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  • Dutch History Outline
  • Lion Dollar Coins

    The Lion Dollar: Introduction

    For a listing of the various locations and minting periods for coins discussed in this section click here. The listing was compiled by Kenneth J.E.Berger of San Diego, CA in December of 1998.

    Several coins were produced in the Netherlands specifically to facilitate export trade. The most important of these coins was the lion dollar (the leeuwendaalder) which was first minted in the province of Holland in 1575 during their struggle for independence. Soon thereafter lion dollars were issued by six of the seven Dutch provinces, along with independent issues produced by some of the major cities. For a discussion of the Dutch struggle against the Spanish during this era see the brief outline of Dutch history hot linked above.

    The lion dollar was authorized to contain 427.16 grains of .750 fine silver and passed locally for between 36 to 42 stuivers. It was lighter than the large denomination coins then in circulation, namely the ducatoon (491 grains of .920 fine silver and passing at 3 guilders or 60 stuivers) and the rijksdaalder (448 grains of .885 fine silver passing at 2 1/2 guilders or 50 stuivers). Clearly it was more advantageous for a Dutch merchant to pay a foreign debt in lion dollars rather than in more costly rijksdaalders. Thus, the lion dollar became the coin of choice for foreign trade.

    The obverse of the lion dollar depicts a standing knight, in front of his legs rests a shield bearing a lion in what is know as the rampant position. This lion is found on both the Dutch and Belgian coats of arms. Within two circles of beadwork around the rim is a version of the legend, MO. ARG. PRO. CONFOE. BELG. followed by a location such as WESTF. This abbreviated Latin legend may be transcribed as: MONETA ARGENTEA PROVINCIARUM CONFOEDERATUM BELGICARUM WESTFRISIA (Silver money of the Province of the Netherlands1 Confederation West Frisia). The reverse displays the same heraldic lion in a larger size, again there are two circles of beadwork around the rim with the motto of the United Provinces, CONFIDENS. DNO. NON. MOVETVR (Who trusts in the Lord is not moved) followed by the date. In the motto DNO is an abbreviation for DOMINO. Lion dollars were usually produced from thin planchets that did not fully fill the thickness of the dies, thus they were often weakly struck.

    The lion dollar circulated throughout the Middle East and was imitated in several German and Italian cities. It was also popular in the Dutch East Indies. By the 1690s lion dollars were brought to British America by colonial merchant adventurers, slave traders, and pirates who undertook expeditions to East Africa and Madagascar. In the colonies lion dollars were sometimes referred to as "dog dollars" due to the pose of the lion resembling a dog standing up on its hind legs.

    In Maryland the lion dollar was mentioned as the most important circulating coin in documents of 1701 and 1708, with its value stated as 4s6d. It is reported by Felt (p. 250) that a deposition was taken in Boston on July 29, 1701 stating that "Dog or Lion dollars" had been counterfeited in Massachusetts. In 1708 the New York Assembly set the value of the lion dollar at 5s6d. Also, the New York paper currency emission of November 1, 1709 was issued as amounts of sterling silver expressed in denominations of 4, 8, 16 and 20 lion dollars, with 13.75 oz. of silver equal to 20 lion dollars. Mossman also states lion dollars were used in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia. In April of 1998 a Mike Cato from Virginia sent me an e-mail that he had discovered a 1640 lion dollar while metal detecting. In the hoard collected from the H.M.S. Feversham, which sank on October 7, 1711 after leaving New York, there were 22 lion dollars (quantitatively third only to the 504 Spanish Colonial silver coins and the 126 specimens of Massachusetts silver). Also, two lion dollars were inventoried in the hoard discovered in Castine, Maine, thought to have been deposited there in 1704 by French colonists fleeing from the English. It should be recalled that most of the Castine hoard was dispersed before an inventory could be produced.

    Lion dollars were no longer minted after 1713, during the Eighteenth century they were replaced in the Mideast by the Austrian thaler. In the English colonies New World Spanish silver had always held first place and with the advent of the famous milled silver coinage in 1732, the Spanish milled dollar absorbed the lion dollar's share of the market.



    1. The word Belgicarum (genative plural of Belgica) is most accuartely translated as "of the Belgae tribes." In the standard Latin-English dictionaries the cognate Belgian is used as loose English language translation of the Latin. The use of various forms of the word Belgica by the Dutch may seem strange, since during the Sixteenth century the United Provinces of the Netherlands were in revolt against the Spanish rulers in the southern provinces (which became the modern Belgium). It should be remembered Gallia Belgica is the classical Latin place name for the northern portion of Gaul which included the area above the Seine River up to the North Sea, more or less the area we now call the Low Countries. Belgae refers to the various Germanic tribes that inhabited the region. What is even more confusing is that the homeland of the Belgae is also called Belgium in Latin (nominative - Belgium and genative - Belgii). Interestingly, when the Dutch translate Belgica or Belgium in reference to inhabitants of the United Provinces they use the word Netherlands. The seal of the province of New Netherland, created in 1623, displays a beaver with the legend SIGILLVM NOVI BELGII (The Seal of New Netherland). The term is also used on several contemporary maps of the New Netherlands either in the nominative case, Nova Belgica (being a less accurate simple substitution from Gallia Belgica) or, more correctly, in the genative form of the word Belgium, Novi Belgii...tabula. Thus, in this context, Latin forms of Belgica and Belgium should be translated as Netherlands.


    See: Mossman, pp. 53-54 and 63-67; Raphael Solomon, "Foreign Specie Coins in the American Colonies," in Studies on Money in Early America, ed. by Eric Newman and Richard Doty, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1976, pp. 25-42, especially 29-30; Joseph B. Felt, Historical Account of Massachusetts Currency, Boston 1839, rpt. New York: Burt Franklin, 1968, in the endnotes on p. 250 in the first note regarding page 56 of the text; and John Kleeberg, "The Circulation of Leeuwendaalders (Lion Dollars) in England's North American Colonies, 1693-1733," in CNL, 152, August 2013, pp. 4031-4052.

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