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Tobias Bondesson treats us to the tale of a recent find that blew his mind.

Oh, mercy mercenary me!

Being a detectorist is damn hard work! I get out of bed at the crack of dawn on my day off from work to perform the ritual of “sweep, beep, dig deep” for as many hours as I can before I really, really, have to head back home, lest I want my detecting privileges revoked by a higher power (i.e. girlfriend). And what do I have to show for it? A bum knee, sore shoulders and a mild case of tinnitus are some of my more prominent achievements. On the other hand, metal detecting is the best hobby ever, which was without a doubt proven on April 30th, when I found a peculiar “bottle top” on Zealand in Denmark.

That particular afternoon, I searched a site that in the past hasn’t delivered anything more exciting than 18th century copper coins and a few 17th century silvers. After about an hour with nothing to show for my efforts except a musket ball and a Medieval horse shoe, I got a signal similar to those presented by the ubiquitous and annoying aluminium bottle tops. But as I flipped the plug of soil over, I wasn’t greeted by a dull crumpled-up piece of scrap — but by a soft golden sheen and the Danish royal crest sporting three lions. It took several close looks and more than one pinch in the arm to wrap my mind around it, but the result remained the same — I had found a 17th century gold coin!

One of the great things about detecting is that the interesting stuff isn’t just confined to the field. Home office duties such as researching and logging finds are just as rewarding as finding them. So, after a shaky drive home, I hit the books and the Net. What I found was that this was no ordinary gold coin. The coin is of the denomination 2 Gold Crowns and was struck in 1628 during the reign of Christian IV (King of Denmark 1588-1648) by the moneyer Nikolaus Schwabe of Dresden. It was minted with the explicit purpose to make up part of Christian IV’s war coffer during the Thirty Years’ War, which Denmark had joined in 1625. A war coffer was really just that: chests or barrels filled with gold and silver coins of high denominations brought along on campaigns, primarily to be used as payment to mercenary troops. The reason was that mercenaries required payment at regular intervals in order stay loyal to their employer. So, there was of course a lot of money from war coffers circulating at the time. But this gold coin represented a considerable sum; the value actually corresponded to the weekly wage of the well-to-do royal moneyer Nikolaus Schwabe. So, one possibility is that these coins were intended to be used as salary for mercenaries of higher rank.

But this specific coin is also remarkable for another reason. According to the still existing ledgers, only 333 were ever struck, and of these only 4-6 were known to still be in existence prior to this find. In addition, it has been documented that Christian IV himself visited the location where I found the coin. So maybe, just maybe, the King himself has held it in his hand.

Facts

  • The “Dobbelt Guldkrone” or “Double Gold Crown” of 1628 weighs nearly six grams and is minted from 22 karat gold.

  • Only 333 coins were struck, whereof 4-6 were known to still be in existence.
    In 2004, an identical coin was sold at an auction for DKK 125 000 (USD 20 000 / EUR 17 000 at 2004 exchange rates).

  • The coin has been duly reported and delivered to the Danish authorities.

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Comments

  1. #1 Johan A
    May 6, 2008

    Wow! Congratulations! Perhaps not a find that contributes more knowledge about the era, but finding gold will always remain something quite special. And adding another one to the half dozen that were known already is cool. (No finder’s fee I assume?)

  2. #2 Johan A
    May 6, 2008

    (That was directed at Tobias, of course.)

  3. #3 Tobias
    May 6, 2008

    Thanks Johan!

    Actually, its rarity makes it very relevant for i.a. historians and numismatists. Its identity as “war coinage”, i.e. coins destined to finance the ongoing war effort, makes it interesting to pursue the reason for it ending up where it did. In addition, since it is more or less uncirculated, there is a possibility that it was brought there, or ended up there, for some specific purpose. And as it is the first one of the 4-6 previously known that can be connected to a specific find spot, it supplies a firm starting point where none was before.

    As regards finders fee, the coin is “danefae” according to Danish law, which means that it is the property of the crown. However, the finder is entitled to compensation, the size of which will be determined by the The National Museum in Copenhagen.

  4. #4 Pierre
    May 6, 2008

    That was one cool find!! Congratulations Tobias! Coins are a very interesting source material. And finding one like this must be a priceless feeling, I suppose?

  5. #5 Tobias
    May 7, 2008

    Thanks Pierre! And you are quite right, I won’t be back down from cloud nine for a while yet ;-)

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