Topics of coins

History of Polish Coin – Denarius of Boleslaw I the Brave

Until recently, it has been widely held that Mieszko I (approx. 960-992 AD) was the founder of the Polish coinage. But when it was proven that the coins with the name Misico had not been minted by Mieszko I, but by his grandson Mieszko II (approx. 1013-1025-1034 AD), it turned out that the first Polish ruler to have struck a coin was Bolesław Chrobry (Boleslaw I the Brave, 992-1025). Among the coins were long-known and extremely valuable coins with the symbolic portrait of the prince and the name of the town of Gniezno, (GNEZDVN CIVITAS - the borough of Gniezno) or with a depiction of a peacock and the oldest reference to the name of Poland (PRI NCES POLONIE − the ruler of Poland). Finally, recently discovered and still very rare denarii − dating back to the end of the 10th century − featuring the depiction of an arrow emerging from a bunch of six twigs have been considered to be the oldest Polish coins. The image on the coin probably refers to Christian symbolism, as this was widely present also on other coins from that period. The arrow is the symbol of the God’s Word, while the twigs symbolize a simplified Tree of Life.

Around this depiction, there is an inscription: BOLI ZLAVO DVX (Bolesław the Prince). On the original coin the words were mistakenly put in the reverse order (see the drawing on the box). In the currently issued coin, for educational purposes, the words are set in the right order. What attracts attention is an atypical form of the monarch’s name − spelled with “i” in the middle and “o” at the end − but this was how Bolesław was also named in some other writings from that period. The tail of the coin, i.e. its reverse, features no inscription. The entire area of the coin is just a single depiction − a crosslet of the Byzantine type with crossed arms and small circles placed at their ends. Similar crosses appear on silver Byzantine coins from the 10th century. Polish coins, however, borrowed this motif from Danish coins. It is possible that Danish influence is linked to the marriage of Chrobry’s sister with Danish King Harald Bluetooth.

Only few coins have survived (3 pieces), which might imply that the volume of the oldest Polish coinage was not extensive. The minting of coins was initiated in order to make an effect rather than for economic reasons. However, Bolesław Chrobry’s intention was to demonstrate not his autonomy but the fact that he belonged in the circle of the rulers of Christian Europe.

Stanisław Suchodolski