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Colecţiile numismatice ale Muzeului Naţional de Istorie a României: Monede moldoveneşti şi muntene din colecţia R. Zăveanu / The Numismatic Collections of the National History Museum of Romania: Moldavian and Wallachian Coins From R. Zăveanu’s Collection

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Excerpt The present article deals with the coins from the former R. Zăveanu Collection, which was sold on 24th September 1924 to the Coin Room of the Academy's Library and then transferred to the Coin Room of the National Museum in 1984. It contains Moldavian and Wallachian issues. Ali the specimens of this collection were submitted to alloy composition analyses, by the X ray fluorescence method (XRF), which was performed at Horia Hulubei National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering. The earliest coins of Zăveanu's collection are Wallachian ducats of traditional type, minted by Radu I, type I c, with Latin inscriptions (no. 1-3). The mint-marks combinations are θ /P - for two specimens (no. 1 - 2) - and C/P (no. 3), the last coin bearing above the shield a mint-mark (•). The style and designs of eagle rendered on the reverse of the coins is similar for no. 1 and 2, and slightly different for no. 3. This last coin has also the highest silver content (954‰), which led me to suppose that the issues bearing the mint-marks combination C/P are belonging to an earlier phase of the coinage. The other elements founding of the coins are peculiar to the ducats minted by Radu I. The presence of gold, in a content of 9-10‰ and that of the bismuth between 0.5-1.5‰ are specific features for the silver of South Danubian provenance. The three specimens have circulated and show slight marks of overstriking. The coin no. 4 opens the traditional type ducats series issued by Mircea the Elder (type I a), bearing Latin inscriptions. All these ducats are very worn with obverse and reverse overstrikes. Judging by style, the eagle on no. 4 and 5 (with mint-mark θ on obverse) was done by the same engraver who produced the dies used to strike the ducats with θ mint-mark in the shield for Radu I. The ducats with ω mint-mark on the obverse have another type of shield (the upper barry is concave) and a different kind of eagle (no. 6-7), being the work of a different engraver who had not worked for Radu I. Coin no. 8 is overstruck on both sides; on obverse two shields are visible, in which the mint-mark A can be noticed, and on reverse an angle of the shield engraved over the helmet can be observed. The alloy's composition analysis has proven a decreasing silver content, higher in no. 4 (316‰, for P/P mint-marks) and 5 (344‰, for θ /P mint-marks), which diminishes at no. 6 (288‰, for ω / ω) and 7 (193‰ with ω /-). Coin no. 8 has an overstrike, which does not allow for accurately assigning its mint-marks, but the silver standard is rather higher -356‰. Taking into consideration the specimens' precarious state of preservation, it can only be asserted that the coins with mint-marks combinations that contain P are simultaneous, and also that the P mint-mark is prior to the ω mint-mark, which is found on coins with a lower silver content. As for the piece with the mint-mark A, the higher content of silver makes us believe that we are dealing with an older issue. Regarding the gold content (a trace-element for the metallic source}, it varies within 6 - 1‰, two specimens (no. 5 and 8) having an identical gold content (4‰), but the first, in combination with bismuth, and the second with antimony. The highest gold content (6‰) was found by analysing coin no. 4, with the mint-mark P/P, and the lowest (1‰) was found în coin no. 7, bearing on the obverse the mint-mark ω and also containing tin and antimony. The piece no. 9 in the collection is the only Wallachian traditional type ducat of Mircea the Elder with Slavonic inscription. On the obverse can be observed three (four?) shields - from the third the mint-mark η can be discerned. On the reverse an interesting overstrike is found. An eagle can be noticed set above a tilted shield, a common reverse is struck above - an eagle perched on a helmet. Before the eagle is placed an S and an X could stand for a mint-mark on the reverse. Regarding the silver content (589‰), it allows us to presuppose that the issues with a Slavonic inscription may be prior to those with a Latin inscription, their silver standard being higher. The gold content is 3.5‰, and antimony traces can be found. It could be an unsuccessfully executed coin (or another reject). The other coins are Moldavian specimens (no. 10 - 33). Groats issued by Peter I Muşat (no. 10 - 20), Alexander the Good (no. 21 - 