Since 2002, European merchants have made change in cents clad in copper-plated steel or an alloy called Nordic gold, as well as in euros, which are shiny, bimetal coins. But it wasn’t too long ago that travelers visiting the continent would return home with their pockets filled with loose change of seemingly countless sizes and denominations.

One can still experience that with a visit to Great Britain, where pence and pounds still change hands, even though the island nation is a member of the European Union. Historically, British subjects have paid for items with everything from tiny farthings to larger guineas and crowns.

The history of German coinage is no less rich. Collected coins include those minted by the German states prior to and immediately following the unification of the states into an empire in 1871; coins circulated between World Wars I and II; and the separate monetary systems that were established after 1949, when Germany was divided into eastern and western nations.

France’s modern-day decimal monetary system dates 1795, shortly after the French Revolution. Some gold francs of the early 1800s featured the bust of Napoleon, who ruled for a decade until 1814.

One of the world’s most storied coins is the Spanish real, which was Spain’s denomination at the height of the nation’s dominance as a world power in the 16th century. In fact, reales were so widespread in the New World that they were one of the most common forms of currency in the U.S colonies, and were traded as legal tender throughout the new nation in the early years of the United States.

The first coin to be called a Swiss franc was a silver, 10-batzen coin minted by the Bern Canton (state) in 1757. By the middle of the 19th century, some 860 varieties of coins were circulating in Switzerland, minted by Swiss Cantons, cities, and religious organizations, although the majority of the coins used for goods and services in the landlocked nation were foreign.

Of course, the history of coinage in the West all but began in Italy, where ancient Roman coins were struck beginning in roughly the year 500 BCE. By the Middle Ages, the florin,...

Meanwhile, the Papal States circulated the scudo, which was worth 100 baiocchi. In 1871 the states became a part of Italy, but the scudo had been scuttled in 1866, replaced by the Italian lira (equal to 100 centesimi).

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Ancient Coins: In Praise of the Celators!

Ancient Coins: In Praise of the Celators!

Dr. Tom Buggey’s Ancient Coins: In Praise of the Celators! focuses mainly on coins from Greek and Roman antiquity… [read review or visit site]

Worldwide Bi-Metallic Collectors Club

Worldwide Bi-Metallic Collectors Club

Bi-metallic coins have been around since the 17th century, when a copper wedge was added to the English farthing to… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Russian Imperial Silver 1 Rouble 1859 Monument Emperor Nicholas I9628. Austria • Taler • Graz 1617 • Ngc Ms64Russian Imperial Silver 1 Rouble 1727 Catherine I Аuthentic 100% Rare1831 5 Gold Roubles, Excellent Condition. 9630. Germany • Reuss-gera • Taler 1620 Wa • Ngc Au Details1901 Nicholas Ii Russia Gold 10 Ten Roubles CoinGreece 5 Drachmai 1833 Silver Coin King Othon DrachmaRussia Empire 1854 Spb 1 Rouble SilverSpain, Felipe Ii (1556-1598) Silver 8 Reales -b Cob - Sevilla -27,0 Gr.- Scarce 1813 Spain 8 Reales Silver Foreign Coin Free S/h1866-b German Hannover 2 Thaler1894 Austria Franz Joseph Gold Ducat Ngc Ms621911 Russia 10 Rouble 1/4 Oz Gold! Pcgs Ms64 Lot#ga008 Key Date! Low Mintage!1896 Russia 1 Roubles Silver Coin 1841 British India Victoria , Mohur Continous Legend Gold 11.64gRussia 1 Roubl 1913 Bc Ngc - Ms 649627. Austria • Taler 1839-a • Ngc Ms60France 1 Ecu D'or Charles Vi 1380-1422Rare H Series Atocha 8 Reale Shipwreck Coin Cob CoaRussia 1 Roubl 1921 At Ngc - Ms 641806, Swiss Cantons, Bern. Silver "gymnasium" Thaler (40 Batzen) Coin. Au+1864-a France Napoleon Iii Gold 20 Francs Ngc Au589629. Austria • Taler • Hall (1564-95) • Ngc Ms61Sao Jose 8 Reales Shipwreck Coin, Ngc Cob Mexico (1618-1622) Grade 21776 Ngc Uncirculated Great Britain Gold Guinea Km-604Rare Rare Rare Russia Imperial Rouble 1762 !1589 Netherlands Dog Dollar New Amsterdam New York Daalder Lion Silver Coin Italian States Sardinia 1846 2 Lire Xf1883 Ngc Au Russia Rouble Alexander Iii Coronation Ruble Km-y431887 Bu Russian Gold 5 Rouble 30 British Tokens Circa 1795 (outstanding Condition) Must See No ReserveSoviet Union - Ussr - Cccp Coin Set 1965, Leningrad Mint, Rare Coin Set1864 German Schwarzburg-rudolstadt Thaler Ngc Ms-621552, Netherlands, Brabant, Charles V. Scarce ½ Gold Real Coin Coin. 3.49gm!9626. Austria • Taler 1822-c • Ngc Au58Italian States Tuscany 1859 Fiorino Scarce1763, Netherlands, Holland. Beautiful Gold Knight Ducat Coin. 3.51gm!1874, Switzerland (confederation). Large Silver 5 Francs (5 Franken) Coin. Xf!Russia: 1 Rouble 1836 СПБ-НГ. "nicholas I". Ngc Au Details. Russia Elizabeth , Silver Rouble C# 19b.4 1750СПБ (cnb) - Original1750, Netherlands, Holland. Nice Gold 15 Gulden Coin. Official Restrike! 9.97gm!1685, Netherlands, Utrecht. Large Silver Dog Dollar (lion Daalder) Coin. Xf!Sao Jose 8 Reales Shipwreck Coin, Ngc Cob Mexico (1556-1622) Grade 2Sao Jose 8 Reales Shipwreck Coin, Ngc Cob Spain (1612-1621) Grade 2Italian States Tuscany 1857 1/2 Paolo Choice Unc29 Old German Coins & Medal (starting 1672) U Gotta See The Pics No ReserveRussia 25 Kopeks 1859 Pcgs Ms 641649, Netherlands, Gelderland. Large Silver Rijks Daalder (rix Dollar) Coin. Vf+Italian States Sardinia 1836 Lira ScarceRussia Gold 5 Roubles 1889 АГ Alexander Iii Graded Ms63+ By Pcgs (not Ngc) 1506, Netherlands, Holland, Philip "the Fair". Gold Florin (gulden) Coin. 3.23gm1833 German Thaler Silver Coin 1769, Netherlands, Holland. Beautiful Gold Knight Ducat Coin. 3.5gm!Ultra Rare German Silver Coin 5 Reichsmark 1933 A - Martin Luther1810 Spain 8 Reales Silver Foreign Coin Free S/hItalian States Lucca 1838 Lira RareRussia Rouble 1921 Ngc Ms61Sao Jose 4 Reales Shipwreck Coin, Ngc Cob Spain (1556-1622) Grade 263 Old German Coins (silver & Collectibles) Must See Hi-res Images No Reserve1863, Swiss Cantons, Neuchatel. Silver Shooting Thaler (5 Franken) Coin. Xf+