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Emisiunile monetare bătute pe teritoriul Moldovei în vremea lui Ştefan cel Mare (1457-1504) – O analiză critică / Coinage in the Moldavian Territory during Stephan’s the Great Reign (1457-1504) – A Critical Approach

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Excerpt The preliminary works done during the preparation of the 11th volume of the series Medieval European Coinage, a project launched by prof. Philip Grierson and dr. Mark Blackburn, under the auspices of Cambridge University, British Academy and other important British and foreign sponsors offered the author the possibility to undertake a thorough about overview of the Moldavian coinage during the second half of the 15th century, early l6th century.
A. The Moldavian coinage during Stephen's the Great reign:
The issues of the Moldavian Prince Stephen 111 the Great (1457-1504) were among the first Romanian medieval coins identified and well attributed by the modem numismatists during the first half of the I 9th century. Some of the coins of Stephen the Great were published by B. von Kohne since 1842. Latter, in 1872, D. A. Sturdza published the first comprehensive catalogue of the Romanian medieval coinage, which included few of the issues of Stephen the Great, some of the well identified (now-a-days classified as the 2nd type), meanwhile some other issues
(now-a-days classified as the 1st type) were, wrongly, considered as belonging to Stephen IV (1517-1527).
During the early 20th century other contributions on this topic were published by E. Fischer and N. Docan. Fischer was the first scholar to discuss the structure of monetary system in use in Moldavia during the reign of Stephen the Great, and to notice that the du ring this reign the name of the Prince was represented on the reverse of the coins, meanwhile the inscription +MONETA MOLDAVIE, was rendered on the obverse.
The first monograph on the coinage of Stephen the Great was done by N. Doc an in 1902. Docan proposed a rather sophisticated classification for the groats and half groats belonging to coins, now-a-days classified as the 2nd type, parts of which were also followed later by O. lliescu and O. Luchian.
During 1911-1938 C. Moisil have published several coins of Stephen the Great and two small, but very useful, special contributions about the coinage of this ruler. He was the first to establish that the coins previously attributed to Stephen IV, were, actually struck by Stephen the Great. Moisil tried to establish also the relative chronology of the issues. According to him the first issue (now-a-days classified as the 2nd type) was struck during 1457-1474, and the second issue (now-a-days classified as the 1st type) around 1474-1504, though in one of his earlier studies, Moisil supposed that the coinage of Stephen's the Great ceased to be issued after 1484, when the main commercial town of the Principality - Chilia and Cetatea Albă (Moncastro or Asprokastron) were conquered by the Ottomans.
Before 1945 some other few coins of Stephen III the Great were published by G. Severeanu and O. Luchian (a parcel of Suliţa Nouă hoard), but I should emphasize the outstanding importance of P. Nicorescu contribution about the autonomous bronze coinage of the town Cetatea Albă (Moncastro, Asprokastron), first published in 1937.
During the 1950's and 1960's important researches about the coinage of Stephen the Great were undertaken by T. Martinovici and by O. Iliescu. Martinovici, who was an archaeologist, based on his remarks made during the archaeological diggings in Suceava, concluded that the coins bearing on the reverse the representation of the shield with a patriarchal cross (now-a-days classified as the 2nd type, but initially, considered by Moisil as being the first issues of this Prince), were actually the last issues of the Prince. According to Martinovici they were struck during the last decades of the reign. O. Iliescu published in 1964 an important monograph about the coinage of
Stephen the Great coinage. Iliescu established the monetary system in use in Moldavia, based on the groat and ½ groats, as well as the chronology and the metrology of the coins of Stephen III. He proposed also a very complicated classification model for the coinage of Stephen the Great, which is still in use. On that occasion, Iliescu published a repertoire of the finds and a very comprehensive catalogue of the coins, which contained the description of their inscriptions and the types, the location of the specimens and bibliographical references. For some of them Iliescu gave records about the weights and diameters. Although, being very modem and far more complete as any other contribution on the Moldavian coinage done before, the monograph devoted by Iliescu to Stephen's III coinage left behind a series of unsettled questions, such as:
I. The metrology of the coin and the monetary system.
2. The chronology of the issues.
3. The unfunctional system of classification.
4. The purposes of this coinage, as well as its real position on the local monetary marked.
Iliescu published other contributions on the Moldavian coinage of the period 1457-1504 in 1991 and 1997.
Until recreantly his ideas enjoyed a large audience among the Romanian scholars. So, his principles of classification of the coinage of Stephen the Great were largely followed by O. Luchian, the author of the standard catalogue of the Romanian medieval coinage, but the results are so confuses that one could barely correctly identify an individual coin using this book.
