The First Lithuanian Coins

At the end of the 14th c., with the expansion of trade, inconvenient silver bars and large Prague groat coins (international currency of that time which established themselves in currency circulation in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) as well) became insufficient for payments. The opinions of Lithuanian numismatists on the minting of the first coins diverge. In the opinion of some the coins may have been minted until 1387, i.e. until the adoption of Christianity, and most likely by Grand Duke Algirdas of Lithuania (1345 – 1377) at the end of his rule or by his son Jogaila (1377 – 1392). They are convinced that the first to be minted were the heaviest coins of the PEČAT type (spearhead with a cross). In the opinion of othersthe first coins appeared after the coronation of Jogaila in 1386.

Having crowned Jogaila as King of Poland in 1386, a personal union between Lithuania and Poland was concluded. Jogaila began issuing denarius-type coins in Vilnius; an own currency system ultimately formed. Later, coins were minted by Grand Dukes Vytautas (1392–1430) and Casimir (1440–1492). Their coinage was systemic and intensive. Changing of the design of coins every two or three years suggested the search for the Lithuanian form and heraldry. The first Lithuanian coins were marked with the coats of arms of grand dukes of Lithuania or their figures — the Knight, Columns of the Gediminas Family, Double Cross. Dynastic coats of arms later became state ones. The Knight most likely is Lithuania’s sovereign Jogaila., later it became the coat of arms of the entire. The term Vytis originated much later. The first to use, in the mid-19th c., the Lithuanian term Vytis to describe the rider (Knight) was the historian Simonas Daukantas. When, in 1386, Jogaila became King of Poland, an arms seal was produced for him. It featured a rider holding a spear and a shield with a double cross. The double cross comes from Hungary.  In our heraldry it appeared after Jogaila married the daughter of Louis I, heiress to the Polish throne, Jadwiga (Hedwig) (1372–1399).

It is also often relied on the large arms seal of Vytautas.  It has depicted on it the coats of arms of Volhynia (Cross), Vilnius (Knight), Trakai (Infantryman), and Smolensk (Lion). These symbols also appeared on the first coins. Another important source is Vytautas’ seal which he used in 1397–1411. In it, for the first time in sphragistics, the Knight’s shield featured the Columns of the Gediminas Family.

The oldest coins were minted from pieces of silver wire. The weight standard of Lithuanian coins, which varied between 0.6 and 0.8 g and tended to decrease, formed independently of the weight standards of other states and was adjusted to the Lithuanian market . The weight of the first GDL coins varied greatly — from less than 0.5 g to more than 1 g. This great difference in coin weight was determined by the method used for the minting of Historical sources refer to the first Lithuanian coins as pinigeliai). They have become an important feature of Lithuania’s independence.