Mexican Libertad Coins
Buying Mexican Silver Libertads is a straightforward process for most collectors, since these bullion coins have few variations other than the year, and the choice between uncirculated bullion coins and proofs. They are 99.9% pure silver, making them the equal in fineness to silver coins from most other governments, and are readily available from most reputable coin dealers.
Purchases directly from the Mexican Mint are not possible, though the Mint does maintain an informative website (mostly in Spanish, with some English pages). Libertads are widespread, however, and can usually be bought from the same sources that offer other world coins, including all the reputable online silver dealers listed on this site.
Mexican Silver Libertad – Shape, Composition and Mintage
The one ounce Mexican Silver Libertad draws its dimensions from the widely accepted guidelines for silver bullion coins, used all around the planet. It should be noted that there are also Gold Libertads, and the Silver Libertad is produced in many different sizes – 1/20 ounce, 1/10 ounce, ¼ ounce, ½ ounce, 1 ounce, 2 ounces, 5 ounces, and 1 kilogram. The larger coins are more recent, of course, following the example of Canada and other premier minting nations in creating large bullion coins for both collectors and those who wish to possess a coin of considerable intrinsic value.
Silver Libertads were minted only in a 1 troy ounce size in the first year of their production, but an efflorescence of other sizes followed shortly.
Regardless of the size or year, the design of the Libertad remains the same from year to year. Although beautiful, this means that collectors will not have a great variety in their coins (unlike, for example, the Australian Silver Kangaroo, which has a different picture on the reverse every year) other than the date mark. There has been one renovation of the design, in 1996, to make the Libertad more attractive, but the design has not changed in the succeeding years. The edge is reeded.
The obverse of the Mexican Silver Libertad shows the eagle and snake of the Aztecs, perched on a prickly pear cactus. Ten historical symbols of Mexico surround the figure of the eagle, with an almost flowery effect. All of these emblems depict the story of the eagle and the serpent in slightly different forms when magnified, however. The legend “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” appears above the central eagle and serpent group.
The reverse of the coin shows the Angel of Independence, an angelic statue in Mexico City – a winged woman holding up a wreath, although the actual statue is fully clothed and the coin’s version appears to show her naked to the waist. The backdrop for this aspiring (and, in the numismatic version, extremely buxom) figure are two of Mexico’s famous volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. The inscription “1 Onza Plata Pura [Year] Ley .999” and the Mexican Mint’s mintmark appear as well.
Although the uncirculated bullion coin mintage of Mexican Silver Libertads is quite high, the proof editions are tiny, usually several thousand and sometimes only several hundred, or none in some years during the first decade of the Libertad’s existence. Therefore, proof coins are usually quite valuable.
History of the Mexican Silver Libertad
Mexico has had a tumultuous history since pre-Columbian times, when empires rose and fell, cities were sacked and burnt, and the temples of a remarkable array of gods were raised as the centerpiece of urban life. According to the oral histories of the Aztecs, first learned by Europeans following the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes in the early 1520s, they came as a wandering tribe from the north, seeking a new homeland.
Upon arriving near the site of their future capital, Tenochtitlan – the site of Mexico City today – the Aztecs became friendly with a tribe of the region, and the lord of this tribe offered their leader his daughter in marriage. When he returned the next morning, however, thinking he would take part in his daughter’s wedding ceremonies, he discovered the chief priest of the Aztecs dancing before an altar to Huitzilopochtli, the Left-Handed Hummingbird, wearing his daughter’s freshly flayed skin.
Enraged and grief-stricken, the lord and his warriors attacked the Aztecs, who fled into the thick reed beds of the lake nearby and hid themselves. Eventually, they found an island in the lake with a cactus growing on it. An eagle was perched on the cactus, devouring a snake, and the priests took this as a sign that they should build their settlement here.
Protected by the lake, this settlement eventually grew into a huge and powerful city, with a highly aggressive warrior culture centered around huge raids for sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli. The Aztecs continued their predation for centuries until they were finally smashed by the conquistadors and their Tlaxcalan allies.
The emblem of the eagle eating the snake appears on the modern Mexican Silver Libertad, is a reminder of the strange, intriguing, and frequently bloody history of this large Central American nation. This is a fascinating historical connection for the numismatic enthusiast. The Mexican government first began minting Silver Libertads in 1982, a few years before the appearance of the American Silver Eagle, but part of the then-beginning bullion coin movement which has spread to most of the world’s governments since.
Mexico has always been rich in deposits of precious metals, including silver and gold, and although the conquistadors naturally sent much of this back to Spain, there are still deposits present in Mexico as well. The initial Libertads were issued in a very robust mintage of over one million examples in 1982, with yearly production ranging from 67,000 to 2.5 million annually since. The Banco de Mexico was the minting authority.
Since then, the Mexican Silver Libertad has caught on in the manner of other bullion coins, and is now minted in many different weights and sizes for collectors. Its main purpose is to generate a revenue stream for the Mexican government, rather than for any specific funding goal, but this does not diminish its beauty, its value to collectors, or the depth of history revealed by the emblems shown on both its obverse and reverse, evoking the centuries past and their many victories and tragedies.