United Maxxico America
From Erik V. McCrea's research:  In an entertaining composition entitled A Foolish Fantasy, which Lawrence J. Lee composed for the April 2003 Numismatist, he reports that the UMA “confederacy was a short-lived kingdom that had its turbulent beginnings during the Bosco Wars of the mid 1870s.” He goes on to give only a few humorous details about the Maxxico Revolution, a civil war led by the charismatic Commander Zacatecas, and his attempts to overthrow the corrupt regime of King Epud I, who was its first and only monarch. “The details of the Maxxico Revolution are available in any history book, and the theme has been repeated many times before and since...Thus, we know Maxxico existed, and the basic facts surrounding its sudden and complete disappearance. However, we don't have much in the way of artifacts, except for the coins (as is so often the case).” The reverse of the piece in question, dated 1884, is modeled after a Mexican cap-and-rays 8 Reales, like the type produced by the Zacatecas mint from 1825-1897. But the overall appearance of its central image has been artfully altered to show, instead of a liberty cap, an 11-rayed sun rising over the sea. The majority of the article basically describes the copper-nickel coin and interprets all of its devices/symbolism. The piece is, after all, “a link to a lost society.” Mr. Lee reveals, for example, that the eagle on the obverse (he calls it “a jackdaw”) is grasping a leafless sloof lirpa stick in its beak. In the penultimate paragraph, he comically acknowledges that the ANA's specimen was donated by April Phoule (let's see, her name rings a bell...yes, I distinctly remember once seeing an extremely risqué photograph of her, taken by a paparazzi, while she was vacationing on the scenic beaches of San Serriffe, salaciously clenching a long-stemmed eluohp lirpa flower in her teeth). All kidding aside, Mr. Lee penned the entire yarn for his and our amusement. In our personal communications, I was informed that when Mr. Lee was contacted by the chap who found this oddity, he sought the opinion of many other experts/colleagues, but all of them were stumped. In spite of the fact that “no one (other than the owner) believes it to be anything but nonsense”, he then made use of their collective puzzlement to spin an imaginative, deadline-beating spoof. I obtained my sample on eBay.
If anyone out there can provide any concrete details about this coin's true provenience, please let me know. That may be the only way we can convince our numismatic community that this coin is worthy of our attention, that it deserves our serious-mindedness, and that it is much more than a nonsensical, Phoulish piece of metal.
Amazingly, I've encountered (again on eBay) a second type of Maxxico 8 Reales. To begin with, it's made of bronze. Its reverse once again pays compositional homage to the now-familiar cap-and-rays motif. But the obverse has undergone some major changes. The stick-carrying eagle, while still very much resembling “a dove of peace with an olive branch in its mouth,” is no longer facing us head-on; it is now standing sideways and looking to the right. The designer has rendered it even more poorly than its predecessor (even the lettering is extremely crude). And this time, instead of being perched on a rock (or “a dunçe, a traditional Maxxicoian one-room mud hut”, according to Mr. Lee) like on the first coin, it rests on a thick branch. I bought it from a seller named Mr. Kenny Ong Yew Chuan; the fact that he lives and works in Malaysia supports my suspicions that these pieces originate somewhere in Southeast Asia (I've seen several being sold from that region). He told me that he did not possess any information specifically about the Maxxican coins, but in regards to numismatics in general, he offered an illuminating cultural insight: “the Mexican dollars in the past are popular in Malaya and they called it Ringgit Helang (Eagle dollar)...it was current until the British issued the British Trade Dollars. The local Malays here believe that a replica of token made and kept by owner so that more money can be generated. it is called ‘ibu duit’ (mother coin)”. This notion is corroborated, somewhat, by another eBay merchant: according to alikabok, who is based in Manila, the Maxxico piece is a “Philippine made ‘ANTING-ANTING’ (amulet) combining the designs of vintage US and Mexican coins. During the Spanish occupation period in the Philippines, many superstitious Filipinos believed that the Mexican Republic 8-reales coins with the design of the eagle holding a snake was lucky especially for business. Up to now, this superstition was still believed in some older provinces. Whoever originally concocted this design on this amulet must have concluded that it would be a MORE POWERFUL amulet if the design on the dollar coin of the USA would be added in. Hence this mixed-up design.”
