Maltese Silver Ingot

Maltese Silver Ingot
This Maltese silver ingot is an extremely rare piece of 9th century Maltese necessity money. The item is a rectangular ingot (22.10x36.03 mm) weighing 29.02 g. It had been produced in occupied Malta in 1800 by French mintmaster, Joseph Lebrun and came with an impeccable pedigree having once been part of the remarkable Restelli collection.

The obverse features a large Maltese cross at the center flanked by the letters: "R"/"F", presumably signifying "Republique Francais." The denomination is given in smaller characters above as "T" / "30", i.e. 30 tari, with the date of 1800 below the cross. The reverse is blank except for the Phrygian cap mintmark. There is a piercing at nine o'clock.

On June 9, 1789, Malta's Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, woke to find Napoleon had arrived off the coast accompanied by 30,000 troops of his Egyptian expeditionary force. A request was received that the entire French force be allowed to land and be supplied with fresh food and water.

The French did not like the Maltese Grand Master's terms and bombarded the capital city of Valletta. Two days later an assault force of several thousand French troop landed at seven strategic locations. The city of Medina fell and 2,000 Maltese militia retreated to the capital. Although Valletta had the resources to withstand a prolonged siege, the Grand Master surrendered, the island was occupied by the French, and the Order of St. John was expelled in its entirety.

A week later Napoleon departed for Egypt leaving General Vaubois in charge of Malta with a garrison of 4,000. A French chemist was charged with seizing all gold, silver, and gems on the island. The silverware was to be sold to merchants for specie that would be used to pay the French troops.

Any remaining silver and all gold were to be melted and converted into coins to be added to the French paymaster's chest. The pillaging was especially thorough and savage. In the wake of a Maltese revolt against the French occupation, all native Maltese were expelled from the capital.

In 1799 minting of coins was suspended. Equipment and tools were worn out and a British blockade prevented their replacement. The French now cast the remaining bullion into bars from which they cut small ingots.

On one side the ingots were stamped with the arms of Valletta and a lion rampant in an oval frame. On the reverse a number was placed in an upper corner with the value in scudi, tari, and grains stamped diagonally across the center. An alphabetical letter struck in the lower corners specified the particular casting from which the ingot came. To prevent clipping a paschal lamb in an oval frame was struck on the edges.

The French occupiers required the ingots to circulate as currency alongside existing coins. Very few of these ingots have survived today. Most re held in institutional collections. When any come up for auction they command high prices.

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