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The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 8, February 21, 2010, Article 14

QUERY: TERM FOR PAPER PRESSED INTO COIN FORM SOUGHT

Gar Travis is one of our regular "answer guys", but this time he poses a question for our readers:

Can someone supply the term for paper pressed into "coins" or the process there of? There were "coins" during the Spanish siege of Leyden in 1574 which were made of covers and pages of church missals, hymnals for obsidional use, but the term escapes me. I believe it begins with an 'S' and while that may be only slightly helpful, it is all that I have.

My good friend Larry Korchnak of the Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society introduced me to these fascinating paper "coins" many years ago in one of his presentations to the club. I found this information online in "Siege Notes - Windows to the Past" by John E. Sandrock. -Editor

The siege of the city of Leyden, in modern day Netherlands, is believed to be the first instance wherein paper money of necessity was used. Although Leyden boasts a wide variety of metallic siege coins from the 1570s, it was here that the first paper siege notes were issued. These "notes" are not notes at all but are, more properly, considered coins. When besieged Leyden exhausted its supply of silver, the coins were made of paper torn from prayer books. Resembling the real thing, this money, struck from coin dies, nevertheless was made of paper.

Are these items coins or paper money? The controversy could go on forever. Being a paper money enthusiast, I prefer to view them as paper money, and offer in support of my thesis the dictionary definition of a "coin". Trusty Mr. Webster defines a coin as: " a flat round piece of metal issued by government authority as money", or, "metal money". Since these "coins" are not metal, they must be considered "paper", or so my logic goes!

Leyden seige coins

Metalic siege money of Leyden (left), struck in 1574 from a round coin die onto a diamond shaped silver planchet. As the supply of silver available for coinage dried up during the siege, Leyden continued to mint coins made from paper torn from prayer books. These cardboard "notes" became the first paper money to appear in the Western world. Prior to this only the Chinese used paper money.

A cardboard coin struck during the Spanish siege of Leyden in 1574 may be seen at right. The arms consist of a rampant lion with shield and sword. Note the counterstamp located at six o'clock. By order of Prince William of Orange, provincial counterstamps were added to all coins in excess of 1/10 daalder. This act increased the value of the coinage in circulation by one eighth, which was then used as a war contribution.

There are eight known specimens of Leyden cardboard money made from coinage dies. They range in value from 5 to 30 stuivers. All are dated 1574. Some bear countermarks while others do not. A listing of these pieces follows:

  • 5 stuiver 1574 30mm Crowned lion with shield and sword, Legend: "Pugno Pro Patria", With and without countermark.
  • 14 stuiver 1574 Description not available.
  • 16 stuiver 1574 Description not available.
  • 18 stuiver 1574 Description not available.
  • 20 stuiver 1574 37mm Crowned lion with liberty cap on pole. Obverse legend: "Haec Libertatis Ergo", Reverse legend: "Godt behoedeLeyden"
  • 20 stuiver 1574 37mm Crowned lion with standard, legends as above. With and without countermark.
  • 28 stuiver 1574 43mm Crowned lion with sword and shield Legends as above.
  • 30 stuiver 1574 48mm With and without countermark.

The online article doesn't seem to include the term Gar seeks. Can anyone tell us? -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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