Sunday, 30 December 2012

One millionth of a zloty

My children rifled through my father's small collection of old coins, which have now wandered back to Jeziorki. Among the more interesting was a trio of Polish grosz coins dating back to... 1949. Now, the current grosz is pretty insignificant, but bear in mind that the old zloty, prior to denominalisation on 1 January 1995 was one ten-thousandth of a new zloty (the PLN). This means the old grosz, a hundredth of an old zloty, was worth one millionth of a new zloty. The new grosz (one from 2009 compared) is itself now virtually worthless and should be taken out of circulation along with the 2-grosz coin; both cost more to mint than their face value.

Note the 1949 grosz still has Rzeczpospolita Polska (rather than Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa or Polish People's Republic); Poland would not get its communist-styled name until 1952, when the Stalinist constitution came into force (with emphasis on the word 'force'). The coins, though minted in 1949, did not enter circulation until 1954. Over 400 million were minted, some in Warsaw, some in Budapest (!). The communist-era one-grosz coin was never minted again, so you won't find them from any other year but 1949.

Most communist-era coins were made from aluminium. The 5-, 10- and 20-grosz coins could actually float on water (below).

Below them lying on the bottom of the cup are a 1-grosz, 1-zloty and 2-zloty coins, none of which possessed the same magical properties.

Well before the end of the communist era, metal coins disappeared from circulation. They were too valuable as washers or buttons to be used at their nominal value (old joke from that period: how do you double the value of the zloty? Drill a hole in it and sell it as a washer for two zlotys).

Compare then with this quartet of Victorian pennies, below.

The oldest one (top left) dates back one and half centuries, the youngest (bottom right) from 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. These would all have been coins I'd have had in my pockets as a schoolboy*. Unlike the rapidly-diminishing values of PRL coinage, these pennies served their country well, and were an indicator of stability and continuity, virtues which Poland has only recently started building up.

* More about pre-decimal British coins here.

This time last year:
Random year-end thoughts

This time two years ago:
Beery litter louts

This time three years ago:
Miserable grey London

This time four years ago:
Parrots in Ealing

This time five years ago:
Xmas lites, Jeziorki

1 comment:

White Horse Pilgrim said...

Back in 1986 somewhere between Jaslo and Zagorz with a pocketful of aluminium coins I hit on the idea of replicating elderly relatives stories of putting 'pennies on the line'. Under the weight of a steam locomotive those coins were extruded out to spectacular proportions. Oddly enough so long as said trains were not photographed no-one seemed to mind.