Editor’s note: In the October monthly Coin World cover feature, several staff writers embraced the spirit of Halloween and highlighted the spookier items in numismatics. This is one of a series of articles from the Collecting the Macabre feature that will appear online at CoinWorld.com.
Read more from the series:
When creating a collection devoted to the creepy and the spooky, don't forget world coins. One of the most significant pieces honors a historic figure turned legend.
In the canon of horror movie villains, Count Dracula might just be the granddaddy of them all. The star of many movies since Bela Lugosi’s 1931 Dracula (and the inspiration for the conventional vampire Nosferatu) can be traced to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, also titled Dracula.
But there was a real-life inspiration for the classic chomper, and related coinage is within reach for many collectors.
The vampire in Stoker’s story is based on the real-life Vlad III Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, who was given the latter name posthumously in reference to the bloody tactics he employed against his opponents.
He was a son of Vlad Dracul (the dragon), who took the name from the Ordo Draconis, or Order of the Dragon, a group formed by the Holy Roman Emperor to protect Christianity, fighting against Ottoman Turks. Dracula merely means “son of the dragon.”
Tepes was a prince of Wallachia and was born into a line of voivodes, or warlords, in Wallachia, an area adjacent to Transylvania and in what is now in Romania. He became a folk hero for his efforts to repel the Turks.
When Mircea the Elder died in 1418, control of Wallachia fell to Mircea’s nephew, Mihail I, a member of the Danesti branch of the Basarab family. Vlad Dracul, the illegimate son of Mircea, was appointed governor of Translyvania, but he claimed the Wallachian post in 1436 after murdering the Danesti ruler.
Over the next decade Vlad Dracul lost his post but regained it, before being murdered himself in 1447. His son, Vlad Tepes, fought the Ottomans in the name of Transylvania and in alliance with the king of Hungary, in several noted periods of warfare.