From the history of Lithuanian numismatics


During the rule of Alexander Jagiellon (1492–1506) or, more specifically, in 1495, a monetary reform was implemented in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, introducing the decimal system. 10 denars comprised 1 grosz and this monetary unit was supposed to replace the Prague groschen that had already been in circulation for a long time. The idea to mint grosz coins was fulfilled only in 1535, during the rule of Sigismund I the Old (1506–1544).

Nowadays, we know of the coins dated back to 1535 and 1536. Their legends are written in Latin, the reverse features a horseman holding a shield with a double cross, whereas the obverse depicts an eagle.

One tiny detail distinguishes these coins from other ones – i.e. small letters that can be seen on some specimens beneath the horseman. There are 1535-issue coins with letters A, S, N and 1536-issue coins with letters I, F, M and A. These are the first letters of Latin month names: Augustus, September, November, etc. Such records of the date of issue (year and month) are a unique phenomenon that disappeared in later ages.

The release of these coins concluded the monetary reform. It is often mistakenly believed that the grosz was a monetary unit of the smallest denomination. This is not, in fact, true. During the rule of Sigismund I the Old, a workhorse cost around 70 grosz, a cow – 60 grosz, a pig – 20 grosz, a sheep – from 4 to 5 grosz and a goose – 2 grosz. For a day of work with a working animal, one could get up to 1.5 grosz.

Last updated: 2021-06-17