Length: 65.5 cm
Width 27.5 cm
Museum number: C.4985
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Eight-daler copper plate money of King Karl X Gustav
The great mines of Falun in Sweden provided much of Europe’s copper during the seventeenth century. Now a world heritage site the mine’s production affected the economic and political situation throughout the continent and gave rise to one of the more idiosyncratic monetary practices.
The countries vast copper resources swelled the royal coffers and in turn contributed to Sweden’s significant political and military role on the world stage in the 1600s. Fearful of a dip in international copper prices Sweden aimed to absorb much of its own output in the creation of a non-token copper currency. Following the first coinage act for plate money in 1644, sheets of copper of varying sizes were stamped with dies to indicate their value in terms of silver dalers. These included eight daler pieces which were over half a metre in length and weighed 14kg, leading a Danish visitor to comment:
‘Many people carry their money in a rope on their backs, others place them on their head and, in cases of large sums, they transport them on a wagon.’
The inconvenience caused by the plates however, did instigate a significant change in Swedish currency and banking practice. To exchange the awkward money for more portable currency, people would deposit the plates in banks in return for ‘credit notes’, Sweden therefore became the first European country to issue freely circulating banknotes.
B. Tingström, Plate Money. The World’s Largest Currency, Royal Coin Cabinet, Stockholm, 1986
C. Eagleton and J. Williams, Money A History, British Museum Press, London, 2007