The review in The MichMatist magazine


The review in The MichMatist magazine

A new review of the book was published in The MichMatist, the quarterly magazine of the Michigan State Numismatic Society. The MSNS has about 1,000 members, of which about half are active coin dealers and professionals. The society members set up at 12 or more shows per year.

The website of the Society is www.michigancoinclub.org.

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Book Reviews: Dutch Ducats and Eric P. Newman

By Michael E. Marotta R-7935

Gold Ducats of the Netherlands Vol. One, by Dariusz F. Jasek, edited by Doug Prather; European Union: Knight Press, 352 pp, €135 (from the author at www.goldducats.com).

This book is more than a thick catalog of varieties and types with the author’s estimate of market prices at some moment in time. It is the life history of a series of coins. While it does, indeed, provide a catalog of types and varieties, the supporting narratives are the result of extensive research into the social and political contexts of this important trade coin.

The name “ducat” was given to gold coins of about 3.5 grams and nominally pure, originally from Venice starting in the 13th century. They were widely copied. While debased frauds were known, far more common were the good-quality reproduction and imitations. Most of them carried local devices and legends. For instance, various cities of the Hanseatic League issued them. The gold ducats of the Netherlands began with the nation itself and the Union of Utrecht, January 23, 1579. By law on October 4, 1586, the ducat was defined (in modern measures) as 3.515 grams and 0.986 fine. That standard was held until 1817, when the ducat was redefined slightly downward to 3.454 grams and 0.983 fine. That has not changed in 200 years.

Keeping the standard requires enforcing it, and Jasek’s work includes a chapter on the punishment of mint masters who debased the coinage. Usually, they were boiled in oil, but they might be mercifully beheaded. If they could argue extenuating circumstances, they might only lose one or both hands.

Other information includes a table of conversions across pounds, marks, engels , fierlincs, and other measures, including common grams. There is an extensive glossary of numismatic
terms that incorporates twenty specific to Dutch history and practices. (Muntheer is the issuing authority; wisselaars are moneychangers.) The forty general numismatic terms include auction,
edge, obverse, type, and variety. A dozen pages, supported by illustrations, explain the minting processes prior to the 19th century.

Although the ducat has old roots, and wide usage, the coin is most intimately associated with the Dutch East India Company, identified by the initials of its name in Dutch, VOC for Vereenigde Ostindische Compangie. The VOC was the first joint-stock corporation. The selling and buying of shares launched the first stock exchange. The creation of the VOC by the States-General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands on March 20, 1602, could be taken as the birth date of modern global capitalism. This coin made that possible. While Chinese merchants insisted on silver for their silk and tea, those of Indonesia, Java, and Sumatra demanded gold for their cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and cloves. This book provides several pages of extensive details about the values of the trade and commerce in those products.

Not surprisingly, the VOC had its own mintmarks. Jasek illustrates them along with some of their common counterfeits.

The catalog of types and varieties issued by 19 mints over 250 years runs 235 pages. The prices given are supported by citation to auction houses, dates, and lot numbers. In addition to the ducats per se, the catalog includes relevant double ducats, piedforts, and klippes.

The author, Dariusz Jasek, created the book for himself. He became a passionate collector and researcher. He was granted access to astounding collections. He met the leading experts and recorded their facts, findings, and opinions. He also arranged for nice, original illustrations. Finally, the printing and binding is of the highest quality. The clay paper pages are European A4 size, 11.7 x 8.3 inches. When I first removed the book from its shipping box, and opened it, it laid flat.

 

[This text was published in the MichMatist Volume LII No.2 – Spring 2016, pages 37-38]