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A Duit In Brabant

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Dec-4-2006

I found what appears to be an old, copper coin in the garden today. I was planting some seedlings and plop, there it was.

It is terribly encrusted, but we have it in a soak, to see if we can bring out enough features to see what it is. So far, we can make out an i and an n, together.

It’s shape is irregular enough to hint that it might be very old. Or something else, like a tram token.

The children and I are charmed by the find.

After sitting in a glass of coke for one day, the coin is beginning to reveal a few details. I’m beginning to think that the coin might be older than I originally thought, although I am convinced that it is dutch.

No matter how old it is, the neatest thing about this coin- to me- is that I found it in my garden. Which means that it may have been lost by someone who once lived in our house.

This is the front of the coin. It is easier to make out details if the coin is wet:

This is the back of the coin. While it looks more encrusted than the front, the back of the coin is providing small bits of information the longer that it sits in the coke :


The back of the coin seems to be telling me a lot.

warning : Big photos !

Here is a close up of the back of the coin :

The first thing that caught my attention, was the bit of a wreath ( sortof like a wheat penny) on the lower right of the coin :

And then, clearly visible, a bold letter D :

Followed by an equally bold letter I :

For some reason, if you turn the coin upside down, you can see the bold letter A above the I more clearly :

And above the A is a bold letter O:

I have been rambling through enough sites to know that what we have was minted in the province of Holland, so some time before 1807, when the National Mint went into operation.

But how long before 1807 ?

Take a look at the drawings on this page, and see if you agree that I have found the back of the coin. *

* I tend to think that HOL.5: duit. might be it.

For those of you who did not go here, the back of the coin probably looked like this ( and these are his graphics) :

This coin ( from what I can gather from my speed study of Dutch numismatics) was minted from 1590 to 1599.

It could also be this :

These coins seemed to have been minted between about 1602 and 1607.

At that is it , folks. There are no other coins which have HOLANDIA split into three lines and that wreath on the outer edge.

Actually, the back already gives us a date for the coin. But I will show you the face as well, once I have time ( Han is home ! He came home early, and so has been here since the wee hours of the morning.)

So… can you see which back is the same as the back of our coin, grasshopper ?


If we look at the front of the coin, taking into consideration the two options open to us due to the back of the coin, the curves and angles that we see become clearer.

The front of the coin :

A common element, or symbol in early dutch copper coins, we are told, is the Dutch Garden. Now, I have dug up back yards- or gardens- in New York City, of Dutch settlers of the 1600′s : they truly seem to believe that good walls make good neighbors. The area that I worked in was from the early 1600′s and, I kid you not, it is the same floor plan that you find in your average new area here today in the Netherlands. Including the contentious mutual wall.

So, think Tom Sawyer, think picket fence, and then look at the front of the coin once more :

I am seeing the gate to a picket fence.

If I twist and turn and flip the coin a bit, I can see a vague oval shape, perhaps showing a walled garden :

At this point, given the back of the coin and the Dutch Garden, I don’t have many more options for this coin : I might see a scary lion, but basically, I should be seeing a virgin, sitting in the middle of the garden, wearing a flowing robe, pointing with her right hand to the sky above, for wisdom.

At this point, I can’t see a torso. Oh, all of those curves above our gate might be her legs, covered with the flowing robe, but then, well, she would have to either be sitting on the ground, knees spread apart with her feet tucked together under her bum, or to be sitting with her legs spread very far apart indeed, for a virgin.

Since I can’t see a torso, it just might very well be a swan, all of those curves.

So much for the virgin, tomorrow the traces of text.

Here is what I should be seeing :


The coin that I found in the garden seems to be a dutch duit, minted at some time between 1590 and 1607. From what I have read, there were 8 duits in a stuiver, and twenty stuivers in a gulden.

In Schama’s book, An Embarrassment of Riches, there are some comparative prices for the mid- seventeenth century in The Netherlands in the index:

A tank of ale : 1/2 stuiver

12 lb loaf of rye : 6-9 stuivers

Weekly wage of a skilled worker : 2.8 gulden

Small house in town : 300 gulden.

However, within the body of the book, he states that in the mid- 1600′s a skilled artisan ( a ship’s carpenter in Amsterdam ) made 30 stuivers a week and that a three pound loaf of rye bread cost 4.5 stuivers. He mentions that one could buy two small fish for a duit and a new herring for half a stuiver. A chicken cost 11 stuivers, a pound of veal 4 stuivers. He says that fresh fruits and vegetables were abundant and cheap.

And that is what I could find about the duit, and what value it had within the context of it’s time.


I had planned on saying more about the coin, but life- as it often does- got in the way.

Big photos :

I couldn’t take good photos today, especially the back is poor. But I had a tremor in my hands today that just would not stop.

Since I had to up my allergy pills, this happens often.

But the virgin is there after all, isn’t she ?

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