World Coins

German auction house offers some really wild coins

One of the most famous Germanic coins is known colloquially as the “Wildman taler.”

A total of 273 different coins of Brunswick, most of them “Wildman” coins, are being offered individually during Heidelberger Münzhandlung auction No. 76, May 14 and 15 in Germany.

brockaged 1993 Lincoln centInside Coin World: Unusual origin for brockaged Lincoln cent: Columns in the May 20 issue serve up for reader enjoyment an unusual brockaged Lincoln cent, diagnostics of a fake 1897-S Morgan dollar and a review of the market for the 1922 Grant Memorial coins.

Typical Wildman coins show a gigantic beast, usually hairy and muscled, wearing a loincloth of leaves, with only its hands and feet free of fur. The creature is often seen grasping the trunk of a tree, sometimes with a city or forest in the background. 

The image was influenced by pagan tradition in the Harz Mountain region of Germany, where the wildman appears in folklore and other forms of art, not exclusively on coinage. 

Harz was a major silver-producing region and the imagery is a reference to the mining city Wildemann and the legend of its foundation. 

As the story goes, in 1529, miners who were sent out to find new ore deposits discovered a wild man who lived with a wild woman. They captured him, but he died as a result from his injuries. Large silver ore deposits were reportedly discovered where he had lived. 

The Wildman, according to Germanic Coinages, Charlemagne through Wilhelm II by William D. Craig, was the medieval European equivalent of the American Bigfoot or Sasquatch. 

Among Anglo-Saxons, the figure was known as “man of the woods,” and the legend of a demonic “Wildman” even is found referenced in Sir Walter Scott’s Antiquary of 1816

These stories mirror a widespread variety of other plotlines where large treasures are protected by guardians who have to be killed before the treasure can be seized, according to the auction firm.

In some coinage designs, the Wildman is merely a heraldic supporter device, but on others the figure serves as the key design element. According to Craig, “Virtually all wildman coinage was struck at Zellerfeld in the Harz, hence the device doubles as a Mint mark.” 

A marquee silver Wildman taler in the sale is the 1659 coin struck for George William of Brunswick-Calenberg-Hanover. In Extremely Fine condition, the coin has an estimate of €500 ($557 U.S.).

The standout gold Wildman coin in the auction is the 1733 ducat for Louis Rudolph of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Graded EF to Fleur de coin by the firm, it has an estimate of €2,500 ($2,783 U.S.). 

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