World Gold and Silver Bullion Coins: Mexican Libertad

Written By Luke Burgess

Posted December 29, 2015

The Mexican Libertad is one of my favorite bullion coins. The Libertad is produced by the National Mint of Mexico and is available in both .999 fine silver and .999 fine gold.

The gold and silver Libertad is offered in weights ranging from 1/20th an ounce to 1 ounce; the silver Libertad is also currently offered in 2-ounce, 5-ounce, and 1-kilogram weights. However, the most commonly found Libertads on the market are standard one-troy ounce coins.

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Obverse Reverse

The current obverse of the Libertad design features the winged goddess Victoria perched upon a column triumphantly outstretched holding a laurel wreath. In the background, the Victory goddess is flanked on both sides by the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl.

On the right is Popocatépetl (also called “the Smoking Mountain”), an active volcano. On the left, is the dormant Iztaccihuatl (also called “the White Woman”). These volcanoes are named after the tragic legend of two star-crossed lovers, which goes something like this:

Thousands of years ago, when the Aztec Empire was in its heyday and dominated the Valley of Mexico, it was common practice to impose a mandatory tax neighboring towns. This taxation did not sit well with the indigenous group known as the Tlaxcalteca, who were bitter enemies of the Aztecs. After a while the Tlaxcalteca became weary of the taxation and the chief of the group decided to fight for his people’s freedom.

At this time, the Tlaxcalan chief had a daughter named Iztaccihuatl who was said to be the most beautiful of all the princesses. Iztaccíhuatl fell in love with a handsome and great warrior named Popocatépetl. And shortly thereafter, Popocatépetl asked the chief of the Tlaxcalans for permission to marry his daughter. But the Tlaxcalan chief believed that Popocatépetl was unworthy to marry Iztaccíhuatl. Instead of declining the marriage request, however, the chief of the Tlaxcalteca sent Popocatépetl to battle to fight the Aztecs, saying he would approve of the marriage when Popocatépetl returns.

But the chief, not approving of the relationship, sent Popocatépetl to war mostly unprepared so that the chief thought Popocatépetl would die in battle. But Popocatépetl did not die. Popocatépetl survived the battle and quickly headed home to his promised wife Iztaccíhuatl.

But when the Tlaxcalan chief heard that Popocatépetl’s success, he lied to Iztaccíhuatl, telling her that Popocatépetl was killed in battle, believing she would quickly marry someone else before Popocatépetl returned. But upon news of Popocatépetl death, Iztaccíhuatl, crushed by such tragedy and overwhelmed by sadness, died of grief without even imagining it could be a lie.

When Popocatépetl returned to find his lover dead, he wandered about the streets for several days and nights, until he decided he had to do something to honor her love and to assure that the princess would not ever be forgotten. So Popocatépetl ordered a great tomb built under the sun, piling up ten hills together to form a huge mountain.

Popocatépetl carried the dead Princess in his arms, took her to the summit and laid her on the great mountain. The young warrior lovingly kissed her cold lips, took a smoking torch and knelt in front of his beloved to watch over her eternal sleep.

From then on, they continue together, facing each other. Eventually the snow covered their bodies, forming two majestic volcanoes that would remain joined till the end of time. The legend goes on to say that when the warrior Popocatépetl remembers his beloved, his heart that preserves the fire of eternal passion shakes and rains fire on Earth in blind rage at the loss of his beloved.

ip1215“Iztaccihuatl and Prince Popocatepetl” by Jesus Helguera

The current reverse of the Mexican Libertad features the coat of arms of Mexico, surrounded by other historical Mexican coats of arms.

The Mexican coat of arms is a Golden Eagle perched atop a prickly pear cactus on a stone in the water clutching a snake. This image is based on the legend of the founding of the holy city Tenochtitlan, which goes something like this:

In the beginning, the Mexica people emerged from the womb of the Earth; a place called Chicomoztoc, which means “seven caves”. They settled in a land of paradise called Aztlán. But, the Mexica lived there under a tyrannical ruling class called Azteca Chicomoztoca.

After centuries of oppression, Huitzilopochtli, the Mesoamerica god of war, the sun, and human sacrifice appeared to the Mexica’s highest priest in a vision. Huitzilopochtli ordered the Mexica people to leave Aztlán saying:

“Where you will find an eagle, sitting on a cactus on a stone in the water, tearing with his beak and fangs a snake asunder, there you shall settle.”

durancodexAn excerpt from Diego Durán’s The History of the Indies of New Spain showing the founding of Tenochtitlan published c. 1581

For the two centuries, the Mexica wandered in the Valley of Mexico, until one day they saw this very sight on a small swampy island in the middle Lake Texcoco. And it was there that the Mexica established the city Tenochtitlan.

Over the years, the Mexican Libertad has changed design a bit. Since it was first minted, the Libertad has had two different obverse and two different reserve variations.

On Silver Libertads, these designs overlapped in some mintage years. Here’s what both sides of the Libertad has looked like over the years:

1982 – 1995
1982 – 1999
1996 – date
2000 – date
1991 – 1995
1991 – 1995
1996 – date
1996 – date

Personally, I prefer the older design.

The premium for Mexican Libertads is really high right now. APMEX is currently charging a 9.5% to 14% premium for an uncirculated 2015 Mexican gold Libertad, depending on how you pay (check/wire or credit card/PayPal). To compare, APMEX’s premium on uncirculated 2015 American Gold Eagles is 5% to 10%, also depending on how you pay.

For silver Libertads, the premiums are even higher. Right now APMEX is charging a 28% to 40% premium over silver spot prices for uncirculated 2015 Silver Libertads depending on how many you purchase at once and how you pay. To compare, the company’s premium on uncirculated 2015 American Silver Eagles ranges from about 21.5% to 34%.

The Mexican Libertad is an attractive bullion coin to own. And it’s highly recognizable and accepted and one of the major bullion coins.

I would advise against paying such outrageously high premiums for the Libertad right now. But I suspect that the premium for gold and silver bullion coins will come down next year.

So if you’re interested in owning physical bullion coins, check out the Mexican Libertad. They are really neat coins.

– Luke Burgess
Energy and Capital

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