Despite some publications of fresh numismatic materials by Elena Crăciun and Elena Petrişor (1970), Constanţa Ştirbu (1981-1982) or V. M. Butnariu (2001), or the recent monograph about the Moldavian medieval coinage produced by P. P. Bymja and N. D. Russev (1999), since 1964 very few new ideas were really expressed on the coinage of Stephen the Great. One could mention in this respect only the contributions of M. Cazacu (1973), T. Bită (1997), N. D. Russev (2004), Katiuşa Pârvan (2004) and E. Oberlănder-Tâmoveanu (2004).
The author of this study aims to put under scrutiny, in the light of the recent studies, the solidity of some of the previous theories expressed on the Moldavian coinage during the period 1457-1504.
The first question regards the main components of the Moldavian coinage during the reign of Stephen the Great. The common wisdom on this topic was that during the period 1457-1504, in Moldavia were struck only issues with the name and the coats of arms of the Prince. Actually, the picture of the Moldavian coinage of these times was far more complex that it was previously thought. Alongside the traditional issues, which I propose to be called the "Princely" coinage, two other kind of monetary issues were struck in this country:
- The autonomous municipal issues of Cetatea Albă.
- The imitative issues based on Ottoman prototypes.
A) The „Princely" coinage
1. The typology of the „Princely" issues of Stephen the Great
Only two groats and 1/2 groats types could be certainly ascribed to the reign of Stephen the Great.

1st type
a) Groats
Obs. Round inscription: +MONET A MOLDA VIE (or variants), auroch's head in the middle with a five rayed star between its horns, rose in the left field, crescent in the right field.
Rv. Round inscription: + STEFANVS VOIEVODA or variants, shield in the middle. In the 1st field rosette over posed by a Greek cross, in the 2nd field three strips.
1st variant - the obverse and the reverse legends start with +.
Sub-variant a - on the obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
2nd variant - the obverse and the reverse legends start with +, on reverse a rosette between STEFANVS and VOIEVODA.
Sub-variant a - on the obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
b) 1/2 groats
Obs. Anepigraphie. Auroch's head in the middle with a five rayed star between its horns, rose in the left field, crescent in the right field.
Rv. Anepigraphic. Shield in the middle. In the 1st field rosette over posed by a Greek cross, in the 2nd field three strips.
1st variant - rosette over the shield (the so-called "five rayed star" identified by O. Luchian is, actually, a rosette, as clearly shown the picture of the coin)/crescent to left.
Sub-variant a - on the obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.

2nd type
a) Groats
Obs. Round inscription: +MONET A MOLDA VIE (or variants), auroch's head in the middle with a five rayed star between its horns, rose in the left field, crescent in the right field.
Rv. Round inscription: + STEFANVS VOI EVO or variants, in the middle shield with patriarchal cross.
1st variant - five rayed star or rosette with closed petals between the auroch's horns, the obverse and the reverse legends start with +.
Sub-variant a - on the obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
2nd variant - five rayed star or rosette with closed petals between the auroch's horns, the obverse legend starts with a+, the reverse legend starts with a rosette.
Sub-variant a - obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
3rd variant - five rayed star or rosette with closed petals between the auroch's horns, the obverse legend starts with a rosette, the reverse legend starts with a +.
Sub-variant a - obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
4th variant - five rayed star or rosette with closed petals between the auroch's horns, the obverse and the reverse legends start with a rosette.
Sub-variant a - obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
5th variant - rosette between the auroch's horns, the obverse legend starts with a+, the reverse legend starts with a rosette.
Sub-variant a - obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
6th variant - rosette with dotted petals between the auroch's horns, the obverse legend starts with a rosette, the reverse legend starts with a+.
Sub-variant a - obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
7th variant- rosette with dotted petals between the auroch's horns, the obverse and the reverse legends start with a rosette.
Sub-variant a - obverse, crescent to left/rosette to right.
Sub-variant b - on the obverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.

b) 1/2 groats
Obs. Anepigraphic. Auroch's head in the middle with a five rayed star between its horns, rose in the left field, crescent in the right field.
Rv. Anepigraphic. In the middle shield with patriarchal cross.
1st variant - reverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
2nd variant - reverse, rosette over the shield, rosette to left/crescent to right.
3rd variant - obverse, rosette with dotted petals between the auroch's horns, reverse, rosette to left/crescent to right.