25), Stephen II (no. 26), Stephen the Great (no. 27 - 29), and Ştefăniţă (no. 30 - 33). The issues by Peter I Muşat (cca. 1375 - 1392) are: a coin with seven lilies in the shield placed on its reverse, two with six lilies, a coin with five and one with four lilies, four coins with two lilies and a normal inscription on the obverse, and two with two lilies and a retrograde inscription on the obverse. The numismatic piece with seven lilies (no. 10) is an electrotype of a coin which bears as attributes a crescent on the right side of the auroch's snout and a point-like rosette on the left, and on the reverse, a barried shield with a right-tilted cross placed on the upper bar. It contains 118‰ silver, 871‰ copper, 1‰ lead and 4‰ tin, an alloy which characterizes a modern piece. The two coins with seven lilies (no. 11 - 12) bear on the obverse identical attributes with the same layout. Each inscription has a small mint-mark placed after the issuer's name (a point-like rosette), the same as for the coin with seven lilies. The first piece with six flowers has at the end of the inscription on the reverse (a small lily), the second is scraped out. The design of the auroch's head is identical] for both coin types - with seven and six lilies - likewise the type of the small lilies in the shield. Even the silver content is close for the two (753‰ and 729‰, respectively). The alloy seems similar even by the content of gold which is 3.5‰ for the first, and 4‰ for the second piece. The first piece contains a higher quantity of lead (15‰) compared to the second (3‰) and in addition 1‰ antimony. The coin with five lilies (no. 13), bears on the obverse as attributes a crescent placed on the right side of the auroch's snout and a stalk carrying a lily flower laid out on the left. The inscription has a mint-mark placed after the issuer's name (a lily). The reverse has a barried shield with five lilies, and at the end of the inscription a mint-mark (:). The alloy is comprised of 715‰ silver, 263‰ copper, 4‰ lead, 5‰ gold, 1‰ tin, leading to the conclusion that the coin could belong to the first issued series. The piece with the four lilies (no. 14) bears on the obverse identical attributes with the one showing five lilies. The inscription on the obverse is the same too, ending with an € (perhaps added to fill the unused space). On the reverse, the four flowers are place one below the other and the inscription is particular to this type (RIMOLDAVENSIS). The silver content is relatively high (677‰), as well as that of gold (7‰), antimony traces can also be found. Hereinafter are studied four coins (no. 15 - 18) with two lilies and a normal inscription on the obverse. The first one (no. 15) bears on the obverse an earless auroch head and as attributes, a rosette of small petals on the right side of the snout and a crescent on the left. On the reverse, the lilies are a slightly artless version of the Florentine style. In the inscription's text, the letter L is upside-down. The next coin (no. 16) has on the obverse a rosette of six petals placed between the auroch's horns the same to the one situated on the right side of the snout. The auroch's head is elongated, of a different kind (another engraver). The inscription has also a rosette of six petals as a mint-mark. On the reverse an overstrike is easily visible; the inscription, with beautiful letters, is misspelled. The next two coins (no. 17-18) have on the obverse an elongated auroch head, and the attributes are in reversed order - crescent (brimmed over) on the right, a rosette of petals on the left. The lilies are a much more artless version of the Florentine style. The inscriptions do not show any mint-marks. Coin no. 18 is fragmentary.
The first two specimens are similar in silver content (385‰ and 265‰, respectively) and copper (600‰ and 718‰, respectively), the same quantity of lead (8‰) and gold (1‰). Traces of bismuth were found at the analysis of the second piece. The same gold content (essential trace element) indicates the same source of ore and the same lot. Starting from some typological elements - the auroch head similar to that engraved on the issues with more lilies, as well as the same type of inscription – mintmark (a rosette resembling the one laid next to the snout) placed after the issuer's name (peculiarity which can be perceived on all the specimens suited with more flowers), but also the negligent striking, the misspelled inscription on the reverse, some upside-down letters, the conclusion can be reached that we are dealing with coins struck immediately after the monetary reform of 1387. The gold content (of close value, but relatively high, the traces of antimony and bismuth) point to a South Danubian source.
