Topics of coins

History of Polish Coin – Denarius of Boleslaw II the Bold

At the final period of Boleslaw I the Brave’s rule, Polish coins ceased to be struck. It was only half a century later when his great-grandson – Boleslaw II the Bold – started to mint new coins. The latter ruler did not, however, stick to the mintage habits of his great forefather. While previously several types of coins had been struck in small volumes, under Boleslaw II the Bold only two basic types of coins were issued. The first of them (type 1) appeared when Boleslaw ruled yet as a prince. The second one (type 2) appeared following his coronation to the King of Poland, which took place in 1076. Hundreds of these coins have survived until present, so they must have been minted on a mass scale. This corroborates the thesis that they were aimed for general circulation and served primarily economic purposes.

The obverse of type 1 coin depicts the head of the Prince in profile with his name, devoid of any title, written around the image. The reverse again shows an image of the Prince, this time mounted on a horse, holding a spear and a shield in his hands.

For the purposes of the present issue series, we have chosen type 2 coin – the royal one. From the first glance, there is no doubt that the coin depicts a king. The obverse holds a schematic image of the bust in profile, with a protruding crown on his head and a sword in his hand. The reverse side depicts a three-spire structure topped with domes. It is most probably a symbolic representation of the royal residence. This may be either his Krakow-based palatium, or the Krakow as such – as it was the capital of Poland at his times.

The imagery on both coin types may be said to be void of any elements related to sacred symbolism - in its stead the symbols employed on the coins manifest the prestige of the ruler. Even though type 2 coins bear no name of the monarch, the recipients of the coins had no doubt that the coins were issued by the holder of the royal insignia – King Boleslaw. What makes, however, the value of the coin is not just the visual side of it, but rather – and perhaps even more significantly – the metal from which it was struck. The royal denarii of Boleslaw II the Bold contain unusually little silver, and the content of their latest issues is almost exclusively copper. This monetary fraud may have been one of the reasons behind the resistance of the people against the monarch, which in consequence led to his dethroning.

Stanisław Suchodolski