Dzmitry Huletski has published a new book on 15th century Lithuanian counterstamps. Here's the book's Introduction and a link to where it can be
purchased on eBay. -Editor
The practice of counterstamping one side of a coin with a small die was used infrequently in the West but was quite widespread in the East. This fact
is often explained by more oppressive traditions of power, since counterstamped currency is usually associated with increased seigniorage, or issuing
Indeed, the cost of counterstamping an old, void-of-guarantee coinage is significantly below the cost of producing a new currency. However, the countermarks
do not contribute to the political prestige of the issuer, as their owned issued money would have done, and, perhaps more importantly, such money cannot become
be used in international trade, since their exchange rate is guaranteed only within the state issuing them. Lithuanian countermarks circulated exclusively in
areas of the Lithuanian-Horde frontier, almost without any penetration into the interior of the state.
According to A.L. Ponomarev’s classification [Ponomarev 2011. P. 48-51] counterstamped coinages are divided according to their purpose into three
1. Returning an old, depreciated coin to circulation. Such a need could arise, for example, upon the death of an old coin issuer – former guarantor of the
monetary stability – either in absence of his clear successor and/or while gaining foreign influence on the market;
2. Designating an official exchange rate to an imported coin for circulation in the markets of the state;
3. Issuing Credit, or “war” money. The state puts counterstamped currency into circulation for a short time, pledging to buy them back in quiet times at an
Counterstamping of Ulus of Jochi dangs with a stamp of Columns, initially a personal sign of the Grand Duke Vitovt the Great, began in the early 1420s and
continued intermittently for a little less than half a century. These coins then echoed even later in the East border town of Mstislavl. The first “reference
timepoint”, for the beginning of Lithuanian counterstamped coinage is September 1421, when Beg Sufi Khan died. He was the “Emperor of Solkhat”, and Vitovt’s
protege on the “Small sultanate”’s throne of Qrim (Crimea).
At the current level of our knowledge, it cannot be completely excluded that the counterstamping could have begun a little earlier. However, there are no
compel- ling reasons to insist on this possibility at the moment. Thus, the first of the options described above (returning an old, depreciated coin to
circulation) was the likely cause of action by Vitovt’s financiers. It was a need to maintain the currency of the state partially dependent from Lithuania
during the civil war begun immediately after the death of Vitovt’s protege. It is important to note, that this currency – the Jochid dang – was also the main
means of monetary circulation in the border areas of the Grand Duchy itself.
Later, the second cause of counterstamping (delivering an official exchange rate to an imported coin) also contributed to the longevity of the undertaking.
An approx- imate equality of silver content of a Prague groat minted by the Czech king Vaclav IV, the main currency in contemporary Lithuania, and two
Western-Jochid dangs of the 1420s provided extra convenience for trade. Still, even this convenience didn’t enable the small groats – Lithuanian
counterstamps – to penetrate much inside the interior lands of the Grand Duchy. In Rus’, called грошики or
полугрошки, this name of counterstamped dangs appears in various written sources originating from
the Podolia region. They didn’t spread throughout Lithuania, like Prague groats, remaining artifacts of local, Lithuanian-Jochid borderland monetary
The counterstamping was held perhaps in four regions of the Lithuanian-Horde frontier. During the first stage, dangs were counterstamped predominantly in
Severia (somewhere close to Kursk, Trubchevsk, Novgorod-Severski), starting in the early 1420s for almost a decade. Possibly, these overstrikes were imposed in
significantly reduced quantities, even into the 1430s. The second stage of counterstamping took place at mints that were situated further in the west, perhaps
as far as the city of Kiev. Their production also dried up by 1430 or soon afterwards. The third stage of counter-stamping started in Podolia (close to Braclav
and maybe Kamenec-Podolski) probably in the late 1420s, and lasted for the longest period of time, until about 1460. The latest known counterstamping of Jochid
silvers was held in Mstislavl far in the northeast.
Pages: 104 pages
For more information, or to order, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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