses of 1733 and 1743 dated pieces,
respectively depicting a crude rendition of the Seal of Manila
The first historically documented copper coin made in the Philippines was the barrilla dated  1766. At that time, Don Domingo de la Sierra, senior regidor of the municipal council, requested authorization to produce these coins because of the scarcity of minor coinage in Manila. Sierra's request was granted, with the stipulation that only 5000 pesos' worth should be coined, and that these should be used only for petty payments. The coin is a small round copper, approximately 18 mm. in diameter. The design on the obverse is that of a castle within a circle in the center and' a crown on top, and the legend around reads: "CIUDAD D MAN. 1766". The reverse bears a crowned shield with a sea lion holding up a sword. The number" 1" is on the right of the shield, and on the left is the monogram "BA ", which can be interpreted as interlaced letters "B" and "A", or "B", "A", and "R". This coin had the value of one grana of a tomin, or 1/1 2th of a rea/. (The tomin was 1/8 of a peso, or equivalent to one real, and divisible into 12 granos). 

Some of my barrilla coins dated 1728 (bottom left), 1739 (bottom right ) and 1743 (rest of the coins)

Whatever or whenever the derivation of the term, the name "barrilla" became incorporated into the language of Philippine numismatics and even in local parlance, for today, the Tagalog word "bariya." meaning "small change" or minor coins, is an obvious carry-over from the past. When the  Ayuntamiento or Municipal Council of Manila made a second request for more barrillas for use in the provinces, the request was denied. Apparently the king, Carlos III the same Carlos responsible for the change away from the "Dos Mundos" design - did not approve of circulating in his dominions coins which did not bear the royal coat of arms. Instead, in 1769, he ordered that six thousands pesos' worth of silver cuartillas i.e.. fourths of reals, be minted in Mexico and sent to the Philippines. 

Source:  Piloncitos to Pesos by Angelita Ganzon de Legarda, M.D.

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  1. Great article, Thanks for your great information, the content is quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.

  2. I have this 1728 barilla coin we found it at construction site while excavating its foundation.. now may i ask how much the value of it today??

  3. I have this 1728 barilla coin we found it at construction site while excavating its foundation.. now may i ask how much the value of it today??