Author Topic: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272  (Read 157 times)

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Offline Manzikert

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Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« on: August 24, 2019, 05:57:02 PM »
Many years ago I acquired a tiny copper coin which was identified as being of King Bela II of Hungary: recently I found out that he and his dynasty also issued similarly tiny silver coins, and I have been acquiring a number of these over the last few weeks.

On looking at the index for this board I found quite a lot of these posted by Quantgeek (several of which by the way seem to have lost their images). One king that is missing from the list is Stephen V, and I post a recent acquisition.

Hungary, Arpad Dynasty, Stephen V (1270-1272), Denar, NM, 0.47 gm, 11.25 mm, Huszar 357; Unger 278.

I think these pieces are fascinating: how on earth were such tiny pieces used? They are surprisingly detailed in design, and several types have complex series of 'sigla', secret marks which presumably identified particular dies, suggesting a very sophisticated mint system. I hope to find out more, though the best references seem to be in Hungarian (a realproblem) and German (less of a problem but not easy for me).

Alan

Offline THCoins

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2019, 07:07:48 PM »
I do not know anything about this category, but for the time period they are very expertly minted !
I especiall like the birds, crows?  Do you know if these have a specific symbolic meaning ?

Offline Manzikert

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2019, 11:03:28 PM »
As I said, I've only just come accross this series myself, so anything I might say will be pretty much of a guess.

As you say, they all seem (and we'e going back to the early 1000s in some cases) well struck on neatly made flans. The Stephen is unusual in having the flan crack. One group (of which I have been able to get about 8 so far, example below) was produced for Bela II (1131-1141) and has a whole series of marks, presumably for individual dies. The one I illustrate has a 'wedge' after the E in the second quarter, and a tiny T at the bottom of the reverse 'legend', and others have three small vertical or three small horizontal pellets (and other arrangements) in place of the 'wedge'.

The reverses (presumably the anvil die?) are of varying quality, but the obverses (presumably the upper die) are usually good quality and well centred.

The birds look like ravens or crows to me, and a couple of centuries later we have Matthias Corvinus (whose family arms bore a crow) as king of Hungary, but he is from a different dynasty, so don't think there is likely to be a connection.

The other interesting thing about the coin is the Hebrew letter 'alef' between the birds. There are a few other coins of this period with Hebrew letters (I have one with the letter 'chet'), but I don't know yet what significance this might have.

Alan

Offline THCoins

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2019, 11:19:30 AM »
Thanks for drawing atttention to the Hebrew character. Makes it even more intrigueing.
Souns like a perfect opportunity for further exploration ! Please do share your results.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2019, 11:59:53 AM »
Hebrew characters occur with some regularity on Western European "show" coins and jetons. Most often, they spell Jaweh. They are a reference to the old testament. Ironically, the Jewish religion forbids writing or pronouncing the name of god, which is why he remains anonymous in the bible.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Manzikert

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2019, 09:07:55 PM »
The characters listed in Huszar for Stephen are alef (on two different types), chet and pe. For Bela IV the king before he lists chet and tet. For the next king, Ladislaus IV he lists tet on two different issues. I haven't noticed any other examples, but they may exist.

Perhaps these are mint officials?

Alan

Offline Manzikert

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2019, 11:38:20 PM »
I've just noticed that Wikipedia says that 'the Árpáds' totemic ancestor was a turul (a large bird, probably a falcon)', so perhaps the birds on this coin are supposed to be 'turuls'?

Alan

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2019, 11:36:31 AM »
how on earth were such tiny pieces used?

As any other coin. The modern British silver threepence and the Dutch silver 5 cent were only marginally larger and some coins of the Elizabethan era were even smaller. It is just a question of what you are used to. When I came to Britain in £sd times, I thought UK coins were wildly cumbersome.

Consider that in the Middle Ages, if the coins had been larger, the silver content would have been lower. In that sense, there was a popular preference for small coins of good silver, rather than coppery coins. Of course, with inflation, it came to that anyway, so medieval people distinguished white money (good silver coins) from black money (low silver content coins.) Copper coins were generally not acceptable in Europe until around 1550-1600.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Hungary, silver denar of Stephen V, 1270-1272
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2019, 12:04:34 PM »
several types have complex series of 'sigla', secret marks which presumably identified particular dies, suggesting a very sophisticated mint system.

In the early middle ages, mints were spelled out on the coin. Later, the secret marks replaced the mint names on European coins. I think this change came about to solve two conflicting needs.

First, minting was often outsourced. Each mint employed a rep of the ruler who checked production (the UK tryall of the pyx), but he could be corrupted. Another line of defence was that if certain coins were complained about too often, either the name of the mint master, or a combination of date and mint could be used to trace the person responsible. BTW, this system was maintained in the Spanish colonies, but checking was so haphazard that there only a few occasions of mint masters being garotted for producing light coins.

The other need was, to use a modern Americanism, nation building. In the late Middle Ages, kings and emperors tried to shore up their position vis à vis the nobility and the church by centralising. In some countries (France, England, the Habsburg empire) that worked well over time, in others (the holy Roman empire, Italy, Switzerland) it failed. Where centralisation worked, rulers tried to introduce a common currency. If the mint would have been recognisable on the coin, there was still a risk that the locals would discount coins from some mints or put an agio on coins of preferred mints. This actually happened with Spanish colonial coins.

The secret marks were the solution to the conundrum. People generally wouldn't know which mint had produced the coin, while mint officials did know. Professional money changers got to know also, but since demand for coins was indifferent of mints, they would not have cared much either.

Hungary was much in need of nation building. Nobility was strong and unruly and "foreign" tribes, fugitives from Mongol and Ottoman conquest, were coming in.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.