This Stash of Silver Coins Found in Germany Belonged to a Wealthy 17th-Century Mayor

The collection includes pieces from surrounding regions, as well as Italy and the Spanish Netherlands

 The coins were found in the courtyard of a farmhouse in the small town of Wettin, Germany. State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt

A literal chunk of change, composed of silver coins up to 500 years old, has been unearthed in Germany. Found in what was once a successful brewing town, the cache probably belonged to the city’s wealthy mayor.

Construction workers discovered the coins in Wettin, Germany, a small town in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, just over 100 miles southwest of Berlin. According to a translated statement by the state’s Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology, the 285 silver coins were probably buried in a bag that later disintegrated, leaving the stash to calcify into a rocky clump of “dusty, blue-green coins,” writes McClatchy’s Aspen Pflughoeft.

The coins date to between 1499 and 1652. State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt / Juraj Lipták

After the coins’ excavation, they were separated, logged and restored. The oldest piece in the stash dates back to 1499, per the statement, and the newest to 1652. More than half of the coins are large silver pieces, like thalers—valuable silver coins minted by the Holy Roman Empire—and their foreign equivalents. Most of the pieces originated in the surrounding region, like a handful of Schreckenberg groschen coins, which were mainly used in local markets. But the collection also includes trading thalers minted in the Spanish Netherlands, an Italian scudo from 1630 and a tallero minted by Cosimo II de’ Medici—the Grand Duke of Tuscany— in 1620, writes Live Science’s Jennifer Nalewicki.

One of the cache's coins is an Italian tallero minted in 1620 by Cosimo II de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt

Based on the newest coin’s age, researchers estimate the collection was buried in the late 1650s, a few years after the end of the Thirty Years’ War, which rocked Central Europe between 1618 and 1648, with an estimated eight million casualties. The era turned out to be rather prosperous for Wettin, an “extremely wealthy brewing town,” per the statement. At the time the coins were buried, the farmstead they were found on belonged to one of Wettin’s richest citizens: Johann Dondorf, who became mayor of Wettin in the 1660s.

After Dondorf died in 1675, over 2,500 thalers were found in his house—some contained in leather bags. Researchers believe the newly discovered treasure was another of Dondorf’s bagged stashes. It not only demonstrates the wealth of Wettin’s late-17th-century leader, but the wide-ranging trade connections that brought different coins into his possession.

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