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Watercolor of a Jewish money clipper with scales

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.297

Small, watercolor painting of a Jewish coin clipper at work, likely created in 18th century Europe. He is depicted with a beard and sidelocks, which are traditionally worn by Jewish men. Coin clipping was the illegal practice of removing small pieces of metal from coins. Until modern times, coinage was hammered from precious (and soft) metals such as silver or gold, resulting in coins that were not perfectly round. Furthermore, normal wear from use would exacerbate their irregular shapes. Unscrupulous individuals would take advantage of these irregularities and remove slivers off the edges of the coins. The pieces were then melted down, either into a bar and sold to a goldsmith, or used to make counterfeit coins. Coin clipping was widespread throughout Europe, and Jews were often accused of the practice. Jews were barred from owning land, farming, joining trade guilds, and military service. These restrictions forced many Jews into occupations such as money changing or money lending. Additionally, medieval religious belief held that charging interest (known as usury) was sinful, and the Jews who occupied these professions were looked down upon, predominantly by European Christians. They were perceived as morally deficient, greedy, and willing to engage in unethical business practices. Many people thought money clipping was a common Jewish practice due to the disproportionate number of Jews in who worked with currency, combined with antisemitic stereotypes of Jew’s deviousness and greed. The painting is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

Artwork Title
Money Clipper
creation:  approximately 1701-1800
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:12:47
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