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Alfonso XIII: Campagna de Luzon (1896-1897)

Updated: Jun 8, 2021


After a long trip around the world, the suspected third variant of the Alfonso XIII Campagna de Luzon (Luzon Campaign) medal finally arrived. Listed as Honeycutt-52 with only one variant on the 3rd edition of Honeycutt’s “Philippine Medals, Jetons and Tokens: 1780-2020”, I had observed the possibility of not just one variant but a third variant as well, as I browsed auction sites from Ebay to my favorite Spanish auctions site Todocollecion. I was also lucky that a good friend had gifted me with the first two variants for Christmas last year which made my adventure a lot easier. That’s why when the suspected third variant showed up for sale, I did not hesitate and I took a gamble by purchasing the medal despite the lack of details on the images posted by the

seller. I had requested for more pictures but seller insisted that I pay first for the medal before he sent me any more images. Pretty useless reply or answer to my query in my opinion, but I still took the gamble and purchased it as I noticed a very big difference on the hair of the bust of Alfonso XIII on the medal, which had a different flair to it than the other two; and I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to get hold of this variant - an opportunity that may not present itself in the future.

But before we go into the nitty-gritty of the details that we collectors love to tinker and obsess with, a short description and history about the medal is in order. According to the book, “Spanish Military Campaign Orders and Medals: Philippines & Cuba: 1814-1898” by Antonio Rodrigues Belles, this medal was created by the authority of a Royal Decree in January 26, 1898. It was created to commemorate “the excellent services rendered by the loyal volunteers in the campaigns of the Luzon Archipelago” (Reynolds), and according to Robert H. Reynolds in his book “Philippine Medals” it came with a half yellow and half red ribbon which, I believe represented the colors of Spain. At the center of the medal is the bust of the young King Alfonso XIII facing the right, with the words “A Los Leales Voluntarios De Filipinas” translated as “To Loyal Volunteers of the Philippines.” One very obvious difference is the use of different pointed stars at the bottom of the bust. Each medal came either with a 5-pointed star or a 6-pointed one. There have been numerous theories about the difference between the two types of stars on these medals, but my favorite is the one I’ve been hearing from numerous senior collectors here in Manila, that the 5 pointed star was issued in the Philippines and was created in the Manila Mint, or the Real Casa de la Moneda y Timbre de Manila and the 6 pointed star originated from the Madrid Mint in Spain. I guess it may be safe to assume then that the 5-pointed star medals were issued to the Filipino volunteers who fought alongside the Spaniards against the Americans in the campaign in the Luzon Archipelago, while the 6-pointed variants were issued to Spanish soldiers.

I would also assume that the use of the bust of the young Alfonso XIII (or 3rd portrait) was because of Spain’s excitement to honor the young king who not only had become King right after his birth in 1886 after the death of his father, Alfonso XII but also because the young king had survived the 1889-1890 flu pandemic after being seriously ill at the age of 5. Just about the time that the age of the king was represented in the bust of this medal. In fact, I would further assume that Spain was very much excited and eager to honor the young 5 year old King by using his bust in almost all the coinage that came out during that period. Foremost amongst them is the 5 peseta coin issued in Spain by the Madrid Mint which was used between 1896 to 1899; and the same bust was also used for Spain’s colonies: the 1895 1 peso (5 Pesetas) coin issued for the Isla De Puerto Rico and of course the 1897 UNE Peso for Islas De Filipinas. The only difference is that the bust was facing left for these coins minted, while the medal had the bust of the young Alfonos facing right. This bust has remained a favorite of mine as I have found myself smitten by the design of the coin as the bust of the young Alfonso reminds me of my young son who is turning 5 years old in a few months. It also helps to know that the 1897 UNE Peso was only minted for 1 year, though it has a very high mintage at 6M, I have always loved the design and built of the coin; and because of that I have aggressively pursued purchasing more and more of these ISLAS DE FILIPINAS UNE Peso 1897 coins.

In fact, the “top pop” of this coin is going to auction by the end of this month and this is a MS65 graded by NGC from the R. L. Lissner Collection. I guess, and if budgets permit, I hope to be able to bring home this coin back to the Philippines. (image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

My affinity with these medals was brought about by my obvious fondness for the 1897 UNE Peso coin. So, when I found myself getting serious with Philippine medal collecting, I knew that these Luzon Campaign medals had to be one of the medals that had to be in my collection. Little did I know that it would not only pique my interest but it would enhance my desire to search, get hold and finally purchase all the 3 variants to present them side-by-side and actually see these differences. It also helped that I had developed a friendship with Mr. Earl Honeycutt, one of the authorities in Philippine medals, tokens and jetons, and one who has deeply influenced me through the 3 books he has written. The last edition I was happy to be a part of.

According Robert Reynolds, the Luzon Campaign medal has only two varieties. The first variety, as he illustrated in his book had the initials J.R. missing on the obverse, it had a bolder inscription on the reverse and was missing a six-pointed star. Plus, according the Reynolds it had the name of the medal manufacturer, the famous "CASTELLS" on the reverse near the rim at the lower left. The second variant had a bust of Alfonso that was much smaller, had very curly hair and is “much higher in relief.” After bringing these three medals together and putting them side by side, I began noticing not just 2 or 3 differences but a total of 8 differences between them.

Presented are the three(3) known variants of the Honeycutt-52 Campana de Luzon medal, described herein as Medal A, B and C.

