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    

1 Rouble 1768 Year Ekaterina Ii Silver Coin Rouble 1913 Romanov Dynasty Bc Ngc Ms64Russia Endangered Wildlife - Red Books 6x 5-10-50 Roubles 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994Russia Endangered Wildlife - Red Books 7x 5-10 Roubles 1991, 1992Russia 1913 "300th Annivers.romanov Dynasty" Rouble,ngc-ms-62 Luster,choice Unc.Russia Rouble 1897g Unc Details Some Luster 1841 Russia 5 Roubles Gold Coin ++high Grade++ Rare1897 Russian Gold 15 Roubles Czar Nicholas Ii Russia Gold Coin ** About Unc + *** Russia * 1 Rouble 1912 Eb Ngc Ms 62 * Rare This Nice *Great Britain Gold Sovereign 1886 M Extra Fine Plus Circulated But Superb!!!1 Rouble 1732 Year Anna Ioanovna Silver CoinRussia Nicholas Ii 2x 25 Kopeks 1896 SilverRare Russian 15 Gold Ruble 1897 А1897 Russia 7 Roubles 50 Kopek Gold Nicholas Ii ** About Uncirculated+ *** Russia * 1 Rouble 1913 Bc Ngc Ms 63 * Romanov Dynasty *Wurttemberg, Germany 1841 Silver Gulden Jubilee Ngc Ms661608, Milan (duchy), Philip Iii Of Spain. Large Silver Ducatone Coin. 31.98gm!1911 Russia 10 Roubles Gold Y#64 Nicholas Ii ** About Uncirculated *1016-1023 Ad England, London Mint Cnut Silver Penny Ngc Au Details1807, Italy, Kingdom Of Napoleon. Silver 5 Lire Coin. 1st Date - Low Mintage!1908 France Gold 20 Francs "coq Rooster" Coin High GradeRussia Nicholas I Rouble 1828 Silver СGreat Britain 1930 Silver Trade Dollar Ngc Ms65 Extra Rare In 65!!1809, Italy, Kingdom Of Napoleon. Scarce Gold 20 Lire Coin. 6.39gm!Authentic Ship Wreck Hispaniarum Rex 1755 Ferdinand Vi 1 Real Coin 14k Earrings1990 Russia Platinum 150 Roubles Pcgs Proof 70 Deep Cameo Coin Russian Treasure51 Old Russia Coins (some Finland) Silver & Collectibles No Reserve2014 Great Britain 1 Oz .999 Proof Silver Britannia £2 Ngc Pf70 Uc Er Sku32519Mbb 1915a Germany Prussia Mansfeld 3 Mark Pcgs-ms65Mbb 1848b Hannover Thaler Pcgs-ms65+Mbb 1865 Bavaria Thaler Pcgs-ms64Brazil - 250 Reis Nd Circular Overstrike Countermark Of Alfonso Vi *very Rare*France 20 Francs 1815-a "napoleon - The Hundred Days" Gold Ngc Au-58Gold Ducat Carl Xi 1666 Sweden1885 Switzerland 5 Francs Silver Foreign Coin Free S/h!!Prussia-victory Germany Taler 1866a Ngc Ms 641989 Russia Platinum 150 Roubles Pcgs Proof 70 Deep Cameo Coin Russian TreasureRussia Anna Rouble 1733 Silver, Kadashevsky Mint1790, Milan, Emperor Joseph Ii. Large Silver Scudo "crocione" Thaler Coin. Axf!1 Rouble 1877 Year N.i. Aleksander Ii Silver Coin1835-a Ngc Ms63 France 5 Francs Louis-philippe Superb Original ToningRussia Endangered Wildlife - Red Books 6x 5-10-50 Roubles 1991, 1992, 19941808, Italy, Kingdom Of Napoleon. Beautiful Gold 40 Lire Gold Coin. 12.88gm!Russia Gold 10 Roubles 1900Framed Nuestra Senora De Atocha 8 Reale Silver Coin Grade 3 Mel Fisher ShipwreckAwesome 12 Big Silver German Coins (most 1800's) Hi-res Images No ReserveAntique 1687 17th Century Spanish Silver Shipwreck Coin W Necklace HoleMbb 1871 Bavaria Thaler Pcgs-ms641897 15 Roubles Rubles Gold 1 Year Rare Russian IssueOld Antique Huge Spanish Silver Solid Shipwreck Coin W Necklace Hole1 Rouble 1878 Year N.f. Aleksander Ii Silver Coin1896 Eritrea Tallero Umberto I Prooflike Au Scarcer Date1847-a Ngc Ms66 France Franc Gem+ Great Toning Louis-philippeGreat Britain, China & Far East: 1899-b Silver Trade Dollar1735 Silver 8 Reales Coin. Mexico Mint. Philip V. Pillar Coin.Uncirculated, 1 Silver Rouble Coin 1913 B.c. 300 Years Of Romanov, Ngc, Ms-62Mbb 1904e Germany Saxony 5 Mark Pcgs-ms65+Mbb 1913a Germany Lippe-detmold 3 Mark Pcgs-pr64cam, Mintage:100 Rrr!(1621-1840) 25 Poland & Danzig Coins Must See Hi-res Images No ReservePcgs Au 55 German States Baden 1900 5 Mark - Rare - Low Mintage