Sometimes, you'll hear about coins being hidden around important landmarks in a city as part of a scavenger hunt. The truly exciting "coin scavenger hunts" usually reward the winner with a gold coin at the end of the game.
However, a somewhat similar interactive prank involving coins took on a much darker theme in Scandinavia several decades ago.
An Elaborate Hoax
More than 40 years ago, a strange trend began to crop up in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Sweden. Odd-looking coins were increasingly found in churches and museums around the region, and they all had something in common: They pictured the devil.
The coins appeared to be made of bronze, and they date to the early 1970s. They bore Latin inscriptions and year-dates, making them believable as real coins at first glance.
On top of the strange coins, this fad coincided with the emergence of "ritual sites" and letters that pointed to Satanic practices.
Naturally, the media had a field day with the story, creating a firestorm. Beyond Sweden and Denmark, much of the Western world saw a wave of such hoaxes during the 1970s and 1980s, which fueled a "Satanic panic" among the public. This was true in the United States, as well; but only in Sweden and Denmark were these demon-centered coins found.
Making Sense of the Mystery
Recent investigations uncovered the identity of the man behind the hoax, although his motivations—besides shock and awe—will remain unclear. He passed away in 2004.
More of the Satanic coins turned up this year during renovations at Bath Abbey in England. The story was picked up by The Guardian (U.K.) this week.
The coins, known as Anholt coins for the name of the island where they first began to show up, are now in the custody of archaeologists in Wessex. Interestingly, their novelty and the passage of time have turned these hoax "coins" into something of actual historical value. They would likely be considered exonumia.
This case might've been more intriguing or more convincing if the coins had been dated to medieval times, adding an aura of esotericism. Perhaps this would've made the forgery easier to spot, however.
Investigators concluded that the perpetrator of the hoax produced many of the coins himself, but some could also have been struck at another minting facility. More research into the origin of where the coins were manufactured would be a worthy avenue to explore for future researchers.
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