The following two coins, with two flowers, show a retrograde inscription on the obverse (no. 19 - 20). The auroch head is similar to the one struck on the coins with seven and six flowers bearing as attributes the crescent on the right side of the snout and a stalk holding the same kind of flower on the left. The two lilies placed on the reverse are smaller than those which characterize this type in general, but similar one to the other (artless); same is true for the inscriptions. The coin no. 20 seams to bear a mintmark (•) at the end of the inscription on the reverse; both inscriptions of the coins start with a rosette. The XRF analysis have detected an amount of silver equal to 580‰, for the no. 19 coin, and 340‰ for coin no. 20 as well as the trace elements gold (5‰ and 3‰, respectively), and traces of antimony in no. 19. The gold content is identical! to that measured in the coins no. 17 and 18, with a normal inscription on the obverse, undoubtedly issued after the monetary reform; the gold content (and antimony traces) prove that probably the same (South Danubian or local) source of ore was used; probably, the issues with two flowers and a normal inscription on the obverse are simultaneous with those bearing two flowers and a retrograde inscription on the obverse (although we can assert that we are dealing with different engravers, probably originating from different regions).
From Alexander the Good (1399 - 1432) come five specimens (no. 21 - 25). The oldest is a double groat type I (no. 21). The inscription begins from the left side of the shield. Although the coin is strongly decentred and fretted, the recurved horns towards the inside along with the five-rayed star between them are visible; the attributes are unreadable (possibly a crescent to the right and a rosette to the left of the snout). The reverse is overstruck. The shield with the concave upper margin (only the first field with three fascias) and two inscriptions can be seen; markedly decentred. The alloy's analysis has shown 45‰ silver, 892‰ copper, 15‰ lead, 42‰ iron and 3‰ antimony; meaning the piece is in fact a bronze coin did not even contain traces of gold) and was probably silver coated, because the coin should have been made of silver. It is a pre-reform piece issued before 1402 (1399-1400). The following specimens are half groats (no.22 -25). The first one is a divisional type III coin (no. 22). On its reverse is placed a barried shield, with three different lilies in the second field, briefly speaking a rosette of petals on a circle; on the shield at the right an unclear mint-mark (ᴙ ?) and on the left, a mint-mark, a siglum (perhaps I). The coin contains 182‰ silver and 15‰ gold, which places the piece inside the boundaries of this poor silver standard issue (1/4 Ag, 3/4 Cu). The next two issues are type V half groats (no. 23 - 24) bearing a rosette on the right of the snout and ~ crescent on the left. A barried shield is placed on the reverse, in the second field seven little knot-like lilies can be seen and at its right the mint-mark ᴙ is laid out. The coins have circulated as bronze specimens the copper content being almost 1000‰ (985‰ and 986‰, respectively), whereas silver (traces and 2‰, respectively) is found because it was also present in the ore. The finding of antimony (4‰ and 2‰, respectively) identifies the source - southern or local ore. The last issue from Alexander the Good is a type VI half groat (no. 25). It bears on the obverse an auroch head with a petal rosette on a circle on the right and a crescent on the left as attributes and on the reverse, a barried shield, with seven small clamp like lilies in the second field and on the top of the shield a hard to read crown (as well as the lilies). The alloy is bronze (silver completely absent) - 964‰, 1‰ lead, 35‰ antimony. The high antimony content makes us think that the coin's coating must have been made of silver, with antimony giving the coin its shiny appearance, adding to the effect of the silver-coating (a technique specific to the Middle Ages).
From one of Alexander's descendants, Stephen II (1433-1435, 1442-1447, between 1436-1442 associated with Iliaş I, between 1444-1445 associated with Petru II?) the collection preserves only a type II half groat (no. 26). On the obverse, an auroch head is placed, having its horns recurved towards the inside and as attributes, a rosette of petals on a circle, on the right and a crescent on the left. On the reverse, the coin shows a barried shield and on the second field seven different types of lilies over which the mark I (?) is struck; as mint-marks, a key can be seen placed on the right side of the shield, and a not so clear mint-mark a (?) on the left. The two mint-marks are very large, engraved over the pearled circle. Both sides of the piece are decentred and overstruck. For this coin a 180‰ silver content was obtained by analysis, 850‰ copper, 5‰ lead and 1,5‰ gold. The elements contents found in the alloy are almost identical) as those observed in piece no. 22 (type III half groat); this fact proves that the specimens were simultaneously issued, a common lot from the same ore or mixture.
