There’s little more interesting in modern coins than a series that showcases coins of old. While looking at all the latest and greatest issues from the high-tech mints of today, it’s easy to forget what an integral part of history coins are, especially the further back in time you go. The National Bank of Poland started a series in 2013, called ‘History of Polish Coin’.
Each of the sterling 0.925 silver coins showcases a coin from Poland’s history, going right back to the first such issue by Boleslaw the Brave in the 990’s. The series has been divided into three main parts. The first three issues (the titles below have a red border), constitute the Denarii of the Boleslaws from the 10th-12th centuries, the second part (blue border), the Middle Ages from the 12th-15th centuries. The last and current phase (yellow border), covers the coins of the Commonwealth from the 16th to the 18th century. Weights have varied over time. The first two issues were 7.07 gram coins of 24 mm diameter. Through 2014, the weight increased to 14.14 g, with an increase in diameter to 32 mm. For 2015 issues and onward, the weight doubled to 28.28 g and the diameter to 38.61 mm. It’s certainly unusual to see a series change specification like this, but not a major negative regardless.
What makes this series work so well is the way the designer, Dominika Karpińska-Kopiec, has incorporated and framed the original coins on the new one. The reverse face reproduces the same face of the original issue, in most cases, in its entirety. There’s often some modern reinterpretation of elements of the originals in the background field. The obverse likewise has a reproduction of the original, also with modern imagery in the background where needed. All of the modern requirements of a Polish coin, the spread-eagle and issue details, are all ring-fenced in a small ‘coinlet’ on the obverse.
A few of the coins have some gilded areas, but at heart it’s a simple proof finish series relying on its depiction of old numismatics rather than gimmickry. If you have any interest in the coins of old, this is about the best of the modern offerings bringing them to life. Each coin comes in a small box with a certificate of authenticity, although a couple of early issues were card mounted. Up until the end of 2016, each coin had a mintage of 20,000 pieces. The next two years saw that reduced slightly to 18,000 coins, while 2019 reduced it further to 13,000. The 2020 issue, featuring the Gdansk Złoty of Augustus III, has a mintage of 12,000, so lower still.
What the NBP does better than anyone else is the backstory to each coin. We’ve reproduced the excellent explanations of each coin by Stanislaw Suchodolsk, which are fascinating reading for anyone interested in coin history. There are some really fascinating characters there, although the name ‘Elbow-high’ would send the current generation of the greatly offended into apoplectic fits. It looks like the series has come to an end after fifteen issues. A shame. A super series about a country with a turbulent and rich history.