August 29, 2012

Colombia, 1803

In October 1801, the Spanish Minister of the Royal Treasury ordered the Viceroy of Santa Fe to send all the platina that had accumulated during the war (1796-1801.)  In Chocó, the arrival of the very famous scientist Alexander von Humboldt- making numerous inquiries about platina - focused further attention on the metal.

In the Platinum Study (c.1803), the extraordinarily well-informed Citara magistrate Don Ventra Salzas Malibran summarized several important points known to elites and ore producers/traders in the Chocó region.

1) From the outset of Royal decrees to collect platina in 1778, locals began to discuss then horde the ore.  Creoles and Europeans alike began to think of platina's value, even as a ratio to Gold or Silver. And the traders' money was the strongest incentive.

2) The history and industry French manufacture of Platinum was known; the Paris retail price of refined metal was likely surmised or approximately known.

3) An extensive illicit trade existed between Jamaica and Carthagena, dodging the 32.5% duty on legal trade ; various official measures may or may not have disrupted the contraband networks for platina S$6. per libra

In contrast to von Humboldt's high-end specimen-price  ("Chocó spot-price"), Don Ventra Salzas Malibran reported in a Gold Study (1804) declining platina yield but a lower commercial Cartagena spot-price ("8-6 Piastres per libra").  The Cartagena platina price apparently fell 25%, 1800-1803.

c.1801: 1 Troy Ounce platina (Cartagena, illicit export) = S$ 0.541
1803: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Cartagena: Contraband, 75%) = S$ 0.406 (£ 0.1065)
1803: 1 Troy Oz. Pt (Cartagena: Intrinsic) = S$ 0.541 (£ 0.142)

Periodically, platina auctions (at discount prices) at English ports may have threatened the profitability of the illicit Caribbean merchant trade.  In 1804, the English Navy seized another large shipment of platina from the Spanish; it remains unknown if retail platina prices (small lots) in the UK fluctuated according to sudden oversupply.  If not, presumably, an informal cartel quietly managed ore prices.

1804: 1 Troy Oz platina (UK quasi-retail) = £ 0.2468 (S$ 0.726)
1804-09: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Cartagena) ~ S$ 0.406 (Fr. 2.03; £ 0.07275)

(Cartagena wholesale prices was about 1s., 5d. per ozt.; London Price 3.4x higher, Paris~4.4x.)

Citation: Estudio sobre las minas de oro y plata de Colombia, Vicente Restrepo (Marzo de 1884)p.106

Citation: Travels in the Republic of Colombia: in the years 1822 and 1823 By Gaspard Théodore Mollien (comte de) (1824) p.454

The Spanish Dollar was worth as little as  £ 0.1792 in the UK, but in the Americas the Pound was weaker : S$ 1. ~£ 0.225

News from the Americas to Madrid took 10 weeks.

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