The Real Dracula: A Collection in Silver

Today, the name Dracula still sends shivers down the spine. Created by Bram Stoker in 1897, his chilling novel about an aristocratic bloodthirsty vampire from Transylvania struck terror into the hearts of his Victorian readers and has since spawned countless books, comics, movies and shows.

But everyone knows that Dracula is a fictional character. Right?

Centuries ago, our European ancestors also feared a sinister character called Dracula. But this bloodthirsty aristocrat from Transylvania was far from undead. In fact, he was terrifyingly real.

His name was Vlad, Prince of Wallachia (1431-1476).

He called himself Vlad Dracula.

Why Dracula? Well, Vlad was a member of the Order of the Dragon (Latin: Societas Draconistarum) a chivalric order that only privileged nobility could join. Founded in 1408 by Sigismund von Luxembourg, the King of Hungary its members swore to fight the enemies of Christianity, particularly the Ottoman Empire. Vlad was so proud to be a member that he called himself Vlad Dracul, and the name stuck.

He also became known as Vlad the Impaler, due to the gruesome way he liked to kill his enemies. They were impaled either horizontally or vertically on large wooden stakes driven in the ground and left to suffer a slow lingering death in agonising pain.

Making good on his pledge to the Order of the Dragon, Vlad invaded the Ottoman Empire and left a trail of destruction behind him. His cruelty knew no bounds. It is said that on one occasion he left twenty thousand people impaled along the roadside to strike terror into the passing Ottoman army.

A contemporary writer recorded that “the Turks were dumbfounded when they saw the multitude of men on the stakes. There were infants too affixed to their mothers on the stakes, and birds had made their nests in their entrails.”

Vlad clearly enjoyed watching people suffer. A medieval woodcut shows him enjoying his dinner surrounded by impaled and dismembered bodies. When some Turkish ambassadors arrived to pay their respects he had their turbans nailed to their heads when they refused to remove them. It is said that he also enjoyed slowly boiling victims to death in a giant cauldron of water that was heated over a fire. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Vlad arranged for holes to be cut into the top of the pot so he could get a better view of their agonies!

Eventually, Vlad was captured and imprisoned by Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary and Croatia in 1462. Ironically, given his reputation as one of the most sadistic mass murderers in history, Vlad was jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. When the Pope demanded an explanation for his incarceration, King Matthias supplied poorly forged papers suggesting that Vlad had formed a secret alliance with the Ottoman Empire to attack Hungary. Given Vlad's hatred for the Ottomans, this seems highly unlikely!

To this day, we don’t know the real reason why King Matthias decided to put an end to Vlad’s campaign of terror. Maybe he was simply sickened by his brutality. Vlad spent many years languishing in a Hungarian prison cell and after being released in 1475 he went back to doing what he did best - fighting the Ottoman Empire who had invaded Wallachia in his absence. The following year he was killed, and the delighted Ottomans cut his body into pieces and sent his head to their Emperor as a gift.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that the real Dracula never got around to issuing coinage during his brutal reign of terror. According to folklore, silver has long been used as protection from evil creatures who prey on human flesh to satisfy their lust for blood.

So with this in mind, we’ve brought together two silver coins that help to tell the bloody tale of Vlad the Impaler, the real Dracula.

The first is a genuine Bohemian Silver Parvus struck during the reign of Sigismund von Luxembourg, the Hungarian King who founded the Order of the Dragon from which Vlad received his infamous name. The coin depicts the Crusader Cross, the symbol of the Order of the Dragon which provided Vlad with his motivation to attack the Ottoman Empire.

The second is an authentic Hungarian Silver Denar that bears the emblem of Matthias Corvinus, the King of Hungary that captured and imprisoned Vlad. The King struck his coinage with an image of Jesus and his mother Mary, and this iconic design can be seen on the second coin in this special collection.

We present the coin that started Vlad’s bloody rampage and the coin that helped to bring it to an end.