This is the only known specimen of the silver leais struck in the Oporto mint during the reign of King Afonso V (r. 1438-1481). The silver leais were often hoarded and exported due to their good quality and value.
D. Afonso V
1438 – c. 1463
Did you know that...
In 1441, in Oporto, one leal would buy two gallons of wheat (about 8 litres) or two mudd of wine (about 16 litres)?
Following decades of wars against Castile, successive currency debasements and inflation, the monetary situation of Portugal entered a period of relative stability from the 1420s on. Under King Duarte (r. 1433-1438), Portugal adopted the real branco as its new monetary unit and was finally able to resume the production of silver and gold coins.
The silver leal was introduced in this period of monetary stabilisation. It was probably created in 1434-1435, having a 11-dinheiros fineness (.916) and a nominal value of 10 reais brancos. In 1436, King Duarte sought to promote silver import and the issue of leais by exempting all imported silver destined to the mint from customs tithe.
As in the previous reign, the silver leais issued under King Afonso V were struck in the mint of Lisbon and also in lesser quantities in the mint of Oporto, located in the building of Casa do Infante. The mintage of leais in Oporto during this reign is only known today through this unique specimen, which differs from its Lisbon counterparts by its style and the presence of the mint mark P on the obverse.
As a coin of good quality, as suggested by its name (‘loyal’ or ‘honest’), the leal was often hoarded and exported. For that reason, the Infante Pedro, regent in the name of King Afonso V, decided to raise the nominal value of the leal to 12 reais brancos as early as 1441.
The issue of leais continued until the beginning of the 1460s at the most. During all its period of existence, it was the only silver coin minted in Portugal.