Swedish Plate Money
by Bob Reis
of a more adventurous and inquiring turn of mind
eventually discover that at various times and
places peoples spent money that did not consist
of round, flat pieces of metal or rectangular
pieces of paper. After exercising their
amazement on such relative commonplaces as
square coins (India), wavy edged coins
(Pakistan), coins with center holes (current
Norway), and so forth, they may find themselves
searching farther afield in search of things
over which to exclaim "Well, what do you know?"
In this manner they may come upon Swedish plate
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
Sweden suffered a silver shortage, but they had
plenty of copper. They issued large quantities
of copper minors in a range of denominations
throughout this period, and generally these are
probably the most common coppers of the time.
Contemporary Swedish silver, on the other hand,
is scarce, and gold is very rare.
At times, large payments had to be made and the
necessary precious metal specie simply wasn't
there. The government turned to copper to grease
the skids of commerce, establishing by decree a
fixed relationship between copper and silver,
and issuing copper coinage of "equal" value to
the large silver coins of the day.
The relative values were such that the copper
equivalent of the silver daler (dollar) weighed
about a pound, and the government saw fit to
produce multiple dalers in copper. Halves, ones,
twos, and fours were fairly common in
circulation, and there were also a few eights.
For a few years in the mid-seventeenth century
threes, fives, and tens were tried, but that
experiment didn't go anywhere.
Coinage of the mainline denominations continued
for about a century, and at times they were the
only type of coin to be had by most people.
Interestingly, silver coinage did not cease
during the plate money period, but you had to be
connected to get it, so that if you were an
ordinary citizen going out to buy a horse or a
sword you had to carry twenty pounds of copper
on your back.
As you might expect, these heavy slabs were very
unpopular, and the government tried various ways
of alleviating the situation without actually
forcing people to use the things. A lot of them
were exported all over the world as bullion, to
be made into cannons and such. And during a
particularly severe crisis copper tokens, the
so-called De Goertz dalers, were issued. But
these were received so badly by the people that
even the bullheaded government of the time
finally gave up.
Coinage of plate money was halted in 1768 and
there was a general recall. A grateful populace
turned in virtually all of the hated objects,
and they were either melted or shipped overseas
as scrap. They were rare to the point of
unavailability until about ten years ago, when
salvage operations were begun on the wreck of
the Danish East India Company ship Nicobar,
which sank off the coast of South Africa in
1783. About a thousand pieces of plate money
were recovered, in a range of dates,
denominations, and conditions, and suddenly, for
a while, you could get one if you wanted one.
But they're pretty much off the market these
days. You'll have to wait until the current
owners grow tired of them.
Bob Reis has been a collector for forty years, a
dealer for twenty, and a writer on numismatic
subjects for ten.
Bob Reis has over 40 years of numismatic study
and 20 years dealing in world numismatics under
his belt. As the author of the column "From A to
Z" featured in World Coin News and numerous
features in other publications, he is a dealer
for a myriad of historical collectible "stuff".
four-daler from the wreck of the Nicobar
closeup of four-daler showing 1736 date