The appearance of a date on a coin is something so obvious to the numismatic layman that it is taken for granted. It will no doubt then come as a shock to him to discover that the custom of placing the year of minting on coins is absent for most of coinage history. It is rather, a relatively modern phenomenon. In fact, it did not begin in earnest until the end of the Renaissance, a period which also defines the start of the era of what numismatists would call “modern” coinage.
In The Early Dated Coins of Europe, 1234-1500, Robert A. Levinson presents for the first time, a comprehensive listing in chronological order, by region, state, and mint, of all the known types of gold, silver and copper dated coins struck in medieval Europe bearing an Anno Domini date of 1500 or earlier. These “early dated coins,” form one of the first links between medieval and modern coinage. Anno Domini dating of coins using Latin script did not begin until the mid-13th century, and did not become prevalent in Europe until three centuries later.
Separating those few coins with dates from the many struck without them at a thousand mints and by hundreds of different coin-issuing authorities was a daunting task. This book vastly expands on the only volume remotely comparable, the long out of print work authored by Albert Frey in 1915. It has taken Robert A. Levinson, a Los Angeles attorney and an ardent collector, more than fifteen years to bring this book to fruition. With the cooperation of many of the world's foremost numismatists, coin dealers and museums in more than half a dozen countries, Levinson approaches the subject quite differently and much more thoroughly than Frey. He focuses on the eight distinct regions in which coins were issued: Germany, Southern Netherlands, Northern Netherlands, Hapsburg lands, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Italy, and France and organizes the known pre-1501 Anno Domini dated coins chronologically within each region. For the first time, there is for each of the nearly 1200 coins listed (twice as many as in the Frey work), the full legends, descriptions, ruler names, references, weights and rarity.
There are nearly 1000 photographs and line drawings, and given the extreme rarity of the majority of the coins, this in itself represents an extraordinary undertaking.
The book is in four parts: The first is a lengthy history of early dated coinage, including discussions of the types, metallurgy, classifications, etc. The second part is the 173 page catalogue of coinage, divided into the eight regions. The third part is a listing, again by region, of all the states issuing early dated coinage, with a history of each state’s coinage and a cross-reference to all the coins listed in the catalogue. The fourth part contains eight appendices with alphabetical listings, translations of legends, a photographic glossary of coin types, a listing of early dated coinage using Islamic script, and other useful information. These glossaries and appendices will be invaluable not only to collectors of ‘early dated coins,’ but also to anyone needing a quick reference to medieval coin-issuing cities, states and mints, identifying their basic designs, or reading their sometimes complicated legends. Every numismatist will find the annotated bibliography a vital resource. Along with the book, at no additional charge, is a loose-leaf price guide.