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The amazing amount of silver taken from Cerro Rico, the population growth and expansion of commerce, and the unexpected ascendancy of the city, among other factors, made it advisable to establish a mint in Potosi.
Production began using a rudimentary technology that endured 192 years, from 1575 to 1767. The vision of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo brought about the construction of the first Casa de Moneda (mint) here. The foundations were laid near the Plaza del Regocijo (today's Plaza 10 de Noviembre), in 1572. Jerónimo de Leto, from Potosi, was the superintendent of the construction and the building was completed in 3 years at a cost of over 8,321 pesos of silver (approximately 100,000 USD with silver at $12/oz.).
The coins from Potosí were so well known throughout the world at this time that Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra immortalized the phrase, vale un Potosí (worth a Potosi), to symbolize wealth, power, and glory.
After almost 200 years of the first mint and in spite of falling production from the Cerro Rico, the Spanish authorities decided to “re-launch” silver in a desperate attempt to alleviate the economic crisis caused by the futile Spanish wars and the unending costs of maintaining a burgeoning, nonproductive nobility. One of the principle measures was the construction of a new mint in the hope to leave behind the deformed macuquinas that had been circulating for so long and replaced them with Reales, Columnarios and Busts. The authorities of Potosi, led by the Governor, Ventura Santelices y Venero, opposed to the new construction, arguing for the expansion of the existing building, the one built by the Viceroy de Toledo in 1575.
Proposals and counterproposals went back and forth until the King finally sent Salvador de Villa, an experienced architect who had constructed the mints in Mexico and Lima, with orders to build a new mint. Construction began in 1759 and was completed in 1773.
The building covers 7,570 square meters (81,000 square feet, almost 2 acres) and has almost 15,000 square meters (over 160,000 square feet) of floor space. Within the building there are 5 courtyards and around 200 rooms. The architecture is Baroque and gives the overall impression of an impregnable fortress. Noteworthy are the balconies of the first courtyard, carved stone entry, and fine brick and stone walls.
Documents reveal that the completed project cost 1,148,452 pesos and 6 reales (approximately 15 million dollars with silver at $13 per ounce).

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Additional Photos by Matteo Porta (mporta) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 198 W: 78 N: 620] (3812)
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