According to the author, the previous classification lead-nowhere because the authors confused the general monetary types with the individual variants of the coin dies. A lot of criteria used previously had no practical importance for the l5th century people, who used the coins. Such was, for example the relative position of the rosette or of the crescent respecting the auroch's head, which were considered by the previous scholars as a main classification criterion. Actually, the entire medieval Moldavian coinage has variants with transposed positions of these heraldic devices, and very likely, such differences were caused by the negligent or less skilled die-cutters. The metrological study as well as the analyses of the alloy contain proved that the transposed position of the rosette or crescent represented on the obverse of Stephen the Great coinage have any particular significance. According to me, except the dotted rosette, all other criteria used before for classifying Stephen's the Great coinage (the shape of the stars, rosettes, the length of the inscriptions) had no particular relevance in the eyes of the contemporary coin users, being only the results of the dies engraving.
The author considers that the groats "without inscriptions", called by O. Iliescu and O. Luchian as "exceptional issues", were actually neatly clipped normal groats (some of this kind of issues still bear traces of the previous inscriptions). The clipping of the groats was undergone by the authorities to provide the needed y, which were lacking on the market.
Some details provided by the study of the dies or by the coins found in close archaeological researches should suggest that at last to other monetary types could be put in connection with the reign of Stephen the Great. The first are the groats of traditional Moldavian type with the inscription: + STEFA•WOIWODI // + MVLDAVIEnSIS (or variants), bearing on the reverse a shield, with three strips in the first field and a patriarchal cross in the second field (MBR., p. 71, nos 523-527). This type was first attributed by O. Iliescu to Stephan III the Great, but latter supposed to by an issue of Stephen II (1433-1445). This attribution was accepted al so by O. Luchian, whoever, the careful study of the dies used to strike these coins reveals that they were made by the same die-cutters who worked the dies used for striking the reformed coins of Peter III Aaron (1456-1457).
The second monetary type which attribution should by questioned is that of the groats (and their counterparts, 1/2 groats) with the Slavonic inscription: + IѠ CTЄФANA // + ДAPЗMJIH*MOЛДAB*CKOI, which currently are attributed to Stephen IV (1517-1527). In 1981, Gr. Foit based on the presence of such coins found at Putna Monastery in the archaeological layers of the time of Stephen the Great proposed their reattribution to the later part of his reign. Both hypotheses are interesting, and much partly with some of my remarks on the chronological gaps of the coinage of the early and later parts of Stephen the Great reign, however, I suppose that furthermore evidences are needed to prove them.

2. The mint organization and the control of the „Princely" coinage under Stephen the Great
During the reign of Stephen the Great a new marking system of the subsequent issues was introduced in the Moldavian mint. The old mint-marks system, combining letter and graphic devices, introduced by Alexander I, after 1409, which seemed to be influenced by the Hungarian mint-marks, was abandoned. For much of the duration of the strike of the 1st type goats no mint-mark was used at all. Later some issues are marked with a star in the reverse inscription. Unlike the groats, the 1/2 coins were always marked, very likely, to avoid any possible confusion about which denomination they belong.
All the groats of the 2nd type bear mint-marks, consisting in devices placed at the beginning of the obverse and reverse inscriptions. Two graphic devices were used: the cross and the rosette, each used alone or in combination. These kind of mint-mark were not used neither in Hungary nor Poland (the Crown's mints), but seem to be quite similar to those at that time at Torun, in Royal Prussia.
For a few issues, a second set of mint-mark were added under the form of stars or rosettes applied between the auroch's head represented on the obverse of the coins.
I suppose that the cross and the rosettes with dotted petals put at the beginnings of the inscriptions were the used by the fanners of the mint, to indicate successive issues, and the stars or rosettes with dotted petals represented officinae marks.
During the reign of Stephen the Great, the Moldavian princely mint used two die-cutters. Both of them were highly skilled craftsmen, working in the artistic traditions of the Central European late Gothic art. Both seem to be foreigners, quite likely Germans. I called them conventionally as the "master of the Gothic A" and the "master of the Renaissance A". The first one, and supposedly, his team, was responsible for the preparation of all the coin-dies used to strike the groats of the first type (and quite likely, for the 1/2 groats too). The "master of the Gothic A" continued to work for the Moldavian mint even after the introduction of the 2nd type coinage, but he was joined by a second die-engraver who arrived after this moment. The arrival of the "master of the Renaissance A" in Moldavia could be dated during 1479-1485. The "master of the Gothic A" seems to remain the main die-cutter, meanwhile his fellow was responsible for producing the dies used for striking some of the less plentiful variants of the groats. However, some of the groat types of the 2nd type were struck with hybrid dies, produced by both engravers.
So far there is no evidence about the existence of local mints responsible for issuing princely coinage, but is quite likely to suppose that mobile mints, implying members of the mint of the capital, as well as its tools and implements, were active during the continuous travels of the Court of Stephen the Great across the country or during the military operations lead by the Prince himself.
