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952 years of Norway's Bergen-Hansa Trading Center

Bergen (pop. 211,866) is the second largest city in Norway, Only Oslo has more people. Bergen lies at the head of By Fiord and is the chief seaport of western Norway. The city carries on a large trade in dried fish, herring, and machinery. Bergen was founded in A.D. 1070. It became a trading center of the Hanseatic League during the Middle Ages.

The Hanseatic League was a loose confederation of north German cities. It grew out of trade associations that had begun to develop in the late 1100's. The weakness of the imperial power in Germany made it necessary for these cities to band together for common protection of their interests.

The Hanseatic League, or Hansa, seems to have resulted from two earlier confederations that were grouped around the cities of Cologne and Lubeck. By the middle 1300's, the members of the Hansa included almost all the larger German towns along the North and Baltic seas.

The league had no formal constitution. Its only governing body was a congress made up of merchants from the various cities. The congress usually met at Lubeck. The main weapons of the league were commercial boycott and commercial monopoly. If a town refused to join the league, the merchants of the town would be unable to sell their goods in profitable markets. One of the greatest contributions of the Hanseatic League was the system of maritime and commercial laws that it developed.

The Hanseatic League gained control of the fur trade with Russia, the fish trade with Norway and Sweden, and the wool trade with Flanders. In 1370, the Danish king tried to break the league's power by closing the Sound. A Hanseatic fleet seized Copenhagen and imposed severe peace terms on Denmark. After 1370, the league gradually declined in importance because of economic competition from other countries and the growing power of neighboring German states. The last meeting of the league's congress took place in 1669.

Norway 20 ECU's. This European Currency Unit depicts a 4th Century Cog Ship, obverse is the coat of arms in original mint capsule. Minted in 1994 by the Valcambi SA, Balerna in Proof condition Gold, with a mintage of 450 pcs. Silver mtg. 9,500 and Cu-Ni mintage 9,500 38.6mm in Brilliant Uncirculated condition to issue commemorates 925 years of The Bergen / Hansa Trading Center. Silver and Gold were minted with a different design and the reverse of the Bergen coat of arms were one of the original MULTICOLORURED plastic applique, shown above issued at $55.

European Monetary System is an organization of European nations that seek to stabilize their exchange rates. An exchange rate is the price of one nation's currency in terms of another. The system began in 1979 with the participation of Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany (now Germany). Spain joined in 1989, the United Kingdom in 1990, Portugal in 1992, Austria in 1995, and Finland in 1996. In 1992, Britain and Italy announced a suspension of their participation in the system. Italy rejoined in 1996. Exchange rates vary daily, depending on the supply of and demand for various currencies. European Monetary System members have worked to encourage trade and investment by keeping exchange rates steady in relation to one another.

The basis of the European Monetary System is a specially created unit of value called a European Currency Unit (ECU). The official value of each member's currency is defined in ECU's. As a result, each member's money also has an official price in terms of any other member's money. For example, suppose that the French franc were officially worth 1 ECU and the Spanish peseta were officially worth 2 ECU's. The official rate for the two currencies would then be defined as 2 francs to a peseta. Until 1993, the market price of most member currencies could not move more than 2.25 percent above or below the official rate. So if the market price of the peseta fell below 1.955 marks, both France and Spain had to buy enough pesetas to raise the price. In 1993, system members agreed that all member currencies except the Dutch guilder and the German mark would temporarily be allowed to move as much as 15 percent above or below the official rate.

All of the European Monetary System's members are in the European Union, an organization that, among other things, works to unify its members' economies. In 1992, the members of the European Union agreed to adopt a common currency,called the euro, by the end of the 1990's. This, as might be expected by any other change, brought about a mixed reaction from the worldwide community.

The History of the 4th Century Cog Ship began with the gradual decline in The power of the Vikings. By the late 1000's, they had lost control of the northern seas. Trade then began to increase among the countries of northern Europe.

Merchants needed roomier vessels to carry larger shipments. By about 1200, shipbuilders in the north had developed a sturdy ship called the cog. It became the standard merchant vessel and warship of northern Europe for about 200 years. Cogs could stand up against the rough seas and high winds of the North Atlantic Ocean. Their deep, wide clinker-built hulls held bulky cargoes.

These ships had one large square sail. They also had a high structure called a castle at the prow and the stern. The forecastle, at the prow, served as a platform from which marines could fire arrows and stones at enemy ships. The sterncastle provided a shelter for important passengers. Cogs also had a new kind of steering apparatus. Instead of steering oars along the sides near the stern, cogs had a large rudder in the middle of the stern. This rudder, introduced by about 1200, was stronger than oars.

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4th Century Cog Ship / click for enlargement
Plastic applique coat of arms on silver proof coin / click for enlargement
Click to enlarge image of COG ship with Italian two-masted lateener and carrack

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Page Est. 09 September 1999.

Updated September 2014.