Estonia is a small country on the Northeast shore of the Baltic Sea. The country has a long history, as noted by the Roman historian Tacitus, in the first century c.e. A patriarchal and tribal society, the Estonians contended with Viking invasion beginning in the 9th century and were occupied by the Danes in the 13th century.
Estonian coinage history began in 1219 under Danish rule. The Danes minted four varieties of 1 Hohlpfennigs for circulation until 1364, when the Danes, exhausted by Estonian revolts, sold the Estonian territory to the Teutonic Order.
The Teutonic Order was a militaristic Catholic order of Monk Knights who sought to expand Christendom. One way they achieved their goals was to purchase so-called undesirable land at reduced prices. The financial acquisition of Estonia helped the Teutonic Order expand their territory, and swiftly ended Danish rule of Estonian land.
The Danish minting operations were replaced by Teutonic coinage, including Vierchen and Schilling denominations. Until 1560, Estonia remained -mostly- under Teutonic control with occasional outbreaks of revolt and invasion. The Muscovite forces (Russians under Ivan the Terrible) and the Poland-Lithuanians (under Sigismund II Augustus) vied for control of the region as Teutonic power diminished. Eventually, and with more diplomacy than bloodshed the Polish-Lithuanians gained control of Estonia.
They began minting coins in 1562, retaining the value of the previous denominations, but it took longer for the Polish-Lithuanians to expel the Russians completely. Then in 1629, at the close of the Polish-Swedish war, all Estonian lands were transferred to Swedish rule.
In 1670, the Swedes started minting currency for the area. The Swedish maintained the Schilling denominations and added rundstücks and dukats to the mix.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that Estonian Marks were first minted. The traditional Estonian triple lion emblem on the coins is a remnant of King Valdemar II’s 1219 conquest. He bore the triple lion on his coat of arms, and the Estonians have kept it alive.
When Estonia fell under USSR’s control the triple lions were outlawed and all coinage carried the Double-headed Russian Eagle. When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, the triple lions returned to Estonia’s currency.
In 2011 the triple lions went on hiatus but have returned on the most recent Euros from 2015 to now.
We hope you enjoyed this exploration of Estonian Coinage and we hope to see you next time on Pendant and Ring!