From Stephen the Great (1457 - 1504) come three piece (no. 27 - 29); the first is a type I b rosette 2 groats, bearing on the shield from the obverse a rosette of petals on a circle with a cross being laid out above. The coin was analysed and the results showed the smallest content of silver - 815‰ (3/4 of the alloy), copper 150‰ (1/ 4 of the alloy), lead 15‰, gold 5‰, antimony 7.5‰ and traces of bismuth. The lead content is normal for the silver alloy; antimony was added to increase the shininess of the coin, and gold, in a rather high content, indicates the use of a southern source, specific to the Moldavian mint (a 5%0 gold content was also observed in Peter I coins - no. 17, 19 with two flowers, normal and retrograde obverse inscription, in summary, coins struck after 1387). It can also be asserted that care was given to keeping the ratio of 3 to 1 for silver and copper, respectively, proving that the minting process was precise and controlled. Coins no. 28 and 29 are type II groats bearing as attributes on the obverse a rosette on the right of the auroch's snout, a crescent on the left, and a patriarchal cross in the shield on the reverse. Coin no. 28 bas an incuse obverse; in coin no. 29 the inscription on the reverse begins at the middle of the left side of the shield. By analysing the alloy's composition the following results were obtained: in coin no. 28, a composition similar to that found in type I coins: 875‰, silver, 106‰ copper, 4.5‰ lead, 5‰ gold, 1.5‰ bismuth. The silver was found to be in normal limits for this monetary type. The ratio is preserved, 3 to 1 for gold and copper, respectively and the identical) content in gold points to the same source of ore being used; only that this time was no need for tin, the silver being sufficient for this type of coin. For piece no. 29 the silver content is much higher - 911‰, the gold representing 3‰, some traces of bismuth being also detected. 3%0 gold content was also found in the coins of Peter I -no. 18 and 20, both with two flowers and a normal and retrograde inscription, respectively, therefore types issued by the mint of Moldavia after 1387.
The last coins belong to Ştefăniţă (1517-1527). These are type a grouts (no 30 - 32, bearing as attributes a rosette of petals on a circle on the right, crescent on the left), with an auroch head in a stylized, asymmetrical shield and on the reverse, a patriarchal cross in an identical) shield, stylized, asymmetrical, with a rosette on each side (no. 30 - 32) and type b grouts (no. 33, with a crescent on the right and a rosette on the left as attributes).
By analysing the alloy the following values were obtained: 263‰ silver, 108‰ cooper and 3‰ lead, but invariably zinc (46‰, 41‰, 6‰), and mercury (57‰, 26‰, 5.5‰). Specimens no. 30 - 31 are similar, analysis showing that the silver used for coating was obtained by amalgamation (the process being particular to the medieval mint, and reflects different engravers being involved in the making of the two). More peculiar is coin no. 32, which is very poor in silver content, 3‰ (practically made of bronze), with zinc and mercury present as well (6‰, 5,5‰, respectively, leading to the conclusion that the same amalgamation process for extracting silver from ore was used). The piece also contains tin (14‰), probably added to make up for the lack of silver and to give the coin a shiny appearance. The same thing can be said about piece no. 33, the only b type one. The silver content is as low as 13‰, cooper and lead are present in normal contents, zinc in the largest amount (157‰), little mercury (2‰) and tin in appreciable quantity (12‰). We are again dealing with amalgamation silver coating, with a deliberate adding of tin to give a shiny aspect to an otherwise silver deficient coin.
In the case of this collection, there are important gaps among issuers, and the coins which comprise it are issues who could have been simultaneously in circulation. For the same hypothesis pleads also their very similar state of conservation, almost everyone has striking defects or overstrikes, as well as a close resembling composition of alloy. The specimens could be a small hoard gathered by a craftsman in order to use them in the metal processing (all the fretted, overstruck or deteriorated coins seem to have been minted after 1387).
In the case of the coins issued by Stephen the Great, the possibility of them having been discovered in the same geographical area cannot be excluded, that could have been Moldavia, but also Walachia, an area where the Moldavian ruler had undertaken different actions. Because the collector was from Bucharest we cannot set aside the possibility that the specimens originated from around the capital city, the neighbouring rural settlements or a nearby area, where such specimens have also been found (Bucharest-Giuleşti, Bucharest city, Târgovişte, Piteşti, etc.).
However, the coins from Zăveanu Collection are interesting specimens, which provide information about the succession of some issues, the metal sources used and the technique employed by the medieval engravers, serving as an aid for those who study the Romanian Principalities mints.
Paginaţia 357-377
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  • Cercetări Numismatice: CN; XIV; anul 2008