Post Eagle Newspaper

Sunday

Apr 14, 2024

45°F, few clouds
New Jersey

Time Now

12:00:00

A Necessary Evil

Money, as we know it today, has been diminishing in value year after year, decade after decade. It buys considerably less everytime we enter a consumer goods facility. At one point, we may have to make a choice with our last dollar bill as to whether it should be spent for some gasoline, a loaf of bread or a cup of coffee. I honestly doubt it will ever come to that, however, since I honestly consider these crisis artificial.

Nevertheless, money has been considered and will always be considered the most important ingredient and most powerful tangible good of our society. If you’re thinking back as to how it all began — coins, barter goods and all — you’ll inevitably wind up with the American Indians and whomever the historians consider North America’s first visitors. If, on the other hand, as a true Polonian, your attention was diverted to the beginnings of the Polish monetary system, well then, you’re in luck because that’s exactly what this week’s subject if all about — the history of Poland through its coinage….

The best place to begin is not in 962, when the historical archives first recorded the existence of Poland, but rather eight centuries earlier. There are coins existent which were struck by the Roman Empire for Sarmatia, the ancient name of the region where Poland is now situated. Specifically, there is one bronze coin that commemorates the victory by Roman legions over German and Polish tribes in 180 A.D. And, we can go back even further. Examples of what has become known as “Tin Ring Money” used on Polish soil between 1000 and 500 B.C. exists today. The tin was the primary metal used in these rough coins along with a number of alloys.

In actuality, however, the first distinctive Polish coins were minted at Poznan in 963 under Miecislaw shortly after the adoption of Christianity. Prior to that date, the Warsaw Academy of Science has indicated that 98 percent of the coins used in Poland were of European origin. This shows the decrease of Eastern and an increase of Western influence, the west being primarily European countries.

The first gold ducat appeared in Poland early in the 14th century during the reign of King Wlady-slaw Lokietek, most probably to commemorate his coronation.

The first Polish groszy were coined by Kazimir the Great (1333-1370). Just so you might get to feel the worth of one groszy at that time, a suit of armor would cost about 240 groszy and Cistercian monks acquired land for a monastery and abbey for 840 groszy.

Kings Stefan Batory and Zygmunt the Old both exemplified the power associated with the Jagiellon dynasty by minting beautiful gold coins on a large scale. Especially during Zygmunt’s reign, that date of minting and the king’s full title were placed on coins in addition to the rulers portrait. Of course, the principal financial adviser of Zygmunt was Mikolaj Kopernik (1475-1543) who actually designed and implemented a new monetary system while in office.

Probably the most beautiful gold coins were issued during the time of Sigismund III who ruled Poland for 45 years. He was am ambitious king who led Poland in and out of many wars. During his reign in 1632, Poland became a pinnacle of power and increased its area land holdings by 3000 percent. As a result, many gold coins known as ducats were minted bearing its likeness.

The ducat was minted throughout Asia and is considered the highest valued gold coin since it is the most pure (98.6 percent) as compared to U.S. gold coins (90.0 percent).

Gold did share the spotlight with silver during the 17th and 18th centuries. One particularly unusual piece was struck by order of King August III in 1733 time of the death of his son August II, King of Poland. It is of a symbolic butterfly which is triple winged – with the wings wrapping around to the other side. The wings represent the cycle of life: birth, life and death.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Polish coinage reflects the effects of occupation by foreign powers. As you well know, Poland was partitioned three times by: Russia, Prussia and Austria. Prior to the first partition, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, the last Polish king, reformed the monetary system but seemingly to no avail.

The next important historical period was between the years 1918 to 1939 when Poland was a republic and issued many interesting coins. One particular commemorative struck in 1926 demonstrates the strong friendship that exists between Poland and the U.S.A. — Washington, Kosciuszko and Pulaski are shown in a triple portrait.

Two gold commemoratives were issued in 1925 portraying King Boleslaus I in 10 and 20 zloty values. Boleslaw, as I understand it, issued the first coin to have the word “Polonia” on it. The issue appeared between the 10th and 11th century.

As you can see, the gold and silver coins of Poland tell a great deal about its past and, although she may exist in a Soviet sphere, her contemporary coins continue to carry portraits of the great heroes of her past as well as her national symbol …. The White Eagle.
These coins, especially the gold ones, have also become very scarce and very valuable to collectors around the world.

It is interesting to note that Kopernik was involved in Poland’s monetary system; not in collecting coinage but rather in writing about Poland’s monetary problems. His theory proclaimed that money is a good that must be quickly spent….. “for he who holds on to money commits the sin of greed for which he will burn in hell”.

Professor Jan Czarkowski of the Jagiellonian University of Cracow states that . . . “The pioneering and creative economic views of Nicolaus Copernicus, which proceeded 250 years, represent the highest achievement in economic thought in Renaissance Poland.”

The young genius defined money thusly: “Money is stamped in gold silver used as the payment for the purchase or sale of goods according to the regulations of individual states of powers”. He believed that money was a direct outcome of the exchange of goods. He felt that in order to perform well, its function as a measure of value must be stable and steady in purchasing power. Otherwise “confusion would ensue in the order of the country, causing injury to buyers as well as sellers in the same way as if an ell, bushel or a weight did not keep a stable measure”.

Kopernik even identified with the problem of “bad” money – achieved by minting coins of lower grain of weight but of the same designated value as the old money.

What made the monetary system of Kopernik so logical was that he rejected all moral considerations. He even devoted himself to the function of world money in international commerce discussing reasons for devaluation and the development of a proper standard (we have been on the gold standard for decades).

MONEY – one of the few necessary evils we have in the world today!!!
. . . . SEE YOU SOON,                GOD BE WILLING . . .

By Edward Wilczynski