I am trying to find more information about a coin that my father gave me before passing.

All I know is that the coin is supposedly from the 17th century, Bern, Switzerland.

I have found similar coins, with the bear on one side and a cross on the other.

However, I cannot seem to find any coin that has the same patterns (in particular in the quadrants between the spokes of the cross) or a bear that looks the same. I am also unable to make out the writing.

I am afraid of taking it out of its container, so I cannot measure its mass. Its diameter is about 19.7 mm (as measured through the plastic, so add a bit of error there…).

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(click for an even larger version)

1 Answer 1


The inscriptions are (note that the S's are backwards):

Obverse (bear) - MONETA BERNENSIS (coinage of Bern)

Reverse (cross) - SANCTVS VINCENCIVS (Saint Vincent)

(The style of lettering can be compared, with, for example, a 14th-century brooch shown here on page 2, also with reversed S's and closed-up E's; with a 1497 inscription showing A's with the same kind of top horizontal bar (though there it also has the interior one); etc. No doubt someone with greater expertise in medieval paleography could find better examples.)

It looks fairly similar to a coin shown at http://www.beastcoins.com/Topical/Bears/Switzerland/Bears-Switzerland.htm, under "Canton of Bern - 1400's." The size there about matches what you measured, and the description there says that it was a 5 Heller coin, and that its type is described in HMZ 167. (HMZ-Katalog, published in 1977 and reissued in 2006, is a standard reference for coins from Switzerland and Liechtenstein since the 1500s.)

I don't have the HMZ-Katalog, but this auction listing has the type as minted between 1492 and 1528.

In comments, LangLangC has found another listing that gives instead HMZ 166a and dates it still earlier, to 1400-1425. Someone with access to that catalog would have to take a look, then, and see which one this coin more closely resembles.

At any rate, it's quite a bit older than your father thought it was!

  • 2
    Is it really reading MONETΛ ⵓ BERNENƧIƧ / ƧΛNCTVƧ ⵓ VINCENCIVƧ ? Jun 17, 2021 at 6:42
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    @LаngLаngС after seeing Meirs explanation, and looking on the coin live I agree that this seems to be what it says. Although it is difficult, because the N:s look like R:s, the C:s look like backward D:s, and the A:s have their horizontal bar as a hat instead of as a strike-through. The number of characters fit with what Meir proposes. I barely know anything about old style latin characters however, especially cursive types.
    – a20
    Jun 17, 2021 at 8:36
  • @a20 Oh: I do not dispute that it is that type of coin. I just find this lax use of letter shapes quite peculiar. If Meir could use that as an addition (to add precision to the description in answer; it's not that easy to make out in the pic of the coin) & illuminate this a bit further (how, why) I'd find that very interesting. Jun 17, 2021 at 8:41
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    Actually, @Meir, these might be even older even than given here; 1400–1425, acc to this site that also lists some variations that circulated So, could you source your info on the dates, or clarify the discrepancy (if by "type" you mean this "Haller") it is not apparent from the link in this A and in contradiction to the quote presented here. Jun 17, 2021 at 8:56
  • @LаngLаngС "In the beginning, coinage dies were cut using master punches in the forms of annulets, periods, wedges, crescents, etc. of various sizes. Later, die engraving became more sophisticated but the letters retained much of their original pattern. The medieval love of the ornate is well shown by the letters with exaggerated bowls, elaborate serifs and stalks. Rounded letters were normally C, E, G, O, P, and Q" Qutoed from here: chicagocoinclub.org/projects/PiN/mec.html and they also show a typical alphabet: chicagocoinclub.org/projects/PiN/mec-13a.gif Jun 18, 2021 at 9:21

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