During the early stage of the 1st type coinage, the amount of the issues was pretty low, but after the introduction of the 2nd type coins the amount of the coinage rose four times compared the previous period. The boosting of the amount of the Moldavian "princely" coinage after 1471 could be connected with large scale inputs of silver, as a result of the successful military campaigns against Wallachia and the Ottomans (in 1473, the entire Princely Treasure of the Wallachian Prince Radu III the Handsome fell in the Moldavian's hand). Important quantities of precious metals entered the country also in 1476, 1485 and 1497-1502, following the victories against the Ottomans or Poles. However, the large military expenditures as well as the economic loses caused by the devastations of the country and the Ottoman conquest of Chilia and Cetatea Albă in 1484, as well as the large scale sumptuary construction policy dramatically reduced the resources during the last two decades of the reign.
Always being a small mint, the Moldavian mint during the reign of Stephen the Great struck mostly groats. The strike of 1/2 groats which was less efficient from economic point of view was very restricted. To solve the problems created by the shortage of this denomination the local authorities had resort to the clipping of the groats. Another solution to the lack of small denominations was the increasing use of the reformed Hungarian deniers, struck after 1468 by Matthias Corvinus, which by their silver contain were near to the Moldavian half groats.

3. The metrology of the „Princely" issues of Stephen the Great
Although the coinage of Stephen the Great represents a very distinctive chapter of the 15th century
Moldavian coinage it share a lot of common features with the reformed coinage of his predecessor and foe, Peter III Aaron. Quite likely, the monetary reform of Peter III Aaron, which replaced the old Moldavian monetary system established since 1409 by Alexander I, took place during the second part of 1456 or during the early 1457. After the reform, were issued small and thick module groats and 1/2 grots, with a new monetary design. According my metrological studies, the medium weight of the new groats of Peter III is 0.61 g and that of the 1/2 groats is 0.36 g. However the median weight of the groats is a bit higher - 0.64 g.
The medium finesse of the entire reformed coinage, obtained by the XRF method is 559‰, it means 9 I /3 lots, according to the medieval Central-European metrological system or of 13 2/5 carats, according to the Mediterranean standards. But the same analyses have shown that the groats were apparently struck from a lower quality silver alloy that the 1/2 groats (524.65‰, about 8 2/5 lots or about 12 2/3 carats for the first denomination, compared with 725.75‰ for the second denomination ( 11 2/3 lots or 17 2/5 carats). However the median of the finesse of the groats is only 534.50‰ (about 8 2/3 lots or 12 4/5 carats).
The medium weight of the 1st type groats struck by Stephen III is 0.665 g, but the median of their weight is 0.75 g. The medium weight of 1st type 1/2 groats is 0.317 g and the median of their weight is 0.36 g.
The medium finesse as shown by the analyses of the 1st type groats was 790.37‰ (about 12 2/3 lots or 19 carats), but the median of their titles is only 734.25‰ (11 3/4 lots or 17 2/3 carats). The medium finesse of the anal1/2ed 1/2 groats is 881‰ (about 14 1/10 lots or 21 1/10 carats), and the median of the finesse is 874.5‰ (14 lots or 21 carats).
The medium weight of the 2nd type groats struck by Stephen III is 0.61 g, but the median of their weight is 0.72 g. The medium weight of 2nd type 1/2 groats is 0.28 g and the median of their weight is 0.34 g.
The medium finesse of the 2nd type groats of Stephen the Great is about 917‰ - 14 2/3 lots or 22 carats. The medium finesse of the 2nd type 1/2 groats is 943.37‰ (about 15 1/10 lots or 22 2/3 carats) and the median of their finesses is 942.5‰.
By their silver content the coins struck by Stephen the Great were not only the best Moldavian issues ever, but far better to the contemporary Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Wallachian, of the Golden Horde ones or of Caffa's coinage. From the neighboring countries, only the Ottoman Empire seems to have higher quality silver issues.
However, I think that the figures of the medium weight and finesse offer only limited information on the legal metrological standards used in Moldavia during the period 1456-1504, because most of the coins are worm enough and so far there are were few data provided by the metrological analyses on coins found in the hoards.
I suppose that the heaviest coins should offer a better prospective on the legal standards, meanwhile, the median shows what was, actually, the real metrological performance of the mint.
So, I suppose that the legal weight standard of the reformed groats of Peter III Aaron was about 0.80-0.90 g, and their legal silver contain was around 666‰, though most of the specimens available for study are, actually, bellow the standards. For the 1/2 groats the regal weight standard was about 0.45 g, and they were struck from an alloy containing about 725‰-750‰ silver.
