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Obverse Crowned arms of Lascaris. Script: Latin Lettering: ☩ F • IOANNES • PAVLVS • LASCARIS • M • M • H • H Translation: Fra Giovani Paolo Lascaris, Grand master of the Hospitallers of Jerusalem.

1643 Malta 4 Tari

An interesting countermarked coin

Crowned arms of Lascaris.

Script: Latin

Lettering: ☩ F • IOANNES • PAVLVS • LASCARIS • M • M • H • H

Translation: Fra Giovani Paolo Lascaris, Grand master of the Hospitallers of Jerusalem.

Knights of Malta

I’ve previously mentioned the Sovereign Order of Malta, founded in the 11th century, and still active. Like many religious organisations, the Order today is primarily focussed on helping those in need. Also like several other religious organisations (notably the Pope, currently the head of the Catholic Church, formerly the head of the “Papal States“), the Knights of Malta used to control land as well.

The order of the Knights of Saint John was formed in the 11thth century and began as a religious order. Their primary objective was to look after the welfare of the wounded and ailing crusaders. The Knights of Saint John first came to Rhodes in the year 1309 and during their 200-year rule of the island, the Ottoman Turks made several valiant attempts to capture the island and with this, in mind, they soon got hold of a military order.

Malta was originally part of the Kingdom of Sicily In 1522, the Ottomans laid seige to Rhodes, the knights held out for six months, until their supplies were completely exhausted. In 1530, Charles V granted the Knights sovereignty of Malta, under the suzerainty of the Kings of Spain. From this time the Knights effectively controlled Malta. In 1798, Napoleon invaded Malta. The Maltese appealed to Britain, and in 1799 British naval officer Horatio Nelson besieged Valletta and compelled the withdrawal of the French. In 1814 Malta became part of the British Empire as a crown colony. This lasted until 1964.

During the period 1530 – 1798, Malta issued at least 221 coins. This coin was issued in 1643, right in the middle of that period.


The obverse of the coin contains the lettering “☩ F • IOANNES • PAVLVS • LASCARIS • M • M • H • H” around the edge. This translates to “Fra Giovani Paolo Lascaris, Grand master of the Hospitallers of Jerusalem.” (Another name for the Knights of St John) The centre contains the coat of arms is that of Lascaris. The coat of arms features a double headed eagle lower-left and top-right, and a simple cross top-left and lower-right. The coin is dominated by four countermarks, covered shortly.


Reverse Within circle, clasped hands, value below and date above. Countermarks randomly placed. Script: Latin Lettering: ·NON AES SED FIDES· 1637 T . 4 Translation: Not money but trust

The reverse features two clasped hands, date above, value below. The text around the edge reads “☩ ★ NON ★ AES ★ SED ★ FIDES”. This translates to “Not Copper but Trust“. At the time these were minted, the treasury of the Order was depleted. Normally these would have been minted in silver, but because of the lack of silver, they were minted in copper.


Because of counterfeiting, each Grand Master put their own countermark on coins, to assure their authenticity. CoinsOfMalta.com has a list of these countermarks:

  • Jean-Paul Lascaris 1636 – 1657 Double-Head Eagle within a circle (1) or shield (2)
  • Rafael Cotoner 1660 -1663 Head of John the Baptist (3)
  • Adrien de Wignacourt 1690 -1697 Crowned Fleur-De-Lys (4)
  • Ramon Despuig 1736 -1741 Crowned Star (5)
  • Emmanuel Pinto 1741 – 1773 Crowned Crescent (6) & Monogram M A (7)
  • Emmanuel de Rohan 1775 – 1797 Crowned Mascle (8) & Paschal Lamb (9)

The obverse of this coin features (Left to right) 9. the Paschal Lamb, 6. crowned crescent, 7. Monogram M A and 8. Crowned Mascle.

The reverse of the coin features 1. Double headed eagle in circle, 4. Fleur-de-lis and (1 or 2) Double headed eagle in possibly a shield?

With at least 6 different mintmarks spanning most of the grand masters, this coin may have been in circulation for up to a hundred and fifty years.


I picked up this coin as an unidentified countermarked piece. Like the 1835 Brazil 40 Réis, it turns out this was done “officially”. But more like the UK Penny Art and 1799 half penny, it took a little bit of detective work to discover what the coin actually was, so I thought I’d run through that process. At first, I took the measurements of the coin, 5.64 grams and just over 30mm diameter. Normally measurements can really help narrow down a search, especially when there is not a lot of text visible. I was fairly sure I could read the full word “PAVLVS”, and I could see it had a shield on it. I put all that in, and specified it was made of non-precious material – I is brown and could be copper, but could several other things like Bronze instead. That all found nothing.

Dropping the shield and the word Pavlvs got 31 results, which prompted me to include that the coin is (or should be) round. That found 19, none of which were similar.

I tried Googling what I could make out of the shield (In fact I still haven’t found an image of that shield aside from on these coins).

It was only when I dropped the measurements and looked for a round, non-precious, circulating coin that I got somewhere. Starting to go through the 219 results, I only had to look to the 22nd result, the second Maltese coin in the list, to recognise the shield. The problem I had previously was that whoever entered these coins on Numista didn’t enter the size of most of them, so by specifying a diameter, it ruled out results which didn’t include one at all.

There was still one more piece to the puzzle. The lettering on my coin with “IOANNES PAVLVS”, matched the 1643 2 Tari coin. But that coin had text around the reverse with a beaded line then fields. My coin had the curly lines around it that the 4 Tari had. There is even a countermarked version listed. Looking on CoinsOfMalta, I found a version of my coin, listed as L116 & L115 about a quarter of the way down, listed as “4 Tarì 1643 – Fiduciary”. That coin is slightly heavier, 6.46g. I’m not sure how much variance there was, but mine is certainly worn which may account for it.

I’m always happy when a search pays off. What coin have you had to search quite a bit to identify?

Obverse Crowned arms of Lascaris. Script: Latin Lettering: ☩ F • IOANNES • PAVLVS • LASCARIS • M • M • H • H Translation: Fra Giovani Paolo Lascaris, Grand master of the Hospitallers of Jerusalem.





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