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Münzkabinett Acquires Kipper und Wipper Coins From the Balan Collection

28.10.2021
Bode-Museum

With the support of the Ronus Foundation and the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Münzkabinett has been able to acquire an important series of over 2,000 coins from the Balan Collection and secure them for research. The coins date back to the so-called Kipper und Wipper period, an era during the early phase of the Thirty Years’ War when the monetary system spun out of control.

The profound debasing of coins in the territories of the Holy Roman Empire was particularly stark between 1618 and 1622. The term Kipper und Wipper refers to the practice of sorting the higher quality, heavier silver coins from the lower quality, lighter coins. This would be done by weighing the coins using a tipping scale (Wippen); if it tipped (kippt), it indicated that the coin was of higher value. In order to increase the supply of money, these coins were then melted down, mixed with baser metals (like copper, tin or lead) and then re-issued. Many new small mints (so-called hedge mints) were established in the various territories. 

The Practice of Increasing the Supply of Money in the Kipper und Wipper Period

This practice of increasing the supply of money led to the impoverishment of large swathes of people, whose wages were not raised to meet soaring inflation. Whereas before the Thirty Years’ War the regional kreuzer was equivalent to 1/90th of a not-yet-debased Reichstaler, by the end of 1621 it was worth less than 1/390th, a situation that worsened in many places between 1622 and 1623. In some areas, however, effective countermeasures began to be taken around this time. The most productive of the kipper minters was Friedrich Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel between 1613 and 1634. It is believed that coins were debased in more than 50 mints in his dominion. So far, more than 220 types of coins have been identified.

Acquiring the Balan Collection Coins Is a Real Boon for Numismatics

The Münzkabinett’s acquisition of these coins from the Balan Collection is a real boon for numismatics, national history and for the museum itself, as it comprises some 2,051 coins, most of which were minted in the Guelph territories. The collection’s previous owner was Dr Ernst-Henri Balan, who was the honorary chairman of the Numismatische Gesellschaft zu Berlin for many years and who passed away in 2020. He assembled the collection with great expertise between the years of 1965 and (approximately) 2015. Even before the acquisition of the Balan Collection coins, the Münzkabinett Berlin already had the next most significant collection of Guelph kipper coins, totalling at least 650 pieces. The collection, which now comprises 2,700 coins, documents the creations of some of the greatest German kipper minters and the other Guelph dukes. 

The acquisition of the collection was supported by a generous donation from the Ronus Foundation in Los Angeles. The project also received funding from the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung for the building of an inventory, as part of its COVID funding stream.