It seems that the metrological model of the Moldavian monetary reform during Peter III was the coinage of Caffa, though the reformed coinage became more easily convertible into Ottoman aspers too (at the ratio I asper = 2 groats = 4 1/2 groats, or 1/80 of a Venetian gold ducat or Hungarian florin). I suppose that the main goal of the monetary reform underwent during the last months of Peter III reign was to connect the Moldavian coinage to Caffa's monetary system, even if such operation had as consequence the better convertibility of the Moldavian issues in Ottoman aspers.
The groats of the 1st type of Stephen III seems to be issued according the same legal standard of 0.80-0. 90 g and the 1/2 groats following a weight standard of 0.45 g. It seems that during the period when the coinage of 1st type was issued, some small changing happened in the weight coins and in the finesse of the alloys, quite likely, due to the fluctuations occurred in the gold/silver ratio in Moldavia and in the neighboring countries.
It seems that the finesse standard of the alloy of the 1st type groats was changed at least three times:
I. 671.5‰ (IO V. lots or 16 1/10 carats).
2. 808‰ (13 lots or 19 2/5 carats).
3. 875‰ (14 lots or21 carats).
Quite likely, such an important gap between the silver contain of these coins is not casual at all. I suppose that during the first phase of the coinage, the previous finesse standard established during the reign of Peter III was still in use. Later one, the finesse standards were modified twice to about 13 lots/19 2/5 carats and then to 14 lots/21 carats.
The analyses show that the finesse of the 1/2 groats was always higher than that of the groats 881‰ (about 14 1/10 lots or 21 1/10 carats). One could suppose that the issue of the 1/2 groats started later and most of them were struck when the 14 lots/21 carats standard was in use.
The 2nd type groats of Stephen III seems to be struck according to a lighter weight standard of about 0.80 g, but actually, most of the specimens are far below this standard. One could suppose that at a certain moment the weight standard was reduced to 0.70 g or even less. It is quite likely, that during the time when this coinage was issued, the Moldavian authorities were subjected to huge economic and political pressures to insure quick incomes from the minting activity.
The results of the analyses so far underwent prove that the silver contain of the groats was several times changed.
I. 742.75‰ (11 9/10 lots or 17 9/10 carats) [2 sp.].
2. 807.75‰ (13 lots or 19 2/5 carats) [3 sp.].
3. 874.75‰ (14 lots or 21 carats) [4 sp.].
4. 916‰ (14 213 lots or 22 carats) [6 sp.].
5. 958.75‰ (15 113 lots or 23 carats) [13 sp.].
6. 977‰ (15 2/3 lots or 22 1/2 carats) [4 sp.].
I suppose that the coins from the group no 3 could represent the first stage of the issue, meanwhile, the groups no 4-6 should belong to the phase when the title of the alloy was improved, when the weight was reduced.
This event could happened either in the early phases or later, when a standard of finesse of 15 2/3 lots or 22 1/2 carats was established. If this scenario should be confirmed, the groups no 1-2 could represent the later stage of the issue, when the alloy standards were severely reduced.
As regarding the weight standard of the groats of the 2nd type, it seems that in the early stage of the coinage the previous standard of about 0.45 g was followed, but later the weight of these coins was furthermore reduced. The finesse of these coins is very high and surprisingly uniform - 942.5‰ (varying between only 930‰ and 950‰).
The use of new monetary designs associated with the use of different weight and alloy standards for both coin types issued by Stephen the Great, show that the introduction of each of them represented a monetary reform.
During the last 80 years, several hypotheses were proposed explain the models followed by the
Moldavian monetary system after the reform of Peter III Aaron and Stephen III. C. Moisil thought that the aim of the reforms undergone by both Princes was to connect better the Moldavian monetary system to the Hungarian one, but most of this theory was dismantled by O. Iliescu. However, Iliescu asserted that Stephen the Great coinage followed the principles established by his predecessor. In 1973, M. Cazacu supposed that the main purpose of the reform of Peter III was to link the Moldavian monetary system to the Ottoman one. According to M. Cazacu, the Moldavian reform was only a part of the monetary readjustments happened in the area of the Lower Danube during the early 1450's after the Ottoman military successes from the reign of Mehmed II. Once again, O. Iliescu rejected this supposition, in 1997. On that occasion Iliescu postulated that the model of the monetary reform of Peter III and Stephen the Great must be found in the Wallachian monetary system established by Vladislav lI.
A new metrological approach combined with the data provided by the analyses open a better starting point for understanding the evolution of the Moldavian monetary system during the period 1456-1504, in a wider South-eastern and Central European context. It is quite clear that the aim of the monetary reforms of Stephen the Great was to connect the Moldavian coinage to the Ottoman asper.
