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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton IX, Lot: 1987. Estimate $3000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 January 2006. 
Sold For $3600. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

WALLACHIA. Vlad II Dracul ('the Dragon'). 1436-1442 and 1443-1447. AR Ban (0.39 g, 4h). Type 1a. Targoviste mint. Struck circa 1445-1446. Eagle standing left, head right; cross above / Dragon advancing left, wings spread. MBR 254. VF, even gray tone. Good metal for issue. Extremely rare. ($3000)

Following the death of Mircea the Elder in 1418, control of Wallachia fell to Mircea’s nephew, Mihail I, a member of the Danesti branch of the Basarab family. Mircea’s illegitimate son Vlad was living at the time at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund. Vlad was surnamed Dracul, or Dragon, so-called because of his membership in the Ordo Draconis, or Order of the Dragon, a secret knighthood instituted by the Holy Roman Emperor to fight the Ottoman Empire whose symbol was that of a dragon.

Unable to succeed to the Wallachian throne because of his illegtimacy, he was instead appointed by Sigismund in 1431 as thegovernor of Transylvania That same year a son, Vlad, was born. Though this boy would later acquire the epithet Tepes, or Impaler, because of his preferred method of torture, he is better known by his nickname Dracula, or “son of the dragon” which became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s immortal vampire, Count Dracula. Discontent with his post, he eager to claim the Wallachian throne for himself which he accomplished in 1436, after killing the Danesti ruler. Although he was now voivode of Wallachia, Vlad’s position was far from sÉcure. He was both a vassal of Hungary and a tributary of the Ottoman. When the Turks invaded Transylvania in 1442, the Hungarian king accused his vassal of failing to properly defend the southern approaches to Transylvania and forced Vlad out of Wallachia. In the meantime the Hungarian general Janos Hunyadi installed a Danesti ruler in Vlad’s absence. Appealing to the Sultan for assistance, Vlad regained the throne the following year. As part of the deal, Vlad’s younger sons, Vlad Dracula and Radu were sent to the Sultan’s court as hostages. However, hostilities soon arose again between Hungary and the Ottomans. Summoned to join the Hungarian side as a member of the Ordo Draconis, Vlad sent his eldest son Mircea in his place, so as not to enrage the Turks and endager his younger sons. The crusade failed and Vlad fell further out of favor with Hungary, which arranged his murder in 1447.

Athough a 1437 commercial charter of Vlad’s granting customs privilege for the merchants of Brasov mentions ducats and bani struck in his name, until now only the bani, depicting the dragon as a personal crest of Vlad, are known to exist. These coins were first published at the beginning of the 20th century, and the most recent paper dealing with the coinage of Vlad II Dracul. Katiusa Parvan (“Cateva consideratii privind activitatea monetara a lui Vlad Dracul - Considerations Regarding the Coin Minting Activity of Vlad II Dracul,” Studii si Cercetari de Numismatica X [1993], p.101-107) recorded only seven specimens of this issue: six in public collections in Romania; the seventh in the Fitzwilliam Museum. These extremely rare coins are the closest numismatic reference to the reign of the famous Vlad III the Impaler available to collectors.