Fresco of Stefan Nemanja in the middle, above the door, with his sons, Sava to the left and king Stefan The First Crowned and Vukan to the right, from Bogorodica Ljeviska church, Prizren, Republic of Serbia.

City of Kotor issue under Nemanjic rule (1186-1250)

Copper half follaro "cross" type. 16mm, 0.600g.

Obverse: Large cross in the middle. Latin description: + CATARENSIS • (KOTOR) around. 

Reverse: Bust of Saint Trifon in the middle. Latin description: Θ • SANTVS TRIPhON (SAINT TRIFON) around.

Reference: Jov 25 4.2, Dobrinic

Comment: Extremely rare and hard to find Kotor copper half follaro. In very good condition with a lot of details and most letters visible.

Jovanovic in his catalogue from 2012 published 2 examples claiming he has registered and recorded 5: 17mm, 1.93g; 16mm, 1.12g; 17mm, 0.93g; 16mm, 0.78g and 17mm, 0.75g. One is with smaller cross and other one is with larger cross in the middle.

Dobrinic has a list of 26 examples but only images of 4 drawings.

I have only seen 4, 3 in 2 private collections and 1 on auction.

All known examples have a small plus or cross above bust of saint to mark a beginning of description, this is only known example with a different mark, it looks like a Greek letter Θ (Theta).

Due to strong Norman-Sicilian influence it could have been minted at any time between 1186 and 1250, from the rule of Serbian grand prince Stefan Nemanja (1166-1196) until the rule of king Uros The Great (1243-1276)!

Large cross in the middle on the obverse is also very similar to an Insignia of the Knights Hospitaller, the Maltese cross, and it’s very common on crusaders coins like Italian and German coins. it could have been minted during The Third Crusade 1189-1192 or The Fourth Crusade 1202-1204 what would bring it under grand zupan Stefan Nemanja rule 1166-1196 or his son grand zupan Stefan Nemanjic 1196-1217, later king Stefan The First Crowned 1217-1228.

If it has been minted during The Third Crusade in that case it would be the only Serbian coin known to be minted during the life and rule of the founder of the medieval Serbian state of All Serbian Lands and Maritime, grand prince Stefan Nemanja (1166-1196, died 1199). It would make it the only known Nemanja coin and therefore of extreme historical importance!

So could this be the first appearance of the Maltese cross on Serbian medieval coins predating silver matapan type? Question remains open!

Similar coins of other rulers in the area with a bust of the ruler on the obverse and a cross on the reverse indicating that such design was common from the end of the 11th century throughout the 12th century:

King Vladimir II Vojislavljevic 1102-1114 of Duklja a Serbian state 

Theodore Gabras 1075-1098 Byzantine governor in the Pontus 

Emperor Alexios I Komnenos 1081-1118 of Byzantine empire 

Emperor Manuel I Komnenos 1143-1180 Byzantine Empire

KingRoger II 1130-1154 of Sicily

Lead seals of Stefan Nemanja 12th century

Stefan Nemanja seal with Zupan title from Peoples Museum Belgrade Serbia

Stefan Nemanja seal with Great Zupan title from Peoples Museum Belgrade Serbia

Stefan Nemanja seal with Great Zupan title from History Museum Belgrade Serbia


Video of the Stefan Nemanja seal from the auction:

Stefan Nemanja seal.mp4 Stefan Nemanja seal.mp4
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Type : mp4

Interview with Mr Zeljko Knezevic, the numismatist and collector of the Serbian medieval coins, 13th April 2023, 3 weeks before Stefan Nemanja seal was privately purchased.

Interview with Mrs Dusica Bojic, the director of History Museum of Serbia that bought Stefan Nemanja seal, 10th November 2023. She first speaks about the recently purchased painting of famous Serbian painter Paja Jovanovic in London for 350000 euros by Museum of the city of Belgrade.

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