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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Poland’s Victory Over the Turks at Chocim

Triton XXI, Lot: 1127. Estimate $2000000.
Sold for $1800000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

POLAND, Monarchy. Zygmunt III Wasa. 1587-1632. AV 100 Dukat (70mm, 349.49 g, 12h). Commemorating the victory over the Turks at Chocim (Khotyn). Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) mint; Jacob Jacobson van Emden, mintmaster, and Samuel Ammon, engraver. Dated 1621 II VA SA. * SIGISMVNDVS · III · D : G : POLONIÆ · ET · SVECIÆ · REX *, armored and draped bust right, wearing ruff and collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece; all within oak wreath border / * MAGNVS · DVX · LITVAN : RVSS : : PRVSS : MAS : SAM : LIVON : ZC’ : *, crowned ornate coat-of-arms within collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece; II and SA within garnish; all within oak wreath border. Czapski 1414; Kopicki 1441; Kurpiewski 1770; Gumowski –; KM H43; Friedberg 72 (this coin cited); Kaleniecki p. 108 (this coin cited). EF, scattered handling marks and hairlines, die break on reverse. One of six total specimens known, and the only example to be offered at auction since 2008.

Ex Kroisos Collection (Stack’s, 14 January 2008), lot 3091 (where it appears on the cover); G. Hirsch 53 (26 June 1967), lot 210 (where it appears on the cover).

Like the 1629 Coronation 100 Dukát of Ferdinand III, and the 1677 100 Dukát of Mihály Apafi I, this 100 Dukat of Zygmunt III Wasa is one of the largest European gold pieces ever struck. When this coin sold in 2008, it realized $1,380,000 (including the 15% buyer’s fee); the highest price realized for a gold coin to that date.

Six examples of this issue are known, all from a single pair of dies:

a) Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowe (Emeryk Hutten-Czapski Collection, donated in 1903)

b) Sigismund von Chelminski Collection (Helbing, 25 April 1904), lot 206 (hammer 3000 Gold Marks)

c) F. S. Guggenheimer Collection (Stack's, 22 January 1953), lot 497 (hammer $3000)

d) Stack's (1 February 1957), lot 1031 = Stack's (8 April 1954), lot 1151

e) Stack's (7 December 1989), lot 2207 = Stack's (17 September 1980), lot 2207 = Stack's (7 November 1974), lot 255

f) Kroisos Collection (Stack's, 14 January 2008), lot 3091 = G. Hirsch 53 (26 June 1967), lot 210 (the present example)

The son of Johann III of Sweden and his first wife, Katarzyna Jagiellonka of Poland, Zygmunt III Wasa was elected to the throne of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1587. Still a controversial figure in Poland, his long reign as its king (1587-1632), coincided with high point of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Hoping to create a personal union between the Commonwealth and Sweden, he used his position to take the Swedish throne in 1592, upon the death of his father. Fearing that Zygmunt might use this as an opportunity to re-establish Roman Catholicism in Protestant Sweden, Zygmunt's uncle, Karl (later to become Karl IX), became the leader of the Protestant opposition in Sweden. As king-elect, Zygmunt was forced to confirm the resolutions of the 1593 Uppsala Synod, by recognizing that Sweden was a Lutheran Protestant state. Under this agreement, Karl, along with the Swedish Privy Council, would share power with the king and rule in his place, since Zygmunt remained in Poland. Following Zygmunt's coronation as King of Sweden on 19 February 1594, the new king engaged in a series of reactionary policies designed to curb the power of the Swedish nobility. He ordered that no Parliaments be summoned without his consent. In return, the Swedish Parliament elected Karl as regent. In sympathy with the king, the nobility of Finland (then a part of the Swedish Kingdom), led by Klaus Fleming, rejected this appointment, considering Karl to be a rebel. To counterattack Fleming, Karl instigated a rebellion among the local peasants in a rebellion. Known as the Cudgel War (1596-1597), this rebellion precipitated a larger civil war between Sweden and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Through a series of battles in 1598, the Swedish forces under Karl eventually force the king to accept a peace treaty, under which Zygmunt would be officially deposed and his son, Władysław IV Vasa, would be sent to Sweden as his successor, provided the boy would be brought up as a Protestant. When Zygmunt failed to respond to these demands, the Swedish Parliament elected Karl as the new king.

As King of Poland, Zygmunt's primary goals were to create a strong and stable Polish government, as well as combating heresy in all its forms. While such policies were unsuccessful in Sweden, he was more successful against the Ottomans. Viewed as a Christian bulwark against the Turks, Zygmunt was eager to assist Austria. Promised territorials gains for the kingdom in return for his assistance, Zygmunt sent mercenaries to the Principality of Moldavia to extricate the Ottomans from the area. At the Battle of Chocim (mod. Khotyn) in 1621, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth held the forces of Sultan Osman II and his Janissaries at bay until the first autumn snows. Aided by the Polish hussars, a heavy cavalry known as winged, because their armor included a pair of wings on their back, the Ottomans, sustaining heavy losses, were forced to abandon the field. Although indecisive in its outcome, the battle – the largest in the history of the Commonwealth to date – was proclaimed a great victory over the "heathens", and became subsequently an event of great cultural pride in succeeding years (see, for example, Wacław Potocki's, Transakcja wojny chocimskiej [The Progress of the War of Chocim], written between 1669 and 1672). Struck by Jacob Jacobson van Emden, with dies engraved by Samuel Ammon, this impressive gold 100 Dukat was struck to commemorate this victory.