After winning the bronze piece, I was fortunate enough to enter into correspondence with the only other bidder on that auction, a collector named Mr. Bob Gurney. He is clearly an authority on the entire array of cap-and-rays coinage, especially the spurious examples, and he has been exploring this very diverse and difficult series for nearly 50 years: “I have been in love with these coins since I picked up my first copy in 1957. I saw my first counterfeit of the type in 1960 and I have been hooked on the counterfeits ever since.” For starters, “There are two different designs used — the Profile Eagle — the ‘Hookneck’ was issued 1823 to 1825 by a few mints. The standard or facing eagle was commenced in 1824 and lasted until the end of the series in 1897. Speaking of ‘Standard’, the dies were initially made one by one. This produced nearly innumerable minor varieties that have never been fully catalogued — even today. It also made them easy to forge. The earliest dies even used different eagles on each die so varieties are exceptionally numerous.” The reason for these and other dissimilarities (in quality, silver content, diameter, thickness, even edge design) was that many mints were not run by the Mexican government. “Many were operated under leases by mine owners or other private citizens.” In all, there were 14 mints that produced the series, resulting in 14 separate mintmarks (not counting the distinct subvarieties and variations in the mintmarks themselves). Interestingly, there were two periods of issuance in regards to these 8R pieces: “The early series ends in about 1870 with the introduction of the decimal series — the Peso. The Peso failed in international trade so they resumed making the old 8Rs in 1873 for overseas use. This second phase is similar to the US Trade Dollar series. These later coins were bullion issues not meant to circulate in Mexico. They were legal tender in Mainland China until 1933.”
In all actuality, the Maxxican coins mirror the Mexican 8 Reales only to the extent that the name “Maxxico” partially reflects the word “Mexico”. At first glance, our eyes might initially be deceived by the puzzling Maxxico pieces, but once we subject them to even the most cursory of visual comparisons with the Mexican coin, it becomes clear that the so-called counterfeits are rife with uniquely quirky characteristics, making them so radically unlike the Mexican piece that it would truly be impossible for us to confuse one for the other. The Maxxico's obverse “is a far cry from the Aztec symbol of an Eagle killing a snake while standing on a cactus in the middle of a lake.” The reverse, which is even more of a departure, “is an odd mix of misinterpreted symbols. But some of those errors may point in the direction of the forger. Who ever produced it seems to have missed the point of the original designs entirely.” The ensuing oversights point to a non-western origin — someone unfamiliar with the meaning behind some of its minutiae. One crucial detail seems to be the letters which appear immediately after the date: these are the assayer initials. Typically, these “usually come in pairs. But there are a few dates that have 3 initials. Counterfeits can have 1, 2, 3, 4 and even 5. The JS on the 1884 Zacatecas (Zs) coin is believed to stand for Jesus Maria Sanchez de Santa Anna. There are some years where there are 2, 3 or 4 different assayer combinations — so the overassayer varieties are VERY numerous.” In the Maxxico pieces, “The legend is carried over from a common trade coin but the Mexican straight J is misread as either the letter I or a number 1.” This error was originally made on some Chinese imitations of the 1884 Zs 8R which saw widespread usage. Years of accumulated research has led Mr. Gurney to conclude that “The model for the Maxxico piece was definitely the Counterfeit version of the 1884 Zs coin that was so very common during and after the Vietnam War. The forger who made the dies was the first (I believe) to make the J = I error. From the I it is an easy step to the numeral 1. I own a copy of the 1884 Zs 8R counterfeit that uses the IDENTICAL type face to the Maxxico coin. I suspect that the same master die was used on both coins. I own a progression of forgeries of the 1884 Zs coin in which the legend and designs become more and more corrupt. At present I have identified 6 stages in the transformation. I have 13 different coins. The earliest I would peg the transition from J to I is about 1960 — prior to that the forgers at least had the J correct but often used a full J instead of the Straight J. The newest versions often use a $ in place of the s superscripts in the legend. These $ copies date to the post 1985 era. The Maxxico coin comes rather late in the sequence but prior to the $.” Based on when he first encountered the Maxxico pieces, he estimates that these have existed at least since 2001, or perhaps even five years earlier than that. “But I have heard from other collectors that they have been around far longer.” He laments that we may never know anything factual about these pieces “until we get someone to confess to creating them. I have been able to cultivate a relationship with a couple forgers (the ones that actually make some of these fakes)”, all of them from mainland China. Some of them even offer bulk deals on their ersatz merchandise. “But I have never found the Maxxico piece in anyone's inventory.”
On the one hand, the Maxxican pieces appeal to Mr. Gurney's sensibilities because they closely approximate the 8 Reales; I, on the other hand, collect the Maxxico coins specifically because they do so only up to a certain point. They borrow elements from the Mexican coin solely as a numismatic point of departure. They then metamorphose into something so perplexingly divergent that they nearly approach the illogical, as attested to by the precariously discordant ring rising from the name “United Maxxico America”. The creation of this ungrammatical triple combination of words seems purposeful to me, and suggests that the pieces were meant to stand distinctly apart from their Mexican counterparts. If the maker's intent had been to replicate a Mexican coin as fully as possible, while still managing to utilize his exotic-looking “Maxxico”, he would've employed something to the effect of “Estados Unidos Maxxicanos” or “Republica Maxxicana” on the obverse. But instead, he chose to go against the grain and invent an incongruous-sounding fantasy land where solecism seems to be the norm. Lacking definitive, concrete clues about the provenience of Maxxico's coinage, they remain a tough nut to crack!
Chiefa Coins