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    

Pcgs Pf62 Rare Proof 1911 Russia Gold 10 Rouble Russian Oro Bitkin #16() Rill Cove Shipwreck Medieval Large Silver 8 Reales Spain Cob Coin Pirate Dollar Russia 1899 1 Rouble Silver Au-unc1686 Charles Ii Italy Silver Carlino Coin1739 Large Silver 8 Reales Spain Mexico Mint Shipwreck Pirate Old Dollar Coin1622 Atocha Shipwreck Recovered Philip Iii Silver Cob 8 RealesRussia 1 Rouble Ruble 1800 Cm Om Silver Paul I (1796-1801) XfMbb 1682ps Germany Au-salzburg D-3509 Thaler Pcgs-ms64Great Britain 1902 1 Crown Edward Vii Silver UncPoland 1838-mw Silver 5 Zlotych-3/4 Ruble C#133 Nice UncirculatedFrance 1806-l Silver 5 Francs Ngc Au58Ottoman Turkey Muhammad V Alliance With Bulgaria Zinc Medal 1915-161788-k, France, Louis Xvi. Gold Double Louis Coin (only 18,043 Struck!) 15.19gm!Lovely 1619g Seville, Spain Gold 2 Escudos Cob Vf1394, Royal France, Charles Vi. Broad Gold Ecu (w. Crown) Coin. 3.91gm!Russia 1 Rouble Ruble 1776 Silver Catherine Ii (1762-1796) XfFrance 1808a 5 Francs Napoleon Silver Crown XfMbb 1930a Germany Weimar Rhineland 5 Mark Pcgs-pr67dcamMbb 1927e Germany Weimar Rep. Oak Tree 5 Mark Pcgs-pr65dcamMbb 1932d Germany Weimar Rep. Oak Tree 5 Mark Pcgs-pr66dcamMbb 1862 Germany Frankfurt 2 Th Pcgs-ms64Andorra 2x2 Euro 2015. Two Commemorative Coins. Pre-sale!!!!!!!!!!1 Ruble 1924 Russia Ngc Ms 63France 1815-a Silver 5 Francs Ngc Ms62Norway 1824 + 1836 Specie Dalers (attractive Coins) Hi-res Images No Reserve1902 Russia Gold 10 Rouble Nicholas Ii Russian Oro ChervonetzGreat Britain 1930 B Trade Dollar Ngc Ms 63 ~ China Malaya Straits Hong KongGreat Britain 1929 B Trade Dollar Ngc Ms 63 ~ China Malaya Straits Hong KongVenice - Gold Medieval Gold Hammered Ducat1830 Cnb Russian 1 RoubleMbb 1847 Germany Frankfurt 2 Th Pcgs-ms641979 (m) Ussr Russia Gold 10 Rouble Chervonetz Ngc Ms 66 Russland RubelV.rare Grade & Mint Poland Revolutionary Coinage 1831 - Kg 5 Zlotych Silver Coin1 Ruble1851 Russia Ngc Au 581854 Cnb Hi Russian 1 RoubleHungary - 1755 Kb Thaler Kremnitz1688 England Silver Crown James Ii (us Coin Is Not Part Of The Deal)Mbb 1930a Germany Weimar Rep. Zeppelin 5 Mark Pcgs-pr65camCh Unc- Gem Bu 1904 Russia Gold 10 Rouble Nicholas Ii Russian Oro ChervonetzIsle Of Man 50p 50 Pence Christmas 2003 Unc-1622 Atocha Shipwreck Philip Iii Assayer Q Potosi Mint Silver 8 Reales CobRussia Ussr 1957 15 Kopeks Ngc Ms67 Top Graded Coin By Ngc ! Gem Bu Y# 1241784, Royal France, Louis Xvi. Silver Ecu (french Dollar) Coin. Bearn! Xf-au!1793 Thaler Poland Ngc Ms62 Mbb 1930f Germany Weimar Rep. Zeppelin 5 Mark Pcgs-pr64dcamAndorra 2x2 Euro 2015. Two Commemorative Coins. Pre-sale!!!!!!!!!!50 Kopecks 1894 Russia Ngc Au 58Prussia 5 Mark 1914-a Jaeger# 114 Pcgs Ms 66Great Britain 1899 1 Crown Victoria Silver Au-uncGermany - Weimar Rep. 5 Mark 1927 A Oak Tree * Ngc Ms 66 !Great Britain 1930 Trade Dollar Ngc Ms 62 ~ China Malaya Straits Hong Kong1901 Germany 5 Mark Silver Foreign Coin Free S/hExtremely Rare 1717j Mexico Royal Strike 1/2 Real Silver Cob VfFrance, Napoleon Iii 20 Francs, Paris Mint, 1858-a Gold Coin Gvf1913 Bc Nicholas Ii Russia Silver Fifty 50 Kopecks Kopeks Pcgs Ms63France 1803(an12-i) 5 Francs Napoleon Silver Crown Vf1732-mof Silver Cob 4 Reales Mexico Recovered From The Vliegenthart ShipwreckFrance 1812-r Silver 5 Francs Ngc Au583 Mark 1915 A Prussia Preussen Mansfeld Pcgs Pr65cam Germany3 Mark 1927 A Nordhausen Pcgs Ms66 Weimarer Republik Germany