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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

313, Lot: 588. Estimate $75.
Sold for $120. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SERBIA. Stefan Lazar Hrebljanovic. Knez of Pomoravlje, 1371-1389. AR Dinar (15mm, 0.76 g, 12h). Novo Brdo mint. +COnTЄ ΠASAR, Lazar standing facing, holding scepter / nOΛO OMOnT [...] AΛPЄCS, Christ Pantokrator standing facing; star to left, serpent(?) to right. Jovanovic 32.13; Ivanisevic 24.14; cf. Dimitrijevic 343.7; D&D 23.1.9. VF, lightly toned, usual soft strike for issue, small lamination on obverse.

By 1371 the nominal ruler of Serbia, Uros V, was an ephemeral power, and the local knez (princes) were supreme in their respective regions. These princes often fought against one another, each attempting to consolidate enough power to claim supremacy over all of the Serbian lands. In the late 1370s, Lazar Hrebeljanovic, knez of Pomoravlje, emerged as one of the most powerful of the princes, controlling large territories in central and northern Serbia with a number of vassals. Lazar also controlled the two most important mining regions, Rudnik and Novo Brdo. Perhaps his most prestigious accomplishment, though, was the rapprochement of the Serbian and Byzantine churches. As part of the settlement the Byzantine church recognized the authority of the Serbian patriarch, whose creation by Uros IV in 1346 had sparked the schism. As a result, Lazar now had the two primary components of rule required for legitimacy in the eyes of Medieval Europe, temporal and secular authority. To solidify his position, Lazar married his daughters to a number of the other knez, creating a family alliance with himself at its head. Lazar did much to develop his territory in all aspects, economically, socially, and spiritually, but was most interested in developing his military through these family alliances, knowing there was an inevitable conflict with the Ottoman Turks, who were slowly conquering their way north through the Balkans. In 1396, this meeting finally took place in the Battle of Kosovo Polje. The Serbs lost, with Lazar and many of his nobles killed. Fortunately, the Ottoman sultan, Murad, was also killed, preventing the Turks from following up their victory. Murad's son, Beyazid, was forced to withdraw from the region and return to the Ottoman capital to ensure his accession as the new sultan.

Jovanovic places this type as a posthumous issue, struck by the local Venetian merchants who controlled Novo Brdo. He viewed the reverse type and legend to be too much like a civic coinage, and thought there was no reason for Lazar to allow a city to strike coins. As an explanation for these coins, he hypothesizes that following the battle of Kosovo Polje, Lazar's wife attempted to maintain control, and as an expediency, agreed to allow the merchants to have coining authority. Jovanovic, however, overlooks the evidence that dies for Serbian coinage had been made in Venice or Italy since the beginning of Serbian coinage, and that the many of the types used closely resembled Italian civic types (particularly of Venice). Also, an expediency could also have forced Lazar to allow the Novo Brdo mint to strike coins. Lazar was involved in many conflicts during his reign, and certainly there were Italian mercenaries involved in some of them, and they may have desired such Italian types. The novel reverse legend, is also inconclusive by itself. Without further evidence, these coins must be assumed to be from Lazar's reign, not posthumous.