For Sale: Polish Coin Made For King Who Saved Europe From The Turks

Old coins can be worth a fortune and some really sell for huge amounts of money. A Polish coin that is to be auctioned later this month may be the most expensive coin ever sold in Poland.  This rare and very beautiful gold coin dates from the 17th century AD. The almost priceless Polish coin is expected to fetch a small fortune when it goes on sale. It is one of only 6 similar coins in the world and was made for a king who many believe saved much of Europe from Turkish domination.

The gold Polish coin, dated to 1621, is a 50-ducat gold piece that was minted during the reign of Zygmunt III Waza. A similar coin, a 100-ducat coin was sold to a bidder at an auction in 2018 in the USA for an incredible $2 million (1,686 million euros), which made it the most expensive Polish coin ever sold. While the 1621 gold coin will probably not break this record, it is likely to be the most expensive one ever sold in the country of Poland.

A Polish Coin Masterpiece Made By A Famous Master

The 1621 Polish coin is not just valuable to collectors for its history but also because of its exquisite craftsmanship. According to First News “It was designed by one of the most outstanding European medalists at the time, Samuel Ammon from Schaffhausen, Switzerland.” The Polish king, Zygmunt III Waza, was so delighted with the coin that he granted Amon the rare distinction of an audience at court. The Swiss engraver died young, but he left a unique legacy and created some of the finest Polish coins ever made. Moreover, the coin was made at the “mint in Bydgoszcz, a cult mint in the world of collectors,” reports First News .

The front side of the 1621 gold Polish coin. (DESA Unicum)

The front side of the 1621 gold Polish coin. ( DESA Unicum )

Both sides of the Polish coin and its rim display different things. One side of the 50-ducat Polish coin shows the crown and coat of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This side also depicts a sheaf or bundle of grain, which was the symbol of the Royal House of Vasa, the dynasty that ruled Sweden and later the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Zygmunt III Waza was a member of this very important early modern European dynasty. The other side of the coin shows a portrait of the king in profile wearing full armor. The rim of the coin lists the territories that the monarch ruled or claimed to rule.

The reverse side of the 1621 gold Polish coin showing a side profile portrait of king Zygmunt III Waza of Poland. (DESA Unicum)

The reverse side of the 1621 gold Polish coin showing a side profile portrait of king Zygmunt III Waza of Poland . ( DESA Unicum )

Measuring nearly 2.9 inches (7 centimeters) in diameter and weighing 6.2 ounces (174.9 grams), this “huge” 1621 Polish coin is masterpiece of baroque engraving and a gem of Polish coinage.

Believe It Or Not: This Polish Coin Was Never Used!

This Polish coin is mysterious for another reason: it was never circulated and actually used as money. Only a few of these ducat coins , in different denominations, were minted. First News reports that it may have been minted “for a special occasion and could have been a gift, though researchers are not in agreement.” It has been speculated that it was a specially commissioned gift to the king or a member of his court. Others believe that the coin “which due to its size resembles a medal, was ordered by Zygmunt III Waza himself and given as a reward for bravery in the Polish-Turkish war,” according to First News .

This was because in the year the coin was minted (1621 AD), King Zygmunt stopped the Ottomans at the Battle of Chocim (or the Battle of Khotyn). In 1620 AD, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been badly defeated by the Turks at the Battle of Cecora and it seemed that the commonwealth would fall to the Ottomans. King Zygmunt, the ruler of the commonwealth, managed to raise another army and also obtained “the support of the armies of the Cossacks,” reports Coin News . Zygmunt’s army totaled around 40-50,000 soldiers when it met a huge Ottoman army of 100,000-150,000 soldiers at Chocim on the River Dniester in 1621. It was a long battle, and the outcome was not clear until the very end.

The route followed by the Ottoman army leading to the 1621 Chocim battle indicated as Hotin on this map. (Bakayna / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The route followed by the Ottoman army leading to the 1621 Chocim battle indicated as Hotin on this map. (Bakayna / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The King Who Saved Europe from the Ottomans

The Chocim battle raged for almost a month and it became a battle of attrition. There was no clear victor, but the Turkish sultan lost more men than Zygmunt III did. As a result, both sides signed the Treaty of Khotyn, which some regard as being more favorable to the commonwealth than to the Turks. All of Europe was impressed by Zygmunt III’s remarkable “victory.” And written history shows that many credited the Polish king with stopping the Ottomans from conquering Ukraine and much of Eastern Europe.

Earlier in his reign Zygmunt “took advantage of a period of civil unrest in Muscovy (known as the Time of Troubles) and invaded Russia, holding Moscow for two years (1610–12 AD),” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica . He was also for some years king of Sweden but was later deposed. Much of his later policies were aimed at regaining the Swedish throne and this resulted in many years of war, which some historians believe greatly weakened the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

This historic Polish coin is expected to be sold at the famous DESA Unicum auction house in Warsaw along with a number of other historic coins. The 1621 Polish coin is expected to fetch a price of approximately 2.2-2.6 million Polish Zlotys ($ 640,000-$690,000 dollars; 539,000-581,000 euros). But with rare and historically significant coins like this one the bidders may raise the price more than we know.

Top image: The 1621 Polish coin in the center, flanked by two other coins that will also be auctioned in Poland on November 30, 2020      Source: DESA Unicum

By Ed Whelan

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