World Coins

Gold 10-ducat piece soars in May 18 Swiss auction

A rare 1630 gold 10-ducat piece issued for Albrecht, the Duke of Wallenstein, realized a hammer price of 440,000 Swiss francs ($449,861 U.S.) in Sincona Ag’s May 18 auction.

Coin images courtesy of Sincona Ag.

A rare gold 10-ducat coin from Wallenstein in Bohemia realized more than four times its estimate in Sincona Ag’s May 18 auction.

The 1630 gold 10-ducat piece — believed to have been used as a donative or gift by the Duke of Wallenstein, Albrecht — was struck in 1630 at Jicin (a town in modern day Czech Republic).

The piece hammered for 440,000 Swiss francs ($449,861 U.S.). The buyer’s fee ranges from 18 to 20 percent, depending on bidding method, meaning the coin realized at least 519,200 Swiss francs ($530,836 U.S.) counting the lower fee.

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The piece is graded Extremely Fine by the auction house and had an opening bid of 100,000 Swiss francs (about $103,426 U.S.).

The piece in the auction was a highlight from the Ladavac Collection, with the largest and most important collection of Wallenstein coins ever to appear on the market, according to the firm. 

Multiple-denomination gold coins, containing multiples of the precious metal value of a standard-denomination coin, were minted in the 16th to the 18th century by secular and ecclesiastical rulers, cities and republics. These were not intended for circulation but were “donatives,” presentation pieces that the ruler gave to his favored subjects for special service. 

Multiple ducats were often used as jewelry and most of the examples found today bear evidence of mounting; those marks are, however, absent from this example.

The obverse of the 1630 gold 10-ducat piece shows the portrait of the famous imperial commander-in-chief and his title of Duke of Mecklenburg, Friedland and Sagan, Lord of Wenden. 

On the reverse are further titles — Count of Schwerin, Ruler of Rostock and Stargard — as well as his shield of arms. 

The 1630 gold 10-ducat medal or coin represents great wealth, as few people encountered a single ducat coin, and 10 ducats of gold was nearly unobtainable in that era. Though some rare 100- and 50-ducat pieces were also made, smaller examples like 20- and 10-ducat pieces are more frequently encountered. They are by no means common, though. 

Wallenstein’s coins are especially rare because of the political upheaval that followed the battle. Wallenstein, commanding the Roman Catholic forces, withdrew his troops from the field of battle. While the Protestants won, one of their most important leaders, Swedish King Gustavus II Adolphus, was killed.

Wallenstein was criticized for withdrawing and for later reluctance to attack the enemy, earning rebuke from the emperor. Though Wallenstein attempted to diplomatically remove himself from service of the emperor, the emperor had him assassinated, or at least failed to intervene when others announced such plans. 

Following Wallenstein’s death in 1634, most of his gold pieces were melted, and memory of him was also to be officially destroyed — in Latin, damnatio memoriae. 

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