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Copper Plate Money

This week’s coin is certainly no pocket change and it is one of the few odd types of currency associated with northern Europe. The copper plate money minted in Sweden during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was in essence a government experiment focused on using natural resources both as physical currency and as an exported commodity. Copper has been mined in Sweden since the Middle Ages and the minting of copper coinage began in 1624 with round and small klippe pieces being produced. During this same time Spanish demand for copper increased with the minting of subsidiary coinage and across Europe production of copper dropped, creating an advantageous situation for the Swedes. Having settled the intrinsic domestic value of copper to silver by law in 1643, the selling of copper coinage as an export commodity became an even more appealing prospect. The only hitch in this situation was the costs associated with minting individual round coins, with 32 one-Ore coins needed to equal one Daler. In order to reduce these costs and increase their profit margin Swedish authorities turned to the miners who had been pulling copper out of their land for centuries. Copper plates had been produced at mines for years and were an easy way for raw copper to be transported; all that was needed to make these into the coins we know today were the five stamps placed in the corners and center of the plates. The first of these official plates were the 10 Daler SM issues of 1644 weighing in at a hefty 19.72 kilograms. In subsequent issues smaller more manageable denominations of 8, 4, 2, 1 and ½ Daler were struck and easily exported. For over 130 years (with the exclusion of only a few brief periods) this form of currency was minted and traded to countries in Europe and as far away as India and the Pacific. Even after the plates became obsolete as a form of currency they were still desirable as an export due to their uniform shapes and weights. So much was exported, in fact, that despite millions of these plates having been made, fewer than 15,000 are known to exist today.

In our upcoming November Baltimore sale we will be presenting one of these elusive copper plates, a 4 Daler SM struck in 1724 and bearing the crowned initials of King Fredrik I (1720-51). An impressive slab of copper, it is of a perfect size having a solid heft and yet being manageable in the hand. A handsome addition to any collection, this piece is sure to attract plenty of interest and bidding. As with all our sales this piece will be available for viewing in our offices in the weeks prior to the sale, in Baltimore in the days preceding the auction and at StacksBowers.com. We will be highlighting more pieces to be presented this November in this weekly post so stay tuned for more rare and interesting lots.

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