Historic PMG-certified Siege Money Featured in Upcoming Sale

Posted on 2/15/2022

Nearly 450 years old, this is an example of what is considered the earliest European paper money.

It has been said that desperate times call for desperate measures. For the city of Leyden in the Netherlands, the desperate times were 1573 and 1574 when they were besieged by Spanish forces during the Eighty Years’ War. The desperate measures involved the production of a very unique example of siege money that is considered the first European paper money.

An example of this currency certified by Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®) is being offered in the Paper Money Fair - Netherlands World Banknote Signature Auction being held by Heritage Auctions on April 22, 2022. Bidding is scheduled to begin in early April.

Click images to enlarge.

The 1574 5 Stuiver graded PMG 55 About Uncirculated is coin-shaped, but otherwise fits the description of paper currency. Produced nearly 100 years before the first banknotes were issued in Europe, this piece is made of pressed paper that was stamped with a die then cut into a coin shape.

Siege money, also known as “money of necessity” or Notgeld, was issued during times of war or political unrest to allow commerce to continue when the normal state-issued currency was not available. During a siege, such as the one that Leyden was experiencing, officials often would produce siege money to provide for the ongoing payment of the soldiers who were defending the besieged area.

Normally, siege money would be metal coins that were produced from silver or copper that had been gathered from citizens or churches within the besieged area. The siege money produced in Leyden was produced from shredded prayer books and bibles that were made into a pulp and formed into stiff sheets of heavy paper. The sheets were then stamped by a die, producing an embossed image on the surface, and cut either by collars or by hand.

The siege of Leyden was one of many military campaigns launched by Spain during the Eighty Years’ War to subdue Dutch militants rebelling against the rule of Philip II. The siege was broken by Dutch patriots under the leadership of William the Silent, but not before thousands of inhabitants died of starvation.

The 5 Stuiver produced in Leyden features the Latin words for Leyden in Batavia on the reverse. On the obverse is an image of a lion ringed by the Latin slogan “I Fight for my Homeland” and the date 1574. The lion was a common symbol of the Dutch nobility and a precursor of the Dutch Republic Lion that served as the badge of the Union of Utrecht and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.

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