World Coins

Mercenary money of Livonia sells in Stack’s Bowers auction

A rare 1573 marck coin was struck to pay soldiers supporting Sigismund II Augustus. It realized $57,600 in a Jan. 15 auction.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers.

A rare coin of Polish Livonia, struck to pay soldiers, was among highlights of Stacks’ Bowers’ Jan. 15 Anthony J. Taraszka Collection auction.

The 1573 marck coin, graded Extremely Fine 45 by Professional Coin Grading Service, realized $57,600 including a 20% buyer’s fee, against an estimate of $60,000 to $100,000.

The coin was struck for Sigismund II Augustus.

The obverse shows a Livonian griffin holding a sword aloft and the reverse has dual shields bearing the arms of Poland and Livonia with the date below and the denomination above.

Circumstances of issue

The coin is an interesting piece from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

In 1573 after the formation of the new Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sigismund II had yet to fully secure his Livonian territories and needed to pursue military pacification, the auction house said. To this end, Sigismund II and his Livonian governor Jan Chodkiewicz employed mercenary soldiers.

To pay the soldiers, Sigismund authorized Chodkiewicz to strike coins at Dahlholm Castle, in the denominations of marck, half marck, and ferd.

Research suggests that just two to three examples of the type are known to exist, with one example held at the National Museum in Warsaw, according to the auction house.

The lot has a provenance including Adolph Hess, whose collection was sold in June 1920, and to Virgil Brand.

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