The Free City of Riga,
1561-1581

The small coat of arms of Riga cityThe big coat of arms of Riga city

The local settlement near the place, where River Daugava joins the Baltic Sea, was already established before the arrival of German merchants and crusaders. Further on Riga developed as the main merchandise centre of the Livonia Confederation and was a chain between merchants of Western Europe and Lands of Russia. In order to defend its trading interests, Riga joined the Hanseatic League late 13th century. Bishop Albert moved his residency here from Ikskile in 1201-02, thus establishing the Bishopric of Riga (the Archbishopric since 1255). Riga had its own coat of arms and flag since 1220's until 1581. (NOTE: see the excellent 8 coin set of 10 lats, dedicated to the 800th Anniversary of Riga, issued 1995-98 by Bank of Latvia. These coins reflect the different coats of arms of Riga from 1221 until now).

When the Livonia Confederation was dissolved in 1561, Riga got the status of free city on the same year. This status lasted until 1581, when Riga had to accept the reign of Poland as the result of later phases of Livonia War.

Coins, struck during 1561-81, were still in accordance with the minting rules of the Livonia Confederation. Another interesting fact: the coin striking machine, so called "Walzwerk", was invented and used in West Europe mints since the middle of 16th century. The simple principle of this machine was, that there were 2 rolls with obverse and reverse dies on them. When the metal plate was feeded through, it got the imprinted designs of obverse and reverse dies of the rolls. The ready coins were just cut out afterwards. It strongly increased the speed of coin mintage. Comparing the design of Riga schillings, was discovered, that Riga mint introduced "Walzwerk" in 1575.

The following denominations were struck: pfennig, schilling, 2 schillings, ferding, 1/2 mark, mark, 1/2 thaler, thaler, 3 ducats.

Riga mark (weight) - marca Rigensis = 207.82 g
The relation between different denominations was as follows:
1 ferding = 9 schillings = 27 pfennigs
1 thaler = 4.5 marks = 18 ferdings

Standard description of Riga coins:
Obverse picture: the big coat of arms of Riga (stone portal with 2 flagged towers, 2 crossed keys above with small cross on top, head of lion in the gates). Legend: CIVITATIS RIGENSIS
Reverse picture: the small coat of arms of Riga (2 crossed keys with small cross on top. Legend: MONETA NOVA ARGENTEA

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PFENNIG

Pfennig, 1571
Data: Ag 94, 0.26 g, 12.0 mm
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga, w/o keys above.
Rev: Date 7 1, divided by the small coat of arms of Riga.
Coinage: 1571
References: Fed.605

SCHILLING

Schilling, 1571Schilling, 1575
Data: Ag 94, 0.90-1.00 g, 18.0-18.3 mm
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga, w/o keys above.
Legend around: *CIVITATIS.RIGENSIS
Rev: The last 2 digits of the date, divided by the small coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: *MONE.NO.ARGENTEA
Coinage: ND(1563-1580), 1563-1580
References: Fed.578, 579, 582, 588, 591, 594, 598, 601-604, 612, 614, 615, 617-621, 623, 624, 626; H.Cz.4363
Note: Pictures: schilling (1571) struck with hammer, schilling (1575) made, using "Walzwerk".

2 SCHILLINGS

Data: Ag 94
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga, w/o keys above.
Legend around:
Rev: The last 2 digits of the date, divided by the small coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around:
Coinage: 1564
References: Fed.581

FERDING

Ferding, 1566
Data: Ag 437,5, 2.70-2.85 g, 22.0-23.2 mm
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: CIVITA TIS RIGEN
Rev: The last 2 digits of the date, divided by the small coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: *MONETA*NOVA*ARGENTE
Coinage: ND(1564-1569), 1564-1569, 1579
References: Fed.580, 586, 587, 590, 593, 597, 599, 622, 625

1/2 MARK

1/2 Mark, 1565
Data: Ag 437,5, 5.48-5.70 g, 24.0 mm
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga, supported by 2 standing lions.
Legend around: CIVITATI RIGENSIS
Rev: The small coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: *MONETA*NOVA*ARGENTEA*65**
Coinage: 1565, 1566, 1568, 1572, 1573
References: Fed.585, 589, 596, 609, 611; H.Cz.4342

MARK

Data: Ag 437,5, 9.86 g, 33.0 mm
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga, I (mark) R below.
Legend around: CIVITATIS.RIGENSIS
Rev: Date 15 72, divided by the small coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: *MONETA*NOVA*ARGENTEA*
Coinage: 1572
References: Fed.607
Note: The same die used for coin of 3 ducats.

1/2 THALER

Data: Ag
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga.
Rev: The small coat of arms of Riga.
Coinage: 1565, 1567
References: Fed.584, 592

THALER

Thaler, 1573
Data: Ag, 27.25 g, 40.0 mm
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: CIVITATIS.18.F.RIGENSIS.
Rev: The small coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: *DENARIVS*NOVUS*ARGENTEVS:
Coinage: 1565, 1572, 1573, 1574, 1576
References: Fed.583, 606, 610, 613, 616; Dav.8458, 8459
Note: Exist types, different from described.

3 DUCATS

3 Ducats, 1572
Data: Au 986, 10.66 g, 30.0 mm
Description: Obv: The big coat of arms of Riga, I (mark) R below.
Legend around: CIVITATIS.RIGENSIS
Rev: Date 15 72, divided by the small coat of arms of Riga.
Legend around: *MONETA*NOVA*ARGENTEA*
Coinage: 1572
References: Fed.608
Note: The die of mark coins used for 3 ducats.

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