The slim metrological gap between the weight and the finesse of the asper and the groat was a deliberately forced exchange rate of the asper, imposed by the Moldavian authorities to protect their own coinage. There are some evidences that during the second half of 15yh century and the first half of l6th century in Moldavia was in use a different official exchange rate between the ducats and the aspers, than that used by the Ottoman Treasury.
The adoption of the Ottoman monetary standard by the Moldavian authorities in spite of the prolonged struggle between the two countries was the consequence of the integration of Moldavia and the entire Black Sea region in the economic space of the Ottoman Empire du ring the second half of the l5th century.
However, by striking good quality silver 1/2 groats, the Moldavian monetary system during Stephen's the Great reign was also better connected to the Hungarian monetary system reformed in 1467-8 by Matthias Corvinus.
The subsequent monetary reforms underwent in Moldavia during 1456-1479 were parts of a larger + monetary movement happened in South-Eastern and Easter-Central Europe at that time. That concerned the establishing of a coinage with "permanent value", to replace the monetary instability experienced during the first half of the l5th century. His first state to undergo such a reform was Wallachia, where about 1452 the Prince Vladislav II introduced a new type of coins. Their design and metrological standards seemed to last until 1476, when the Wallachian coinage stopped.
In Moldavia the introduction of the new type coinage happened in 1456, but the last phase of the reforms occurred around 1476-1479, when the 2nd type coins were introduced. In spite of cessation of the reformed coinage during the last decade of the reign of Stephen the Great, the basic design of the new coins was followed also in early l6th century Moldavian coinage.
The next country to reform its coinage and to establish a permanent value currency was Hungary. In 1467-1468 the Hungarian silver coinage was reformed, a new type and monetary standard was introduced for the deniers and obols, and the groat was struck again. A permanent exchange rate was established between the gold florin and the denier (I florin= I 00 dinars). The system lasted until 1521.
In 1481 the Ottoman Empire abandoned the old system of "renovatio monetae" based on a 10 years cycle and adopted a permanent design and metrological standard for the asper. In spite of a slightly reduction operated in 1491, the system seems to survive until the first half of the l6th century.

4. The chronology of the „Princely" issues of Stephen the Great
Except the doubts expressed by C. Moisil, in 1916 (although quite quickly abandoned by him), or by A. Golimas, for more than 130 years of modem Romanian numismatics, the common wisdom was that the strike of Stephen the Great "princely" coinage covered his entire reign. However, a new approach of the numismatic finds buried during his reign or during the first decades of the l6th century, could raise a lot of questions, both on the dating of the beginnings, as well as on the ending stages of the coinage of Stephen the Great. C. Moisil was the first propose a chronological sequence for this coinage. According to him, the 1st issue (recte the 2nd) dated about 1457-1474 and the 2nd (recte the 1st coinage), dated 1474-1504. O. Iliescu, based on Martinovici's observations proposed a more realistic chronology of Stephen's the Great coinage. He supposed that the 1st issue was struck during 1457-1476/81 and the 2nd issue, during 1481-1504. Recently, Katiuşa Pârvan postulated that both types were issued for a while in parallel, during 1457-1484.
The key of this debated question lays in the structure of the contemporary coin finds in Moldavia. The oldest well dated "princely" coin find comes from Baia. It is a single find found during the archaeological diggings undertaken here. This coin was found in the burned layer, marking the destruction of the town in December 1467, during the war against the Hungarian army, led by Matthias Corvinus. So far the "princely" coins are lacking in the early hoards, concealed around 1470-1, which generally consist in old and worn coins, often dating from the early 15th century, and contain were few new issues. I have to mention that, however, two of three hoards concealed around 1470-1471 contain autonomous municipal issues of Cetatea Albă. Facing such a situation, one could suppose that the new coinage started before the end of 1467, but until 1470, the amount of the issues was extremely limited. I suppose the beginning of the "princely" coinage of Stephen the Great could be established around 1465-1466, soon after the reconquest of the major Danubian trading town of Chilia that largely enhanced the economic situation of the country.
During the first 10 years of the reign of Stephen the Great the country was in a difficult economic and political situation, due to the periodic conflicts with all the neighbours, and the unsettled position of the Prince.
Quite likely, the conquest of Chilia, as well as the following successful military campaigns against
Hungary, Wallachia and the Ottoman Empire provided a large amount of fresh metal, which was used to increase the volume of the Moldavian coinage during the 1470's and later.
Based on the data provided by the heraldic sources as well as by those offered by the archaeological evidences O. Iliescu thought that the 2nd type coinage was issued during 1481-1504. However, recent finds could suggest a lower chronology for the introduction of the new monetary type in the Moldavian coinage, since the earliest representations of the heraldic shield with the patriarchal cross could be dated around 1475-1476. The possibility that Stephen III "princely" issues should have been struck until 1504 is also highly debatable, if not even totally contradict by the so far known evidences. The last so far known finds containing 2nd type coins of Stephen the Great, the Suliţa Nouă hoard and the single finds found in the cellar of the Princely House in Suceava are dated during the autumn of 1497. However both finds did not prove that actually the 2nd type coinage was still issued, but it was still in use.
