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French thaler (1765) with Bern counterstamp

A counterstamp , also called countermark and stamp mark, is a mark (letters, numbers or symbols) applied from antiquity to the 20th century with a small stamp or a punch on a coin or medal , which was subsequently struck to indicate that a previously invalid coin is valid or that the value of a coin that was previously in circulation has been changed. Counterstamping often leads to secondary miscarriage , especially to planar cracks. Counterstamping differs from overstamping in that the latter tries to overstamp the entire previous coin image on both sides, while counterstamping is limited to a partial area of ​​the coin and is usually one-sided.

Occasionally, private individuals or companies also provided coins with counterstamps, for example for testing purposes or as advertising material. Counterstamps mark a certain phase in the object history of a coin.

Counterstamps on ancient Greek coins

In ancient Greece, counterstamps were supposed to document the fitness of worn and foreign coins. This enabled coins to be kept fit with little effort, without having to completely re-mint them or even melt them down beforehand. Especially with ancient Greek coins before the Hellenistic period , which are often difficult to date, counterstamps can provide additional clues for their chronological classification. They also provide information about the currency in circulation and economic interdependencies. From the Hellenistic period, tetradrachms from the time of Alexander or the city of Side were often counterstamped by the Seleucids with an anchor on the portrait side in order to permit circulation in their territory. The monetization of a large part of their rulership had only started through Alexander, but then to such a considerable extent that for a long time there was no great need for further coins, so that counterstamping as a sovereign act was sufficient. The anchor should refer to a founding myth of the Seleucids.

Roman coins with counterstamps

The copper coin found in 1996 in the imperial settlement near Sanne in the Stendal district is related to the Varus Battle . It is a between 10 and 3 BC. Chr. In Lugdunum embossed Ace . The coinage VAR refers to the general Varus , who issued the coins between 7 and 9 AD. Most of the Varus coins come from the military camps on the Lower Rhine, 14 come from the battlefield in Kalkriese . The reverse shows the altar of Lugdunum , the obverse a portrait of Augustus . There is a small, angular counterstamp under the chin. In most cases, the counterstamps mark gifts of money from troop commanders to their soldiers, for example aces counterstamped with TIB such as the one from Lugdunum in the name of Tiberius .

Other coins minted under Augustus were counter-stamped with AVG , VES ( Vespasian ) or NCAPR ( Nero Caesar Augustus protavit "for further circulation").

Counterstamp on coins of modern times

Coins were usually counterstamped if they were to be given a new face value in the course of a coin reform or if foreign coins from another currency area (for example from neighboring countries) were to be admitted to domestic payment transactions (circulation) at a fixed rate. This was the case, for example, with 2/3 thalers from 1678 from Sachsen-Lauenburg, which were counterstamped in 1715 with the Wismar city arms and the letters N / W for circulation in Wismar.

Brazilian 80 rice coin from 1826 with countermark 20

The counterstamp can also be made for the purpose of revaluation or devaluation and to recognize the value of similar coins that are depreciated at the same time (see Freiberg Mint #Groschenzeit ) Also known is the counterstamping of guilders in the Franconian district , with which the establishment of 60 cruisers took place. Thus, Kurant coins with small coins could also be set in a fixed ratio by counter-stamping, whereby the scale here was exceptionally the small coin.

See also the following examples of how counterstamping German talers turned into Russian coins:

In the first half of the 19th century, especially in Brazil, the copper coins from ten (X) to 80 rice (LXXX) were counterstamped particularly frequently.

Functions of counter-stamping

Counterstamps are measures to counteract deficits or disruptions in coin change. In summary, counterstamps can fulfill the following functions:

  • Verification of the authenticity of the coin and confirmation
  • Control of the amount of money in circulation by having the coins counterstamped by recording the number of counterstamps
  • Admission of foreign coins for your own currency
  • Coins that have become alien continue to be valid for a transitional period (e.g. immediately after a country became independent)
  • Devaluation of a nominal
  • Appreciation of a nominal
  • delete, add to or replace political statements

The disadvantages of counterstamping include:

  • that they are easier to forge than to forge whole coins
  • that their stackability and also their vending machine suitability is lost.


  • Dieter Fassbender: Lexicon for coin collectors. Over 1800 terms from "Aachener Mark" to "Zwittermünze" . Battenberg, Augsburg 1991, ISBN 3-89441-016-7 .
  • Helmut Kahnt, Bernd Knorr: Old measures, coins and weights. A lexicon. Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1986, licensed edition Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-411-02148-9 , p. 383 f.
  • Manolis I. Stafanakis and Burkhard Traeger, Counter-stamping coins in Hellenistic Crete. A first approach, in: Carmen Alfaro, Carmen Marco and Palomar Otero (eds.), XIII Congreso International de Numismatica, Madrid 2005, 383–394

Web links

Commons : Counterstamped Coins  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bernhard Weiser, Object History Approach in Numismatics, in: MünzenRevue 9/2020, pages 167 to 172 with further references
  2. ^ Peter Franz Mittag, Greek Numismatics - An Introduction, Heidelberg 2016, page 31
  3. Florian Haymann, Collecting Ancient Coins, 1st edition 2016, page 53
  4. Manfred Beier, The coinage of the Roman Empire, 2nd edition 2009, page 56
  5. ^ Gerhard Schön, German coin catalog 18th century, to: Wismar No. A12
  6. Kölner Münzkabinett, 105th auction, September 16, 2016, lot 679, guilders from Sachsen-Henneberg-Ilmenau, year 1692