This page last updated: May 14, 2016
Plate money is the term used to describe the extremely large copper coins used in Sweden in the 17th and 18th centuries. Use of copper coins began during the reign of Gustav II Adolf (1611-1632). The copper mine in Falun (Dalarna county) produced about 2/3 of the worlds copper at the time. The use of copper coinage was an attempt to control the price of copper to the advantage of Sweden. The ratio of the value of silver to copper was originally set at 2:1 but in 1643 was adjusted to 2.5:1 due to the economic effect of saturating the market with copper currency. In 1665, the ratio was fixed at 3:1 which remained the official ratio until use of copper as commodity money was discontinued (Act of Nov. 27, 1776). This ratio created two parallel monetary standards, one for copper money and one for silver money. Thus, the origin of the two denominations of copper coinage where 3 Öre Koppar Mynt (KM) = 1 Öre Silfer Mynt (SM).
In 1643, the first plate money was issued in the denomination of 10 Daler SM (1 Daler SM = 96 Öre at the time). These plates were approximately 13 by 27 inches in size and weighed 43 pounds. Today, these first plates are rare and may only be found in museums. The Coinage Act of 1649 stipulated plates in denominations of 1, 2, 4 and 8 silver Dalers. There were other coinage acts and after 1684 the denominations were 1/2, 1, 2 and 4 silver Dalers. Metal content also decreased over time such that 1 Daler SM weighed 3.5 pounds in 1660 and settled at 1.7 pounds in 1715. The year last plates were produced in quantity was 1759 with some 2 Daler plates in 1760. There are also rare plates from 1768.
Plates will have four corner stamps bearing the name or initials of the current monarch and the year of issue. The center stamp will bear the denomination. The reverse will be blank. Some plates will bear an additional stamp due to redenomination. Many plates show signs of the manufacturing process with hammer marks. The copper would be formed into sheets of neccessary thickness, cut to size with shears, then stamped. This was hand work using large tools and provides each plate with a unique character.
It is hard for most people to imagine using such coins in commerce. Illustrations of the era depict citizens with sacks of copper plates over their back or pulling a load of plates to the bank on a sled. This inconvenience was the catalyst for the creation of the world’s first bank notes. In the 1660’s, a bank was formed where plates could be deposited in return for a paper certificate of value. This paper money was an instrument which could be exchanged in commerce and the value repaid to the bearer in copper at the bank. This led to the creation of the world’s first central bank, Sveriges Riksbank (The National Bank of Sweden).
Today, around 11,000 pieces of plate money are known to exist across all years and denominations. Approximately 3,000 of these were recovered from the wreck of the trading ship Nicobar, which was discovered and salvaged in the 1980's off the coast of southern Africa. On July 23, 1782 the Nicobar left Sweden with a load of recently undenominated plates to be traded at Danish posts on the Indian coast and the Nicobar Islnds, east of India. On the way to the Cape of Good Hope it was forced to replenish on the west coast of Africa at False Bay, on May 20, 1783. On July 10, shortly after leaving False Bay, it was wrecked in a storm. Two hundred years later, local fishermen found the wreck.
Plate money is considered the world’s largest coin type. Being such a numismatic oddity, they are desired by collectors with widely varying interests. Prices range from a few hundred dollars for smaller sea water damaged examples to several thousand dollars for scarcer 4 Daler plates in nice condition. The largest (and scarcest) of available plates, the 8 Daler denomination, will fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction.
2 Daler Plate - 1725 - Frederick I
This is a well preserved example with a fine patina.
The reverse shows evidence of having been mounted for display at some time.
For this date and denomination, 35 examples are known and 7 are from the Nicobar.
2 Daler Plate - 1719 - Ulrika Eleonora
This example was recovered from the wreck of the Nicobar.
The sea water corrosion is light, leaving over 95% of the plate remaining.
For this date and denomination, 152 examples are known and 39 are from the Nicobar.
4 Daler Plate - 1741 - Frederick I
This example was recovered from the wreck of the Nicobar.
The sea water corrosion is heavy, leaving only about 70% of the plate remaining.
The photos were taken with fluorescent lighting on one side and incandescent on the other.
A Lincoln cent is included for scale.
Shown below are three examples of plate money corner stamps. The origin of such pieces is open to conjecture. One possible scenario is that they were cut from plates, probably at a point where the plates were being scapped. Another possibility is that someone struck a scrap of copper with a die intended for plate money stamping. In either case, they were likely taken as souvenirs. These are not commmon. How scarce or rare they are is unclear. The examples below were 3 of 5 examples offered in a single auction. Other than that instance, I have not seen any for sale. This is hardly an exhaustive search though. If you have any information regarding
1/2 Daler Plate Money Corner Stamp- 1743 - Frederick I
This example looks to have struck on a bar rather than cut from a plate. 4 cm x 4 cm
Three of the edges have a similar patina as the sides and cut with a shear.
The fourth edge looks more modern and cut with a saw like instrument.
2 Daler Plate Money Corner Stamp- 1715 - Karl XII
This example looks to have been cut from a plate. 5 cm x 4 cm
It's hard to say what events contrbuted to the overall condition of this example. It shows evidence
of corrosion, cleaning, then wear. The source plate was probably made of cannon metal.
Picture of edges. Left picture: edges are of the original plate. Right picture: edges from the cut by the shear.
1 Daler Plate Money Corner Stamp- 1715 - Karl XII
This example looks to have been cut from a plate, probably of cannon metal.
The webbed appearance of the surface indicates sea water damage.
4 cm diameter
Picture of edges. This example was trimmed nearly round with at least 10 snips.
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