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    

Wow Super Rare ! Alexander Ii 1898 Silver Rouble Medal Russia RusslandLook Rare ! Nicholas I 1859 Silver Rouble Russia Russland Dark Patina. Ngc Ms 64 ! Briliant Uncirculated Nicholas I 1840 Silver Rouble Russia RusslandRussia 1748-СПБ Silver Rouble C#19b.4 Pcgs Au551811-a France 5 Francs Napoleon Uncirculated1733 Russia 1 Rouble Silver Coin 1884 СПБ AГ Alexander Iii Russia Silver Five 5 Kopecks Kopeks Pcgs Ms66* 1980 Moscow Olympics Russian Platinum Coin Set 150 Roubles Rubles Russia UssrRussia Gold 15 Roubles 1897 Extremely Fine1892 Austria Gold 4 Florins / 10 Francs Coin Emperor Franz Joseph UncGreece 20 Lepta 1831 Old Coin , Rare !Unc 1 Kopeck Mint State Nikolas I 1832 Russia Copper 1 KopeksScarce 1904a German East Africa Ngc Pf63 Cameo Proof Rupie1884 Greece Gold 20 Drachmai Gold Coin1910 Hungary Gold 10 Korona Coin Apostolic King Franz Joseph I 1884 СПБ AГ Alexander Iii Russia Silver Fifteen 15 Kopecks Kopeks Pcgs Ms65 Vintage Russia 1873 5 Rubles Gold Grade Ngc Ms 61 Alexander Ii Of Russia Ad10Victorian Antique 22k Gold Sovereign Coin Necklace 1869 9k & 14k Pendant ChainImperial Russia 10 Gold Rubles 1899 Unc 34 Old Europe Coins (30 Silver) Danzig Austria Latvia Yugo Hungary Czech ++ NorsVery Rare Russia 1828 С П Б 5 Rubles Gold Cat Est 3000.00 Ad3Mint Luster ! Ch Unc ! 1850 Nicholas I 10 Kopek Russia Silver Very Nice !1777 Russia Empire 1/2 (half) Rouble Gold Coin Ngc Au 58 ~ V. Rare Type/date!!!Russia 3 Rouble Roubel Rubel 1833 Platinum Very Rare Ngc Xf 40 No Reserve1889 Imperial Russia, 5 Roubles Of Alexander Iii, Original Gold Coin1965 Russia 9 Coin Mint Set Original PackagingCzechoslovakia 1933 Gold Ducat Vysel Roszevac Medaile 3.49g Kremnica MintCyprus - 1908 1/2 Piastre Rare One Year Type Coin1783 Mo Ff 8 Reales El Cazador Shipwreck Coin,ngc Certified,highest Grade,mintFrance--5 Francs 1813-napoleon Empereur--reverse Fish And FlagPort Royal "pirate City" Spanish 4 Reales Silver Cob From Brothel/tavern RuinsFrance Napoleon Bonaparte Silver 1/4 Franc An-12 (1803-04) Mint Mark: T (rare!)1904 Ch Bu Russian 5 Rouble Gold Coin 1874 Visit Of Alexander Ii To London Authentic And Collectible Bronze MedalOrginal Germany Wwii Nazi 1933 Adolf Hitler Rare Madal Silver .9001726 Russia Catherine I Rouble Ngc Vg Details L@@k No Reserve1870 СПБ Нi 5 Kopeks Russia. Bu Ngc Ms63! Very Rare In This Nice!Russia 1850 Silver Rouble1928 Poland Silver 5 Zlotych * A Very Fine Coin *Polupoltinnik 1747 Paul I Era Russian Antique Silver Coin 25 Kopeks 1/4 RoubleImperial Russia 1 Ruble - 1774, C# 67, Silver, Catherine Ii, Xxxrare Coin.1980 Ussr Moscow Olympic Silver Ruble Proof 28 Coin Box Set W, No Reserve!!Great Britain 1830 Kg.george Iv Sovereign Very Scarce Date Coin Vf.1783 Mo Ff 8 Reales El Cazador Shipwreck Coin,ngc Certified, ExcellentGreat Britain 1862 Half Penny Ngc Ms-65 Full Red Rare This Nice8 Reales Pillar Dollar Spain / Philip V Mexico Mf 17421822 Russia 1 Rouble Silver Coin Greece 10 Lepta 1831 Jo-691Vintage Russia 1854 5 Rubles Gold Nicholas I С П Б Ad12Switzerland 1883 Helvetia 20 Francs Gold Coin Scarce Date Luster Choice Unc.Ussr Russia Mint Coin Set 1973Scarce!! Silver Coin Cob 8 Reales Of Philip Iv. Mint Madrid. Assayer M.Turkey Abdul Mejid Gold 100 Qirsh Ah 1255/5 (1843)Interesting Antique Silver "piece Of Eight" Cob.1927f Germany Weimar Rep. Tubingen 3 Mark Ngc Proof 64 Ultra Cameo No Reserve736-indalo-italian States,toskana. Pietro Leopoldo. Silver Francescone 1773.rareGerman New Guinea Company 1894-a 5 Neu Guinea Mark CoinVintage Russia 1887 5 Rubles Gold High Quality Alexander Iii Of Russia Ad51707 Austria Olmutz Dav-1211 Taler Thaler Au58 Ngc Certified! Awesome Huge Coin!Russian Catherine Ii Rouble Ca Jo-372