Strong evidence that the 2nd type coinage was no longer struck during the last decade of Stephen's the Great reign is provided by the virtual absence of such coins in the Moldavian hoards concealed after 1504, meanwhile different other earlier monetary species, such as the Hungarian deniers of Matthias Corvinus or Vladislav II (struck before 1504), as well as the aspers of Bayezid II are extremely well represented. The only explanation one could suppose is that the issuing of the "princely" coinage of Stephen III stopped long time ago and the coins were no more available on the market.
These gaps existing in the early and later stages of the coinage of Stephen III open the possibility to suppose that the coins with the legend: + STEFA•WOIWODI // + MVLDAVIEnSIS, and + IѠ CTФANA BOЄBOДA *ГОСПО // + ДAPЗЄMЛH*MOЛДAB*CKOI, could have been struck during these periods.
b) The municipal autonomous coinage
In 1937, V. Şah-Nazarov and P. Nicorescu have published an unknown type of bronze coins, bearing on the obverse the arm-of-coats of Moldavia - the auroch's head and on the reverse, an inscription in Greek: ACΠPKACTPO, around a Greek cross with/or without bezants in each quarters. The inscription shown without any doubt that these issues represented a municipal coinage of the town of Cetatea Albă (called by the contemporary Byzantine or Western sources
- Moncastro or Asprokastron). Later, in 1957, O. Iliescu and M. Dinu proposed the attribution to the same town of a series of Golden Horde aspers countermarked with a Greek cross, with bezants in the quarters. Such coins were published since the late 19th century, but were supposed to be struck either by Caffa or Lithuania.
Although, the dating of the autonomous municipal coinage of Cetatea Albă was a controversial matter for long time, it remained unsolved. Different dating was suggested, which cover a span of more than 40-50 years, from the reign of Alexander I (1400-1432) to the last rule of Peter III Aaron (1455-1457). I would like to emphasize that all of them were based on more or less real stylistic parallels with the Moldavian "princely" coinage, but totally ignored neither the chronology of the finds containing such issues nor their metrological patterns.
The countermarked silver coins of Cetatea Albă are among the components of two early hoards: the Cârpiţi hoard and the so-called "Unknown Bessarabian place" hoard, both of them concealed in 1471, all such issues being in freshly struck condition. The medium weight of these coins is 0.66 g and the medium finesses of 790‰. Both are quite different of the metrological standards used in the Moldavian coinage before 1457, but fit well with those used for the groats of Stephen III 1st type coinage. As concerning the metrology of the follari with Greek inscription, their medium weight is 1.90 g, which several times higher not only that the weight of any 1/2 groat struck during 1409-1457, but even of that of many of the contemporary double groats or groats.
I suppose that the autonomous coinage of Cetatea Albă started only during the second decade of the reign of Stephen the Great. It represented the answer of the local authorities of the largest economic center of the country to a double challenge. The countermarking of the old dirhams of the Golden Horde was very likely, a consequence of the shortage of the "princely" silver issues before 1471. The countermarking of the old foreign bronze coins as well as the issuing of the follari with Greek inscriptions represented the reaction of the disappearance of the copper or billion petty coins from the Moldavian monetary system after the monetary reforms of Peter III Aaron and Stephen III.
Cetatea Albă was an old B1/2antinc town included within the borders of the Moldavian state and one of the major trading centers of the Black Sea basin. The B1/2antinc and Mediterranean traditions were vivid here, and the use of the bronze petty-coinage in the every-day life was a part of this legacy.
c) The imitative coinage
Recent researches brought to light an unusual peculiarity of the composition of the Ottoman coin finds in Moldavia during the second half of the 15th century and in l6th century. A significant percent of the previously identified Ottoman silver coins turned to be actually imitations of forgeries. Among the stray finds or in the composition of the hoards one could find imitations of the aspers struck in the names of the Sultans Murad II, Mehmed II and Bayezid II. Some of them bear only clumsy inscriptions, but there are many struck in bad silver or on silvered blanks, and with barbarous pseudo-epigraphic inscriptions.
The amount of such imitations or forgeries of the Ottoman coins among the Moldavian finds is too large that one might consider them as being the result of a forging activity undertaken by private foreigner or local forgers. Quite likely they are produced on large scale in Moldavian mints. There are many reasons to suppose that the imitations were struck, if not under the direct supervision of the administration, at least, with its tacit approval. In any cases the Prince and high officials must be involved in such activities and very likely, they enjoyed also the substantial benefits of such a lucrative activity.
