Bent Coin

This silver coin from Sweden is the oldest known Swedish coin found archaeologically in North America. The legend on the obverse side reads: IOHANNES 3 D G SVECI REX, which means “Johan III, by the Grace of God, King of Sweden”. The figure in the center is King Johan III himself, wearing armor and a mantle and holding a sword in his right hand and a royal orb in his left. The digits 7 and 6 on either side of him indicate the date, 1576.

The legend on the reverse reads: MON NOVA STOK HOL, which means “New coinage of Stockholm”. The crowned shield in the center contains the Three Crowns of Sweden and the Vasa family coat of arms, which is a sheaf of wheat within a shield. The value of the coin is on either side of the shield below the horizontal arms of a larger cross behind the shield, 1 OR

The first orë coins were introduced in Sweden in 1523 by King Gustav I, or Gustav Eriksson of the Vasa noble family. His son and later successor, King Johann III of Sweden ruled from 1569 until his death in 1592, and his coin would have been minted during his reign. Orë coins were discontinued in Sweden in 2010.

Because only one of these coins has been found at Jamestown, it was most likely a personal possession of one of the early gentlemen who arrived in Virginia in 1607 and was not intended to be a part of an exchange system. Perhaps a colonist who had previously traveled to or near Sweden kept this coin as a token of his travels. The silver content of these coins was low, only made with about 1-2% silver due to difficult economic times in Sweden. After years of use, the coins weight is now 1.13g lighter than it would have originally weighed, but the coin would still be prized by the Englishman who owned it. More research may determine which one of the early colonists had a Swedish connection and may have been the owner of this coin.

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