Andrew S. writes: I have inherited an odd coin from my mother who inherited it from her mother. On the obverse are 5 dice each showing five holes and the dice are arranged as a cross:
It has the words REPVBLIC PORTVGVESA 1945, I would guess the Republic of Portugal(?) On the reverse it is marked XX CENTAVOS with two berry yielding sprigs with long, slender leaves beneath the wording. I have not been able to find out just which country (or holding) this coin originated from or why it has the odd dice motiff, can you help identify this coin?
Not dice, but a modern interpretation of Portugal’s Arms. The design goes back to Catherine of Barganca, the daughter of Portugal’s King John IV, who married England’s Charles II (1660-1685). She took as her Arms, the five shields. The exact heraldic description is: “Five shields azure, each charged with five bezants in cross within a border gules, charged with an orle of castles”.
Though the castles are missing from the example of 20 centavos you have, they are apparent on other coins of Portugal where the whole shield is displayed. The dots that you see on this coin, clearly become part of a cross and each square is an oval shield.