We owe much of the available Crusader coinage in the modern collecting sphere to coin hoards that were coins deposited in the earth and lost following the loss of Crusader forces at battles throughout the history of the Crusades. It was common practice that, if you began to see your forces losing a battle, to dig a hole behind some rocks and deposit your coin purse there or to have many forces in an army deposit their valuables in a given location for retrieval later. These buried caches often contain large amounts of freshly minted coins that did not have ample time to circulate widely during the era.
Many of the Crusader Deniers that we see at market come in various grades, and Mint State examples are still common and affordable to most collectors. The prevalence of high-grade, well-struck specimens has made these coins not just among the more-accessible types of the Crusades, but also some of the most exciting pieces to collect representing the period. There is a large assortment of varieties among these coins and as many dies were used for each hand cut.
The Helmet Type Deniers of Antioch
The defeat of Crusader forces against Islamic forces at the Battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1187 was a travesty for Crusader forces in the Levant but a wonderful victory for numismatists everywhere. Large amounts of Crusader coins and other coin types were deposited and ultimately lost, and many more were left in the vaults of the Crusader stronghold of Antioch. Large-scale commercial use of coinage was still uncommon outside of payments on military campaigns, so beyond mercenary and tribute payments, much of the issuance was hoarded or lost on unsuccessful Crusader ventures.
The Helmet type Crusader Deniers struck during the reign of Bohemond III as prince of Antioch from 1163-1201 reflect the military situation of the Crusaders during that period. The obverse type of these coins mimics that of his predecessor, Raymond of Poitier (1136-49), who issued coins with his likeness clad in mail with a Norman-style open-face helmet usually facing left. Bohemond III coinage differs with the replacement of the inscription “BOAMVNDVS.” The Latin around the legend varies by die, but most will read Bohemond’s name either in its entirety or in abbreviated form. The reverse of this coin type depicts a short Maltese-styled cross usually with a crescent in the upper-right field and the realm’s name of Antioch. The style of portrait is quite interesting based on many of the types that can be seen, as they reflect a common theme in military traditions of the established Crusader states.
Many of the knights that came to the Holy Land were of French origin, usually second or third sons with little chance to inherit land, and by taking the cross they at the very least aspired to gain some notoriety in their lives. The coins and their construction are very much in resemblance of the French Denier and carry its continued traditions in its issuance.
The principality of Antioch was one of the longest-lived Crusader states and, because of its important origin at the end of the Silk Road, was a rich trading center. Raw examples of this type can still be purchased rather inexpensively often starting under $100, with many coins in high grades of AU and above for as little as a few hundred dollars. Perceptive collectors may wish to try their hand at Crusader Deniers, as many are still currently available in the marketplace. As the popularity of certified coins increases within this area, this may not always be the case.
*PCGS Editor’s Note: PCGS has graded and currently grades the Billon coinage of Antioch from Raymond of Poitiers to Bohemond V. (1136-1252) as listed in the Malloy reference.
- Malloy, Alex G., Irene Fraley Preston, and Arthur J. Seltman. Coins of the Crusader States, Second Edition. Allen G. Berman, 2004.
- Phillips, Marcus. "Helmet Pennies in the Name of Bohemond of Antioch from the 'van Nerom' Hoard." The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-) 168 (2008): 434-37. Accessed April 14, 2021.
- Phillips, Marcus. "The 'Roupen' Hoard of Helmet Pennies of Antioch." The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-) 165 (2005): 249-76. Accessed April 14, 2021.