The connection between a construction project and coinage isn’t
immediately clear, but such a story about a coin from Monaco is
revealed upon further inspection.
The 1707 silver ecu of Prince Antoine I was struck to help the
country “cope with the high costs of consolidation of the fortress of
Monaco, to resist the attacks by the Duke of Savoy in conflict with
France,” according to Editions Victor Gadoury, the auction firm
offering the coin in a Nov. 30 auction in conjunction with the annual
coin fair staged by the auction house.
The prince’s palace of Monaco is fortified and is the official
residence for the Prince of Monaco. First built in 1215 when the area
was under Genoan control, the palace has seen numerous changes and
additions, including those instituted during profligate spending by
Antoine I’s predecessor, Louis I.
Antoine I is said to have been inspired by the great French palace
at Fontainebleau. He added a Baroque arch and double staircase to the
The costs of renovating the palace were enormous, about 330,000
lire (livres), according to the auction firm, with legend suggesting
that the prince had to melt a portion of the royal silverware to
provide silver to make coins.
The Principality of Monaco lies between modern-day France and the
Mediterranean, not far from France’s border with Italy, with a rocky
promontory and natural harbor significant to the protection of the nation.
The Grimaldi family connection to Monaco dates to 1297, when
members of the family (who were Genoans) seized the Genovese fortress
built on the Rock of Monaco as part of their ongoing conflict with
other families of Genoans. Today that fortress, much changed, is the
palace of Monaco.
The family lost control of the principality briefly during the
French Revolution, but survived the Napoleonic wars and is still in
Today Monaco comprises the cities of Monaco, Monte Carlo and La
Condamine. The principality is the second smallest nation in the world.
Monaco’s first coinage began circulating in 1640, with a local
mint in operation until 1739 (after an uncertain opening date),
producing various coins of base metal, silver and gold, many following
the style of the coinage of France.
The portrait of the prince appears on the obverse, with the
Grimaldi coat of arms on the reverse.
The silver ecus of Antoine are rare. Researchers have identified
three different variants, depending on the punctuation following the
date on the reverse: five periods arranged in a cross formation, three
points or a point. Fewer than a dozen examples are known, total, for
all three variants.
This example is of the five-points style. The coin is graded Very
Fine and has an estimate of �30,000 (about $40,669 in U.S. funds). ■
1707 silver ecu of Antoine I
Hotel Fairmont, Monaco
Nov. 30, 2013
The coin is rare, one of fewer than a dozen known; legend suggests
royal silverware was melted and turned into coins.