September 13, 2012

Colombia, 1814

1814: 1 Troy Ounce platina (Est. Choco Spot) ~ S$0.1014 (£ 0.0225)
1814: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Est. Cartagena Spot) ~ S$0.1352 (£ 0.03)

Dr. Erich Bollman quoted a purported Cartagena platina price a of S$ 5./libra in 1814. 
Had Bollman's information had been correct, the profit margin between Cartagena and Philadelphia would have been just 22%. 

In 1823, Cochrane (1824) indicates that Gold was 25% more valuable in Kingston than in Cartagena. Logically, bulk platina was sold cheaper to British merchants in Kingston than Bollman's quote in 1813/4:  perhaps ~S$ 4. /libra.  So intuitively, Bollman's price-quote was the Jamaica-rate, where 'Kingston to Philadelphia' trade allowed +S$1./oz Troy marginal profit.  Likewise, Cartagena to Kingston was +S$1./oz Troy, ~33% or fair markup.   

Therefore, the Cartagena bid must have been even lower, a Colombian Price-Low. 
When platina was sold in London for 3s/oz. Troy,  it was 5x the Choco Spot-Price.  See Chaldecott (PMR 1983, Vol. 27, No. 2, p.81):

"[In August 1814, Bollman] told Wollaston that supplies of crude platinum could be obtained from the merchant firm Adams, Robertson &Co. of Kingston, Jamaica, and that smuggled ore could not be bought at Cartagena for less than five Spanish dollars a pound (libra) equivalent to 1s. 6d. an ounce troy, and that the price at Philadelphia was six dollars (6)."  

"S$5." ÷ 14.7946 Ozt. (often, 1 libra = 14.792 English Troy Oz.) = S$0.3380 = "1s. 6d." (£0.0750) assumes an exchange of 4s. 5.25d. (or £1. = $4.5062), a relatively high rate against the Pound. 

1814: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Choco: Estimate) ~ S$0.1014 - 13.52 (£ 0.0225 - 0.03)
1814: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Cartagena: Est.) ~ S$0.2704 (£ 0.06 = '1s. 2.35d') )

1813/4: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Jamaica Price) = S$0.338 (£ 0.075)
1813/4: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Philadelphia: bulk, ore) = USD$ 0.4115 (£ 0.0833)

1814: 1 Troy Oz. platina (London: whols., ore) = £ 0.15 (S$ 0.6758) 

1814: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Colombia: Est. Specimen Rate) ~ S$0.4056 - 0.5 (£ 0.09 - 0.12)

1813/4: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (Producer Cost, $15./lb. avd) = USD $1.029 (£ 0.2207)

Where 13,960 Marcos of .880 Gold Ore = 180,660 Ozt Fine Gold in 1814.

Citation: L'Europe et ses Colonies en Decembre 1819, Vol. 1; M. Beaumont de Brivazac (1820) p.219

Local merchants accumulated & traded large quantities of platina in exchange for low-quality English goods acquired at subsidized rates.

A large platina nugget was found in 1814, taken by Spanish authorities in October 1816, transported to Spain in late 1817, and first reported publicly in early May 1818.  That discovery suggests two important points relevant to the Colombian platina yield of 1814, which may have signaled a Price-Low in that year.

1) 'Record-setting' nuggets were typically found in rich placers, during seasons with a extraordinarily high mineral yields.

2) The presentation of platina to the Commanding General of the Spanish Armies, in a time of war, suggests that mineral was instrumental in funding the attempted Reconquista.    

It is especially ironic that General Pablo Morillo was lauded as a protector of scientific discoveries.  Morillo gained infamy in 1816 for ordering the execution of intellectuals such as the Colombian scientist, Francisco José de Caldas (who had traveled with Alexander von Humboldt, in 1801).  Morillo's terse repudiation of pleas for clemency sounded a proto-fascist note: "España no necesita sabios."

Assuming Castillan weight as first reported, the 'Hurtado pepita' weighed 23.23 English Troy Ounces or 722.2 grams. 

Madrid, 1818: news from London took ~3 weeks; from from St. Petersburg, ~8 weeks; from Venezuela ~14 weeks (3.5 months).

Whereas merchant price-currents followed normal shipping times, general knowledge of foreign data was delayed until summary or re-publication in journals.  This Madrid news item was reported by English scholarly journals 6 months later.   (The actual specimen discovery in Choco had occurred four years earlier.)

Citation: Gaceta de Madrid, No. 53, p. 442 (May 2, 1818) : 

Citation: El Español constitucional: Ó miscelanea de política, ciencias y ..., Vol. 1 (Oct. 1818 ) p.136

Citation: The Philosophical Magazine and Journal, Vol. 52, No. 247  Andrew Tilloch(Nov. 1818) p.382

Citation: Travels through the interior provinces of Columbia [sic], Vol. 2 John Potter Hamilton

1824: In Colombia, Specimen-Gold was sold at the 'market price for Gold' (presumably, coined rate) notwithstanding intrinsic value nor impurities.  Specimen-platina likely sold to European travelers at similarly inflated 'retail' rates, in both earlier & later periods.

Bonnycastle's work was a compendium; he was never in Colombia.  The uncertain reference for this price may be the 1817 French dictionary which also reproduced dated information.

Taking the French Franc at Fr 1.23 per English Shilling in December 1814:

33 Shillings per Libra = 32.54 s.  per Pound Avd. = £3.5869 per Kg. (~72 s.) ;
Fr. 40.59 per Libra = Fr 40.02 per Pound Avd. = Fr. 88.56 per Kg.

1814?: 1 Troy Ounce platina (raw ore, in Colombia) =  £ 0.1116 (Fr 0.25)

Citation:  Spanish America: or A descriptive, historical, and geographical account of ... By Sir Richard Henry Bonnycastle 1818, p.274

c. 1814?
Citation: Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, appliquée aux arts, à ..., Vol. 26 (1817) p.583

Citation: Colombia: being a geographical, statistical, agricultural, commercial, and ... Alexander Walker (1822) p.312

Where .750 Gold was S$ 200. per libra, Fine Gold .9999 was S$ 267./libra.
Where 'poor Gold price was S$ 37.50 - S$ 75. per libra and 'oro bajo' the fineness may be assumed less than 35%.

Platina was sometimes found to be 50/50 Au-Pt:

Citation: Proceedings of the Second Pan American Scientific Congress, Washington, USA ; Glen Levin Swiggett p.331

Platinum/Gold Ratio on the Condo River was 3:1

1817: In this account, General Morillo's henchman and chief-of-staff, Pascual Enrile, was blamed for much of the butchery and the liquidation of Colombia's scientists & intellectuals.

Citation: Estudio cronologico de la guerra de la independencia de la antigua Colombia ;  Nicolas González Chaves (1879) p.551

Colombians viewed the export of these treasures as little more than Crown theft.

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