Despite bearing the names of different sultans the most of the coins share the same stylistic features, and in some cases there are proofs that the coin-dies used to strike imitations of the aspers of Bayezid II were engraved by the same die-cutters who made the dies for the forged aspers of Murad II, presumably 30-40 years earlier.
The production of the imitative Moldavian coinage based on the Ottoman proto-types became important after 1475 and even increase after 1481. There are some evidences that imitations of Ottoman type were struck even after 1491. Quite likely, the imitative coinage started as a consequence of the reduction of the amount of the Ottoman aspers arrived in Moldavia after the beginning of the long Moldavian-Ottoman conflict for the control of the international trade in the North-western Black Sea and Danubian areas. The first aim of the issuer of such imitations was to provide a convenient currency needed for the economic and political payments, which supply became inadequate because the war. But soon the imitative coinage turned to profitable operation of monetary manipulation.
The increasing production of devaluated or forged Ottoman aspires during the Inter part of Stephen the Great reign could be one of the explanations of the stopping of the "princely" coinage.

B). The Moldavian coinage on the local monetary market during the period 1457-1504
A detailed study of the second half of the 15th century - early 16th century coin finds found on the territory of Moldavia designs an interesting picture, quite different of the traditional image.
The coins of Stephen the Great appear very rarely among the contemporary monetary finds. So far only two hoards containing such issues arc recorded with the borders of the Moldavian Principality, both of them found in the Eastern region of the country, called Bessarabia. One, consisting of 10 groats (1st type) was found at Orheiul Vechi (R. of Moldavia). Another, consisting of about 200 groats (2nd type) was found at Suliţa Nouă (now-a-day Novaja Selica, in Ukraine). I suppose that the coin attributed to a certain Moldavian Prince, called "Stephen" from the hoard found in 1863, in an unknown place in Podolia was also an issue of Stephen the Great. The countermarked silver issues of the town Cetatea Albă occurred in two hoards: Cârpiţi (Iassy County) and in a hoard found in an unknown place in Bessarabia. A small hoard consisting only in imitative issues of Ottoman type was found at Orheiul Vechi, though some few specimens could occurred in other in mixed hoards from Moldavia or the neighbouring areas of Transylvania.
The single finds of coins of Stephen III are also very scarce. Most of them (about 25 specimens) were found at Orheiul Vechi. Samples of 8-14 coins were found at Suceava, the capital of the Moldavian principality, at Baia, Iassy and Cetatea Albă. Few others are reported as single finds in several Moldavian places westward of the Prut River. Abroad, one single find was reported in North-eastern Wallachia, at Bradu Monastery (Buzău County) and one in Crimea, at Sudak (Soldaia).
Always, the coins of Stephen the Great represent only few minorities among other contemporary monetary finds in Moldavia. Most of the silver currency used in Moldavia during 1457-1504 consists in Hungarian, Ottoman and of the Crimean Khanate issues.
I would like to emphasize that not only the local coins are rare during Stephen III reign, but, in similar terms, also the amount and the value of the foreign issues from this period is lower than those found in Moldavia during the rule of Alexander I (1400-1432). I suppose that the scarcity and the modesty of hoards and single finds reflect a general impoverishment of large sectors of the Moldavian society. This situation was the result of some political, social and economic measures decisions of the Moldavian government. The prolonged and frequent war against Wallachia, Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Poland largely hampered the economic life, first at all the international trade. Several foreign invasions disrupted also the economic and social life. In 1484 Moldavia lost to the Ottomans the main economic centers of the country - Chilia and Cetatea Albă, as well as the southern parts of Bessarabia, together with a considerable fraction of its resources and inhabitants.
The Moldavian society had to pay a high price for sustaining large scale military activities. During the second half of the l5th century the prices of the fire arms, of the good quality white weapons, as well as the salaries of the mercenaries became very expensive. During the reign of Stephen the Great a lot of large fortifications were build or repaired and extended, which very likely represented a huge economic burden. One could add to these costs the costs implied by the large scale sumptuary constructions program launched by Stephen the Great.
The consequences of the worsening economic conditions, combined with the high taxation to cover the military and sumptuary expenses left less money in larger sections of the Moldavian society than three generations ago.
The main aim of the Moldavian coinage during the reign of Stephen the Great was to supply the needed cash for the political and military expenditures.
Paginaţia 299-388
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  • Cercetări Numismatice; IX-XI; anul 2003-2005; seria 2003-2005
    • Cercetări Numismatice; IX-XI; anul 2003-2005; seria 2003-2005
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