Topics of coins

Grosz of Casimir the Great

Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) (1333 -1370) introduced fundamental changes to the Polish minting system. In addition to a variety of denarii that were still minted, he also issued three larger silver coins, known as the grosz (groat), the kwartnik (half-grosz) and the ćwierćgrosz (quartergrosz, or the small kwartnik). Their chronology, place of origin and mutual relation are not entirely clear and remain the subject of debate. However, it is the largest and the most impressive of these coins – the Kraków grosz – that is generating the biggest interest. It was modelled on the Prague groschen and was created – as suggested recently by Borys Paszkiewicz – around the year 1360. It weighed 3.27 g and was the equivalent of 16 small denarii.

The Kraków grosz has been selected as the seventh coin in our series illustrating the history of Polish coin. As the first large silver coin, it began the grosz era in Poland. However, we should first explain the origin of the word grosz, currently associated with the smallest coins. This was not the case in the Middle Ages, when it was a “thick” coin. In fact, in Latin grossus means “thick” and originally referred to the denarius (denarius grossus, or the thick denarius). On the front the grosz of Casimir the Great bears an image of a royal crown. It is surrounded by the following inscription within two concentric circles: +KAZIMIRVS PRIMVS / +DEI GRACIA REX POLONIE. A White Eagle wearing a crown appears on the reverse side of the coin. It is surrounded by the inscription: +GROSSI CRACOVIENSES. Therefore the inscription indicated both the issuer – Casimir the First, by the Grace of God, the King of Poland, and the denomination – Kraków groats. We notice the plural, where we would expect to find the singular form. In reality this inscription related not to this particular coin, but to the affiliation with the Cracovian monetary system.

On our new coin, both sides of the grosz of King Casimir are reproduced. The contemporary elements added to the original design include the state emblem of the Republic of Poland, the date 2015 and the face value of PLN 20. Additional elements include the kneeling figure of King Casimir the Great with a model of the Collegiate Basilica in Wiślica, which he founded, and a fragment of the door to the Wawel Cathedral with King Casimir’s monogram (the letter K under the crown).

Stanisław Suchodolski