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Christmas Themes in Numismatics

With the Christmas holiday this weekend and yuletide imagery seemingly everywhere, numismatics is certainly no different. Given the strong role that religion (in one form or another) has played in numismatic themes since the early days of coinage, it should not come as a surprise that the birth of Christ and subsequent celebrations of Christmastime appear rather frequently. In our auction held in conjunction with the January 2023 New York Numismatic International Convention (NYINC), three such coins and medals (conveniently spread across three different price points) will be available for bidding. These are an exceptionally rare gold Duchy of Saxony 2 Ducats from 1617, a well preserved and quite large multiple-Taler-sized silver medal of Danzig from shortly thereafter in 1635, and a similarly-themed, ultra-modern silver medal from the Mexico City mint.

The first (one of two hailing from the Augustana Collection that had a large and well-performing section in our Global Showcase auction this past August), emanates from the Duchy of Saxony as a one-year type from the same year as the Protestant Reformation began. Struck to the weight of 2 Ducats, this example is quite rare, with the present piece serving as the plate coin in the Friedbergs’ “Gold Coins of the World.” Though the iconography may not immediately seem to represent Christmas, the obverse displays King Solomon along with his mother, Bathsheba, who are scripturally referred to as ancestors of Jesus. Meanwhile, the reverse features two armored hands in an act of prayer, while the tetragrammaton (the name Yahweh or Jehovah rendered in its original four letter Hebrew manner) is above. Duke Johann Georg I issued this seldom seen specimen specifically for the Christmas festivities of the year, making it a great addition to an advanced collection of world gold coins, religious-themed examples, or those displaying the tetragrammaton—the representation of which can be its own challenging theme for collecting.

Moving not far from Saxony and not even two decades later is this broad and highly attractive silver medal from the hand of Sebastian Dadler in Danzig. This large, 55mm medal’s topic has been variously described as celebrating the New Year, baptisms, and, of course, Christmas. The latter description fits quite appropriately, as the reverse displays the adoration of Christ: Jesus is held by Mary and accompanied by Joseph in a stable, while the Three Magi (or Wise Men) present their gifts. Meanwhile, the Star of Bethlehem shines from above the nativity scene—the guiding light for the bequeathing travelers. Similar to the previous example, the medal features the tetragrammaton, but it is instead on the obverse, where a child Christ, nimbate, benedicting, and holding a cruciform orb indicative of His terrestrial kingdom, stands facing among the starry clouds.

Fast-forwarding rather dramatically and crossing into the New World is the final piece in this festive trinity—a one ounce silver medal from the mint in Mexico City at the eve of the new millennium. On the obverse one finds a more modern depiction of the nativity, with the Three Magi arriving by horse as Joseph and Mary gather around the infant Christ. Furthering the idea of joyful celebrations is the medal’s reverse, on which a group of children gleefully collect the candy contents of a freshly broken piñata.

Look for these holiday-themed lots, along with all of this January’s great offerings, under the various sessions of the NYINC auction (both live and internet) on our website now.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2023 Hong Kong auction and our August 2023 Global Showcase auction. Additionally, we are accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be held in February 2023. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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