The Overlooked Origin of Melville’s “Moby Dick Coin”: An Exploration of a Nation’s Capital

By: Matthew Morrow

“On its round border it bore the letters, Republica del Ecuador: Quito. So this bright coin came from a country planted in the middle of the world, and beneath the great equator, and named after it; and it had been cast midway up the Andes, in the unwaning clime that knows no autumn.”

     - Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Often mistaken for a Spanish doubloon, the gold coin Captain Ahab affixes to the mast of the Pequod originates in the Republic of Ecuador (long after they gained their independence from Spain). Specifically minted in this South American country’s capit...

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