If you want a coin series to go on forever, just call it ‘Mankind’s Mistakes’, because that’s a list growing faster than any coin schedule could possibly keep up with. Picking subjects from that list that will make interesting coins is something else. Fortunately, the mints first effort is a fascinating one – the witch-hunting craze that spread through Europe on the back of yet another outburst of religious fervour.
The first coin depicts the aftermath of the almost inevitable guilty verdict, with the poor convicted women bound to a pole, which is erected in the middle of a bonfire. The whole scene is shown, including those that tried them, and those that lit the flames. It’s actually a perfect encapsulation of an event like that, managing to pack it all into a small coin face. There’s some light colouring on the flames, but in general, all the heavy lifting is done by the high-relief and the antique-finish. The obverse is a highlight for me. The woodcut-like, medieval religious imagery in the border is a super touch, reminding us that these events were real, and not depicting mythology, like so many coins in this style.
MINTS DESCRIPTION: A witch trial is a search for people who have been labelled witches, or a search for evidence of witchcraft. The classical period of witch-hunts in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America took place in the Early Modern period or about 1450 to 1750, spanning the upheavals of the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War, resulting in an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 executions. The last executions of people convicted as witches in Europe took place in the 18th century. In other regions, like Africa and Asia, contemporary witch-hunts have been reported from sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guinea, and official legislation against witchcraft is still found in Saudi Arabia and Cameroon today.
In current language, “witch-hunt” metaphorically means an investigation that is usually conducted with much publicity, supposedly to uncover subversive activity, disloyalty, and so on, but with the real purpose of intimidating political opponents. It can also involve elements of moral panic or mass hysteria.