Outlined below are my observations:

1. MANUFACTURER: Medal A is made by “Castells,” whose signature is on the reverse. Medal B has no signature, while Medal C has the signature of “E. Pastells”. Please observe the position of each of the signatures on Medals A and C. Medals A's "Castells" signature is positioned very near the year 1896, in fact it is right beside the number "1." While the signature of "E. Pastells" on Medal C is positioned directly below at a much farther distance from the year "1896."

It is important to note that the most famous amongst the medal manufacturers mentioned is Castells, commonly known as "The Castells House" whose medals are highly appreciated by collectors, being perhaps the most sought after amongst the 3 main medal manufacturers, with Medina being another medal manufacturer but one that was not reflected on any of the medals I presented. Could it be that Medina never signed this particular medal, hence, we can probably conclude that Medal B is the Medina Variant. E. Pastells, on Medal C is known mostly as a manufacturer of military effects and buttons. According to Rodriguez Belles in his book Spanish Military Campaign Orders and Medals: Philippines & Cuba 1814-1898, a lot of collectors have confused "Pastells" with "Castells." It was thought that the "C" had been changed to a "P" by mistake, perhaps because it was known that Castells had made some mistakes in the inscription of several medals, some which have become variants coveted by several collectors.

2. OBVERSE STAR: Medal A has a 5-pointed start on the obverse while B has a 6-pointed star which is in between two dots, and Medal C has also a 6-pointed star as well but stands alone.

3. REVERSE STAR: The other notable difference is that Medal A does not have a star on the reverse, while Medal B has a six-pointed star located in between two stylized lines or “ornamentation” right below the word “LUZON” and Medal C has also a six-pointed star situated right below the years “1896-1897.”

4. FONTS: The fonts used on each of the medals on the obverse were all the same, except for slight differences in the size of the letters and their spacings. The reverse shows a different story. Medal A has the largest font among the three variants, while Medal B has a more stylized font and Medal C has the simplest font, which looks like the Arial font packaged with all Microsoft Windows programs.

5. BUST: The bust size of Medal A from top to bottom is 20mmx14mm, while bust size for Medal B is 17mmx12mm, and the bust size of Medal C is 19mmx13mm and it is the only variant with the engraver’s initials, "J.R." right below the bust. It is important to note that Medal B is much higher in relief than the other two, which is consistent with the observation of Reynolds.

6. HAIR: The hair on the bust of the young Alfonso XIII on medal A was the one with the less curls. It starts off flat in the back and begins to curl going to the front of the bust, which splits up much like how a banana would stick out after opening its peel. The hair on the bust of Medal B was the curliest amongst the three with shorter strands than the other two medals. It does not curl towards the front of its forehead but just stays in place. While the hair on the bust of Medal C had the longer strands and curls towards its forehead but seems to be a little bit more messy than the other two. It may be safe to assume that the image of the young Alfonso that was used for this bust was not combed properly when it was being made.

7. SIZE: Medal size is 34mm for A, 35mm for B and 34mm for Medal C. Funny how medal B has more real estate space and yet has a smaller bust of Alfonso than both Medal A and C. As regards the thickness of the medal, the medals had differences in thickness at 3mm, 2.5mm and 2mm for Medals A, B and C respectively. As regards the weight of each medal I didn’t want to bother weighing each medal as two of the medals came with their original ribbons attached and having to take them out to be consistent in measuring the weight would entail having to cut the seams and detach the medals from their ribbons which would, in my opinion, affect its presentation.

8. LOOP: The other element that I noticed was the size of the loops. Medal A has a larger loop (knob) than Medal B, while Medal C has the largest amongst the three.

The question going through my mind now is given that I have listed 3 medal manufacturers of this medal, but the book of Rodriguez Belles listed more than 20 medal manufacturers at that time, with Castells sharing the most real estate in his book as being described as the most popular among all the manufacturers in Spain. How many other variants of this medal existed? But to ask that question of collectability and rarity cannot really be determined as I discovered from the book that these medals were not given outright by the government, but only the award certificates as evidenced by a "notification document." According to Rodriguez Belles, these documents were awarded to the soldier who can now go to a medal manufacturer and buy the medal. In fact, aside from the numerous medal manufacturers in Spain, in the Philippines, soldiers could go to Alfredo Roensch who was a hatmaker in Manila between 1887 to 1880,

and who had expanded his business and services to the manufacture of military effects, among which are medals. According to sources from the Internet, his establishment was in downtown Plaza Santa Cruz, Manila at Escolta 21 street, and Alfredo may have acquired or inherited the company from his father Adolfo in the early 1900's, and continued his operation in Escolta 71-73 starting in 1903.

Hence, my theory that the reason why there were so many medal manufacturers at that time was because Spain was at the center of all kinds of wars both domestic and international and they had a lot of potential clients or buyers of medals in the person of the solders who fought and were involved, one way or another in all of those wars. Rodriguez Belles further stated in his book that a very rewarding collection, and something very difficult to achieve is not only to acquire these medals complete with boxes and seals, but also to collect the accompanying grant documents with the stamps of the respective colonies or wars the solder had fought in.

Whatever it is, three different Campagna De Luzon medals, and probably more, made for one purpose, but all pointing in one direction: it makes Spanish-Philippine medal collecting very interesting, challenging and expensive.


  1. Earl D. Honeycutt, Ph.D. (2020) Philippine Medals & Tokens: 1780-2020, Mactanboy Press, Chapel Hill, NC USA

  2. Antonio Rodriguez Belles (2021) Spanish Military Campaign Orders and Medals: Philippines & Cuba 1814-1898, Tantin Ediciones

  3. Robert Reynolds (1998) Philippine Medals, Orders and Medals Society of America


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