The Portland Vase, £5.00
Weight: 349.620 g
Coins and Medals
Gold 105 zecchini of Ludovico Manin, doge of Venice
Italy, AD 1789-97
The biggest gold coin in The British Museum
Containing over 350 grams of pure gold, this is the biggest gold coin in The British Museum, and the only one of its issue now known to exist. It owes its existence to a Venetian habit of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Venetian mint was then producing huge multiples of the gold ducat or zecchino (sequin), sometimes using a special set of dies created for the purpose, known as the zecchino grande, the 'big sequin'. Surviving examples of these show they were struck to a wide range of odd multiples: 10, 12, 15, 16, 22, 28, 33, 36, 50, 60, 100 and at least once, as here, 105 zecchini, an issue of the last doge Ludovico Manin (ruled 1789-97).
The massive coin is pierced as if to be worn or, more likely, mounted. They were never intended to be used as currency, but were available for purchase by Venetian citizens who wished to make a display of their wealth, probably when making a donation or reward.
N. Papadopoli, Le monete di Venezia, 3 vols (Venice and Milan, 1893-1919, reprinted in 4 vols, Bologna, 1967)
B.J. Cook, 'Showpieces: medallic coins in early modern Europe', The Medal-4, 26 (1995)