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Puncte de vedere asupra metrologiei monedelor divizionare moldoveneşti din argint şi billon emise până la mijlocul secolului al XV-lea / Some Remarks About the Metrology of the Moldavian Petty Coinage Struck Until the Mid-15th Century

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Excerpt During the first years of this century, some coin dealers from U.S.A. sold, on Internet auctions, individual coins and lots of Moldavian medieval petty coins, all sharing the same features, such as the crown above the traditional shield on the reverse. It is obvious that all these coins came from a big hoard (hundreds in number), found probably in the Ukraine, in the neighbourhood of Cetatea Alba (Belgorod-Dnestrovski), probably not long before the first coins were released on the market.
Some 100 coins were acquired by collectors from U.S.A., Romania and Moldavia, all of them displayed in a website dedicated to Romanian medieval coins: http://romaniacoins.ancients.info, http://monederomanesti.cimec.ro. The hoard was composed of petty coinage struck by Stephen, the son of Alexander, soon before the middle of the 15th century (the type 514 on page 70 in the catalogue of the Romanian medieval coins, "Monede si bancnote romanesti" by O. Luchian, G. Buzdugan and C. Oprescu, 1977). All the coins show no wear (except one coin in the lot of 100) and the silver wash is preserved on many coins. Only two very similar varieties of the type are present in the hoard, both being struck by dies which share a common fault of the punch used to struck the fleurs de lys in the die. The conclusion is straightforward: this is a mint or "banker" hoard, which includes large numbers of coins, of identical types, which can be supposed to have been buried soon after issue from the mint with little admixture of circulating coins. These characteristics make it very significant for metrological studies.
A lot of 24 coins, 22 supposed from the hoard, is analysed. The statistical data, the mean around 0.335 g, the median of 0.34 g and the standard deviation of 0.063 g show a coin struck in low-silver alloy, with a weight standard around 0.34 g. This standard is similar to the one used in Poland in the same period to struck the denars (0.35 g and 98‰; 217‰ silver purity).
This conclusion contradicts the traditional metrological approach to the Moldavian petty coinage, which assumed a monetary unit named "groat" having around 0.9 g legal weight and a multiple of one and a half "groat" of 1.35 g legal weight, thus the petty coins being half of the "groat", having around 0-45 g legal weight. This theory is almost 100 years old, developed in a period in which the first issues of petty coins in Moldavia were not known. Indeed, these first issues of Peter, although very rare today (only 5 coins recorded), are all around only 0.22 gin weight, while the main type of coin issued by Peter, the "groat", followed closely the evolution of the Russian kwartniks issued in Lwow between 1370 and 1382, from 1.12 g to 0.85 g.
In Poland, during the reign of Casimir III, the groat, newly introduced, weighted 3.1 gin silver of 875‰ purity, divided in 2 kwartniks of 1,55 g, 16 denars and 32 obols.
During his reign and of the next kings, the coins were slowly debased. So, from a Krakow mark, weighing 196.26 g were struck 768 denars during the reign of Kasimir III and 864 denars during Wladislaw Jagello, thus giving a standard weight for the denars between 0.2562 and 0.2278 g. It is obvious that the Moldavian petty coins issued by Peter followed the same standard, thus being denars in weight and in value, and not half of the Moldavian "groats" (equivalent to kwartniks). Probably the ratio to the Moldavian "groat" was not 1:8 as initially was in Poland, but, more probably, 1:6, as will be shown in the next lines.
The similarities between the monetary standards in Poland and Moldavia are more obvious when analysing the two linked reforms, the one of Wladislaw Jagello in Poland, who introduced the ternar (the quarter groat), divided into 3 denars, thus giving the denar-kwartnik ratio of 1:6, and the one of Alexander in Moldavia, who issued, around 1408, the Moldavian "double groat'', equivalent to the Polish kwartnik, the Moldavian "groat", equivalent to the Polish ternar and Moldavian "half groat", equivalent to denar.
In conclusion, at least some issues of the Moldavian petty coinage struck in silver alloys were equivalent to the Polish denars and had a 1:6 ratio to the Moldavian "groat". Of course, some petty coinage issues were struck in metal having very low contents in silver, or having only traces of silver. This is an unsolved (till now) problem, a possible clue which can reveal the true value of these coins is a hoard found in Suceava, consisting in 351 Hungarian quartings and 6 Moldavian "half groats".
The paper ends showing that future metrological studies may reveal other weight standards for different issues of the Moldavian petty coinage struck in silver alloys up to the middle of the 15th century. Their inspiration can be other nominals struck in Poland or Lithuania, such as the Lithuanian double denar (of 0-41 g legal weight and 475‰ silver purity) or it can be a local standard of half the weight for the Moldavian "groat". Only the study of more hoards will solve this problem, revealing a system which today may seem difficult to understand, but which was coherent and well-structured in these times.
Paginaţia 415-426
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Titlul volumului de apariție
  • Cercetări Numismatice; XIV; anul 2008