Topics of coins

100 Ducats of Sigismund Vasa

The reign of Sigismund Vasa (1587-1632) was a golden era in the history of Polish coinage. Various mints were operating at that time as in addition to the old facilities new ones were also launched, the most important of which being located in Bydgoszcz. All these mints were producing – with certain interruptions – great quantities of coins of various denominations. Minting, however, was affected by the European economic crisis, as a result of which the smaller silver coins were suffering from inflation.

The crisis did not affect full-value gold coins, however. In this regard we are particularly interested in a coin with a weight of one hundred ducats which was minted in Bydgoszcz. The dies used to mint the coin were prepared by the excellent Gdańskbased medalier Samuel Ammon (1591-1622) who came from Schaffhausen in Switzerland.

On the obverse he depicted a right-facing bust of the King, without a crown and in a richly ornamented armour. Under the bust the coin carries the medalier’s initials SA and the date 1621. Along the rim there is an inscription: ESIGISMVNDVS·III·D:G:POLONI·ET ·SVECIÆ·REXE. On the reverse, beneath the crown, there is a nine-field shield with the coats of arms of Poland and Lithuania as well as Sweden and Gotland, and the Vasa crest (sheaf of hay) in the middle. On both sides of the shield there are the initials of the lessee of the Bydgoszcz mint Jacob Jacobson van Emden: “II” on the left and “VE” on the right. Above the crown there is the date 16–21. Along the rim there is a continuation of the legend: EMAGNVS·DVX·LITVAN:RVSS: – :PRVSS:MAS:SAM:LIVON:ZC:E (Magnus Dux Lituaniae, Russiae, Prussiae, Masoviae, Samogitiae, Livoniae et cetera, i.e. Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ruthenia, Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Livonia etc.).

It is the most impressive Polish coin, originally measuring almost 70 mm and weighing as much as 348.3 g of gold. The issue was most likely ordered by the King, who needed gifts for the most distinguished guests and dignitaries. Only a few original coins of full weight survived to this day. There are more lighter coins preserved, weighing 90, 60 or 30 ducats, and even silver coins weighing 10 or 3.5 thalers. All of these coins were minted with a single pair of dies.

It is not surprising therefore, that this numismatic item has been selected for our series to illustrate the history of Polish coin in the first half of the 17th century. The obverse of a modern coin depicts the reverse of a historic coin and, in line with tradition, certification with data concerning the new coin: the image of an Eagle, the name of the state, the face value and the year of issue. On the reverse of the modern coin there is the King’s bust from the obverse of the historic coin, and an inscription under the bust reads: 100 DUKATÓW ZYGMUNTA III (100 ducats of Sigismund Vasa).

Stanisław Suchodolski