A find of 18 early modern Polish coins hidden in a castle may be associated with a similar find in a nearby cemetery during the early 20th century. The find may also be the remainder of a much larger hoard that was discovered and looted by a worker in either the late 19th or 20th century.
According to Polish historian Konstanty Koscinski, the worker may have used proceeds from selling the find to finance his emigration to the United States. He did not name the worker in his writings.
Dr. Michal Starkski of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw said a similar hoard discovered in a nearby cemetery during the early 20th century may have been part of this same group.
Archaeologist Maciej Kurdwanowski discovered the recently encountered coins. The coins were found in a tower at Czluchów Castle in northwestern Poland. The coins were hidden inside the defensive tower located in the second ward. The structure was standing at one of the gates leading to the third ward. The tower was in use until the end of the 18th century.
It is likely that the coins were hidden during the Swedish siege of 1655 to 1656 in a period of Polish history known as The Deluge. The Deluge was the invasion and occupation of part of the Commonwealth of Poland during the Second Northern War of 1655 to 1660.
According to Starkski, “The Czhuchów fortress resisted the Swedes for a long time. The siege lasted for several months - ultimately, in winter of 1655/56, when the surrounding lake fortress froze, the invaders captured it. The defenders were unable man the whole, very extensive system of walls.”
He added, “Because of their great value in the 17th century, [the coins] are rare archaeological finds.”
The find is comprised of orts of King Sigismund III Vasa of Poland (king of Poland 1587-1632, king of Sweden 1592-1599); King Jan Kazimierz of Poland (ruled 1648-1668); George William, Duke of Prussia (ruled 1619-1640); and a single 10-kreuzer coin of Archduke Leopold V of Austria (1586-1632). Each of the coins is composed of silver.
According to Starski, these coin denominations were introduced for use in foreign trade during the early 17th century. Each ort could have purchased about one dozen chickens at that time.
During the reign of Sigismund III, the ort or quarter taler and the poltoraki or 3-kreuzer denominations were added to the existing system that included the taler, half taler, 6 groschen, and 3 groschen in silver. Billon composition 1- and 1/2-groschen, schilling, and dinar coins were also struck at this time. The coinage had been unified and had good purchasing power under the previous king, Stefan Batory (ruled 1576-1586). The value of the silver coinage declined during Sigismund’s reign in part due to the import of large amounts of silver from the Americas, but also due to debasement and rampant counterfeiting, especially originating from Swedish-controlled mints in Elbing and Riga. Poland controlled the mints at Bromberg, Krakow, Lublin, Marienburg, Olkusz and other more minor mints.
Due to wars with Sweden and Russia that, among other things, resulted in a shortage of silver, the primary coins in circulation were devolving into debased groszy denominations as well as the commonly encountered copper shillings called “boratinki” by the time of Jan Kazimierz.
An extensive gold coinage was issued during the reigns of both Sigismund III and Wladislas IV. A now rare diminutive gold solidus of the same diameter as the boratinki was issued during the reign of Jan Kazimierz. No coins from the reign of King Wladislas IV (ruled 1632-1648) were found in the recently discovered hoard.
The coins are planned to be conserved and studied in Warsaw, then be returned to Regional Museum of Czhuchów where they were on display at the time this article was being written.
This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.
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