Cuba’s Independence (Remember the Maine!)


Continuing on the topic of the war for Cuban independence from Spain in my blog posted last week, this week I’m going to tell you about Cuba’s second attempt at a one Peso coin.

In January of 1898, the USS Maine sailed from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba to protect American interests during the war for Cuban independence from Spain. On the evening of February 15, at 9:40PM, an explosion ripped through the ship while anchored in Havana Harbor killing 259 and injuring 78 members of it’s crew and sinking it to the bottom of the harbor. Sixteen crew members survived uninjured. The explosion was quickly blamed on a Spanish mine and plunged the United States into the Spanish American war.

As a result of the American action the Cuban government in exile seized the opportunity to press for independence, and expecting a quick defeat of the Spanish forces with the help of the American forces, on March 9, 1898 ordered a new Cuban Peso to be minted using the sample of the 1897 Sovenir Peso as the model to produce the 1898 Cuban Peso pictured. Only 1,000 pieces were minted.

The obverse had the “SOUVENIR” replaced by 1898 flanked by two stars larger than those found on the 1897 version. On the reverse, the “UN PESO” denomination replaced the six stars found on the original.

Despite it’s limited mintage and it’s scarcity, to date it remains only the second lowest mintage coin of the 1897 and 1898 series behind the Type I of the 1897 Souvenir Peso with it’s documented mintage of 828 pieces. However, in real life it is a quite difficult piece to find in mint state (uncirculated) with only 3 exemplars graded in mint state by the major grading companies (ANACS, NGC, and PCGS).

On January 30, 2015 I was fortunate to find this coin ungraded at the Long Beach Expo in Long Beach, CA at the booth of a gold and rare coin dealer from Texas that I befriended at previous shows. I could see signs of wear in a couple of places, so I knew it would not grade in mint state, but I bought it for my collection. I sent it in for grading and, as I suspected, it was graded about uncirculated (AU) and the scratches on it’s surface lowered it’s grade further to “Details”.

However, I’m proud to be the owner of a piece of Cuban history and still hope to one day purchase one in mint state at which point this one will be up for sale.