A possibly unique 1621 Polish 80-ducat gold coin will be one of the many highlights offered during the series of auctions at this January’s New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC).
The major Polish numismatic rarity is “probably the only specimen known of this weight,” according to auctioneers with Stack’s Bowers Galleries, which will offer the coin during its official NYINC sale.
It’s closely related to the famed 100-ducat coin of the same year. Most sources indicate the 1621-dated 100-ducat coin was minted to commemorate the Polish victory over the Turkish army at Battle of Khotyn, which took place from Sept. 2-Oct. 9 of that year.
“This is inferred by the fact that the date 1621 is punched in three different places on the obverse and twice on the reverse of the coin,” reads a statement issued by Stack’s this month. “Apart from the Battle of Khotyn, there were no equally significant events in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for that year. However, neither the name of the battle nor any reference to it is found on the coin.”
From a military perspective, the Battle of Khotyn can hardly be called a victory for the Commonwealth as it ended with the signing of a peace treaty as both sides refused to continue the fight. The battle can nonetheless be considered significant enough to commemorate by minting a gold coin because of its religious aspect, according to auctioneers.
“For the first time in this period of European history, the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan’s dreams of further expansion of Islam into Christian countries was stopped by the Polish-Lithuanian army. As a zealous Catholic, King Sigismund III Vasa was able to mint gold 100 ducats under the pretext of being a defender of Christianity in Europe against Muslims, extolling the power and majesty of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.”
The 70-millimetre diameter of the lighter coins, including the 80-ducat coin to be offered in January, is the same as the 100-ducat coin but with a thinner planchet. The coin was minted at the Royal Mint in Bydgoszcz.
“The dies represent the most refined style and detail of this period, thanks to the skill of its creator, Samuel Ammon—one of the most outstanding engravers and medalists of the time,” auctioneers added.
“He was born around 1590 in Schaffhausen (Switzerland) and came to Danzig in the years 1611-1613. He was employed at the municipal mint as an engraver of coins, medals, and seals, and exerted a huge influence upon the development of Danzig medalists. Ammon died on March 27, 1622, shortly after creating dies for the 100 ducats coin. His initials can be found on both sides of the coin. Additionally, the letters II – VE (Jacob Jacobson van Emden) for the mint administrator, are placed on the reverse.”
Like the medal commemorating the victory in Smolensk, on the 100-ducat coin’s dies, Ammon presented a royal portrait “comparable to the works of the masters of the brush at that time,” auctioneers said.
The king is portrayed without a crown and with a shoulder plate adorned with a lion’s head, emphasizing the ruler’s courage and referencing the mythical Heracles. The reverse presents the crowned coat of arms of the Republic of Poland surrounded by the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece, meaning the whole country is identified with its idea. The elements around the coat of arms symbolize the royal attributes of care for subjects (cranes standing on one leg) and the right to forgive (angel’s head).
Until recently, only a few 100-ducat coins were known. In the 2018 book The Poland 1621 Gold 100 Ducats, Dariusz Jasek described 14 different examples (almost all with photos). In addition to 100-ducat coins, gold coins weighing between 30 ducats and 90 ducats plus silver coins weighing from 3.5 talers to 10 talers were also minted, Jasek wrote.
“Coins from these groups are much rarer than 100 ducats of full weight,” auctioneers said. “Consequently, it is hard to establish comprehensive pedigrees or full provenances for any of the lighter gold emissions of 1621.”
The 80-ducat piece to be offered in Stack’s January NYINC sale is now graded About Uncirculated-50 by Professional Coin Grading Service.
It was last seen when it was purchased by its current owner in a June 1995 Stack’s auction. Previously, it was offered in an April 1992 Crédit de la Bourse sale after being listed in the collections of J.U. Niemcewicz and Clifton-Wild.
There is also reference in a 1917 Mehl’s Numismatics Monthly (Vol. 8 #5) to a “Mr. Leon” displaying a 70-ducat example at a monthly meeting of the Chicago Numismatic Society on behalf of the famed Virgil Brand. It is claimed Brand also possessed 80- and 100-ducat pieces; however, a search through Brand’s ledger (compiled when his collection was liquidated) listing foreign gold under Poland has no mention of any of these ultra-rarities.
Given the poor records, it cannot be known with certainty, and Jasek’s supposition of the rarer nature of the 80-ducat coin seems well-founded.