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Research Coins: Printed Auction


The Princeps Collection of Transylvania

Triton XX, Lot: 1380. Estimate $1500.
Sold for $2750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

TRANSYLVANIA, Eastern Hungarian Kingdom. János Szapolyai. 1526-1540. AV Dukát (21.5mm, 3.49 g, 8h). Nagyszeben (Hermannstadt / Sibiu) mint; mm: crowned crossed daggers. Dated 1540 H FG. IOANNES * D : G · R * HVNGARIE *, Madonna seated facing on crescent, holding infant Christ; coat-of-arms below / S * LADISLAVS * REX * 1540, St. Ladislaus standing facing, holding halberd and globus cruciger; H/ F to left, crowned crossed daggers over G to right. Resch 28; MBR 23; Friedberg 42 (Hungary). Good VF, minor marks.

From the Princeps Collection.

Transylvania (derived from the medieval Latin ultra silvam = “beyond the forest”) is an area located in the Carpathian basin in modern day Romania. Situated near the edges of the Mediterranean and Eastern European worlds, the region has long been at the confluence of various cultures. Transylvania was inhabited in ancient times by the Dacians, a Thracian people, before being conquered by the Roman emperor Trajan in AD 106, adding a wealthy, silver-rich province to the Empire. After the withdrawal of the Romans under Aurelian, the region found itself at the front lines of the Great Migrations, and control of the area passed between Goths, Gepids, Vandals, Sarmatians, and Huns, as nomadic tribes flowed southeastward through Europe.

In the 11th century, Stephen I, the first Christian king of Hungary, led his army into the region to conquer the native Slavic and Romanian peoples, beginning the Hungarian settlement pf the region. Over the following centuries, these Hungarians would come to dominate the politics of the region, ruling as vovoides (dukes), and maintaining varying degrees of independence, while still swearing fealty to the kings of Hungary. By the mid-12th century, Hungarian kings, seeking to protect their eastern border, encouraged German settlement, leading to the addition of a third major ethnic group to the region. Among the various waves of German settlers were a number of the famed Teutonic Knights, who constructed a number of fortifications in the area, giving Transylvania its German name of Siebenbürgen (“seven forts”).

From the late 16th century onward, Transylvanian history was characterized by the struggle between the rising power of the Hapsburgs to the west, and the encroaching Ottoman Empire to the east. The local rulers struggled to retain their autonomy between these two massive empires, beginning with the rebel Eastern Hungarian Kingdom of Szapolyai kings, who contested the Hapsburg accession to the Hungarian throne. These monarchs, as well as their princely successors, would generally seek the protection of the Ottoman sultan against the greater threat of the Austrians. Perennial conflicts wracked the region, as Ottoman and Austrian armies raged back and forth, punctuated by brutal civil wars between various foreign-supported claimants. The Hapsburgs eventually took the upper hand after their victory over the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, leading to the loss of Ottoman protection for Transylvania and the deposition of the native rulers in 1691. The territory of Transylvania was fully incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire as a Grand Principality in 1745.

The complicated history of the region resulted in the production of an interesting and artistically important coinage. The 16th-18th century issues of Transylvania are among the most impressive issues struck in Europe at the time. In addition to the usual minors, talers, and ducats, the Transylvanian princes produced a number of large gold and silver multiples, both in the usual circular format and in more exotic hexagonal, sun, and moon shapes. During the various conflicts, several interesting necessity pieces were also struck. In addition, a number of the talers and multiples were restruck in the 19th century, on behalf of Adolf Resch, author of Siebenbürgischen Münzen und Medaillen, the standard reference on the series.

Classical Numismatic Group is proud to present Part I of the Princeps Collection, featuring gold and silver coinage of Transylvania. Part II, to be offered in Triton XX session 5 (Electronic Auction 389), will feature minor coinage of the region, with additional offerings to appear next year in Triton XXI and its accompanying electronic auction. Please note that all of the following lots are from the Princeps Collection, with the exception of lots 1342 and 1422.