World Coins

Dutch workers dig up hoard of 15th-century coins

While digging to lay new water pipes in the new village of Hoef and Haag (near Vianen), two employees of Oasen, a water company, struck pay dirt, finding a buried cooking pot containing nearly 500 gold and silver coins, including one that a Dutch numismatist studying the hoard says is unlisted. 

The coins were found near where the medieval city of Hagestein used to be. It was destroyed around 1405.

The pot was busted in the excavation process, but the coins and pieces of the pot were immediately recovered from the earth as construction at the site was halted.

The hoard consists of eight gold coins and around 475 silver ones, according to Peter Buis, who, in connection with his work with the National Numismatic Collection in the Netherlands, is now processing this find. “My main job is to coordinate the digitizing of [the National] collection. Besides this, I am identifying stray finds and hoards which have been unearthed,” he told Coin World in an email interview.  

Many of the coins had dirt and a green incrustations removed after being found.

“Most of the coins are ‘clean’ now and brought to the Dutch Central Bank last Monday [March 19],” Buis said. “Some of the coins are still stuck together and will be brought to the bank later. Currently, I am photographing, weighing, measuring and identifying the coins.”

Bits of an unidentified textile were found with the pot, and further research will be done on that. 

What are the coins?

The coins date to a turbulent period of Dutch history. Buis suspects that they were buried around 1482 or 1483, as a two-year war took place between the bishop of Utrecht, supported by archbishop Maximilian, and his opponents led by viscount Jan van Montfoort, supported by Jan of Cleve. The earliest coin in the Vianen hoard is dated 1481.

The war included a siege of the city of Utrecht and the war was ended when Maximilian forced the city to obey to the bishop in 1483.

One of the coins in the newly discovered hoard is not mentioned in the literature and is therefore unique. It was struck in the illegal mint of Leeuwarden, in the province of Friesland. “The other coins are not unique, but rather scarce,” Buis said. 

They were the coins circulating in the area where the hoard was discovered. 

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The three main groups of coins are: those that originate from Utrecht, struck by David van Burgundy, the bishop of Utrecht; its neighbor the Burgondic Netherlands in the south, mainly struck by Charles the Bold; and from the eastern part, from Liege to Friesland, including coins from Cleve.

The new hoard also includes a rather large group of English coins, and some from France, Italy and Portugal.

The treasure now belongs to four people: the two employees, and the two landowners.

Plans for the coins are being determined. 

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