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The portugaleser is an obscure gold coin originally of Portuguese origin which was adopted by many Germanic and Baltic territories as their own coin. Originally minted in Portugal at around the latter 1400s, it was referred to as the cruzado due to the design of an equilateral cross on the obverse bearing the Carolinian motto: ‘IN HOC SIGNO VINCES’ (‘By this sign [Cross] you shall conquer’), it soon found its way into the furthest reaches of Europe through trade and commerce. One portugaleser was initially equivalent to ten cruzados proper owing to its heftier weight, despite it being nothing more than a heavier version of the cruzado itself. In the Northern Germanic isles as well as the Baltic region, it became a sort of de facto currency for a time, where its use as general currency flourished. By 1533, the areas that once received a consignment of coins through trade or some other means began to imitate the gold cruzados and developed their own type of coin, slightly heavier than the original ones and credited only as being inspired by coins of Portuguese origins. These imitations became the ‘official’ portugalesers, bearing Latin inscriptions instead of Portuguese inscriptions, while retaining the overall design of the original coinage. Gemanic portugalesers took on a ‘three-tiered’ appearance, featuring a slew of inscriptions each contained in two circles of differing sizes on the obverse of the coin, with the center bearing the symbol of a castle or a group of buildings meant to represent Hamburg, where imitation cruzados were minted and issued for use throughout the Northern German and Baltic areas. The reverse side of the coin remained true to the Portuguese symbolism and retained the equilateral cross fleury that gave the Portuguese cruzado its name, along with the supporting Latin symbol. Original portugalesers usually became too worn out after constant heavy use owing to the relative softness of the metal used in its mintage and was subsequently either re-minted into Germanic versions of the coin, or otherwise retained in circulation and accepted as current alongside the newly minted portugalesers.
The use of the portugaleser remained commonplace, with portugalesers circulating alongside worn and much-used cruzados from the latter part of the 1500s, until the 1676, where its use slowly declined, until it eventually became a defunct form of currency with the introduction of the German Imperial Coinage or Reichsmunzordnungen.
With the introduction of the Imperial Coinage Decree, the minting of portugalesers by independent mints and semi-official mints ceased, and the coins were either re-minted into ducats or were allowed to remain in circulation supplanted with the value (in ducats) of the current official coinage.
Owing to the fact that it was a very notable coin due to its size and heft, the portugaleser was subsequently made into an honorary medal, retaining much of its initial design with only very little changes done in the inscription and the amount of detail on its already established symbolism. From the 1700s onwards, the portugaleser continued to be minted in the city of Hamburg as a type of medal, unique for the fact that it was not worn as common regalia were, but merely presented in a box to citizens of merit as though it were a numismatic prize. Originally minted in gold, modern portugaleser medals are now made from silver (circa 1800s – 1910s), brass (circa 1910s – 1940s), and both bronze and gold (present day). Gold portugaleser coins are very obscure and highly sought-after by numismatists, although little regard has been given to such coins by bullion investors, generally owing to its relative obscurity and unavailability.
Gold Portugaleser - References:
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