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    

Rouble 1913 Romanov Dynasty - Pcgs Ms65 !!!Russian Catherine Ii Rouble Ca Jo-3721653 Mexico Large Silver 8 Reales Cob Coin Shipwreck Pirates Treasure GenuinePortugal, 2000 Reis, P`s In Angles, 1714 Gold Coin Vf+Italy, Papel States, Pius Ix, 10 Lira, 1867-r Year 22, Gold Coin GvfRouble 1878 - Pcgs Ms63Russia, Nicholas Ii, 5 Roubles, 1901 г Gold Coin AbuRussia 1 Rouble 1898 АГ Ngc Ms 61German East Africa Wihelm Ii Brass 1916 20 Heller Ngc Ms62 Emergency Issue Km15a29.85g Spain Gold Ingot From 1715 Fleet Ship Wreck Off Veradero (vero) Beach, FlRussia, Nicholas Ii, 5 Roubles, 1899 г Gold Coin AbuGerman East Africa Wihelm Ii Copper 1916 20 Heller Ngc Ms64 Emergency Iss Km#15Russia, Nicholas Ii, 5 Roubles, 1898 г Gold Coin EfRussia 1889 Gold 5 Roubles *ngc Ms-65* Russian 5 Roubles Only 2 Graded Higher!!!France, Napoleon Iii, 20 Francs, 1866-a Gold Coin Ef50 Kopeck 1913 Bc - Pcgs Ms65 !!!20 Kopeck 1822 (1822/1) - Pcgs Ms63 - Very RareRussia, Nicholas Ii, 5 Roubles, 1900 г Gold Coin AbuAustria, Franz Joseph I, Official Restrike Ducat, 1915 Gold Coin BuRussia Rouble 1828 Pcgs Au 53Rouble 1842 Cnb - Ngc Au Det.1897 At Russia 5 Roubles Gold Coin Ngc Ms-64Rouble 1883 Coronation 1705-b Ngc Xf45 France Ecu Dav-13201 Rouble 1808 (russia) SilverScarce 1904a German East Africa Ngc Pf63 Cameo Proof Rupie(no Date) Spanish Cob 8 Reales From Concepcion Shipwreck Of 1641Mbb 1908a Germany Lubeck 5 Mark Pcgs-pr67cam Mintage: 200 Pcs, Rare PpUncirculated 1918 Great Britain Gold Sovereign Foreign Coin Free S/hRouble 1877 Hi - Pcgs Au55 Switzerland 5 Francs Shooting Festival 1885 Bern,proof Like,unc.(no Date) 8 Reales Spanish Silver Cob 26.5g 36mm (shipwreck?)1924-na Ngc Ms63 Russia Ussr Rouble Y-90.1 (ruble)1801 Cm An Russia Rouble Ngc Vg-81908-j German Hamburg 5 Mark Ngc Ms-62Puerto Rico Km# 22, 1895 Pgv 20 Centavos Xf+ (4 Photos)Mbb 1930f Germany Weimar Rep. " Zeppelin " 5 Mark Pcgs-pr62dcam French Coins, 1811 A, Paris Mint, 40 Francs Gold, Napoleon I, Grade F+Circulated 1894 Great Britain Gold Sovereign Foreign Coin Free S/hMbb 1841 Germany Frankfurt 2th " City-view " Pcgs-au55C167,romania,1885 50 Bani Silver Coin,king Carol IUncirculated 1911 Great Britain Gold Sovereign Foreign Coin Free S/h1913 Russia Rouble Silver Coin Ef - Free Shipping1585 Santiago Shipwreck Recovered 4 Reales Silver Cob Coin, Pre-atocha WreckMbb 1915a Germany Prussia " Mansfeld " 3 Mark Pcgs-pr65camGermany, Prussia, Wilhelm Ii, 20 Marks, 1913-a Gold Coin Bu2015 Uk £100 One Hundred Pound Big Ben Fine Silver Coin Proof UncirculatedFrance, Napoleon Iii, 20 Francs, 1864-a Gold Coin EfSardinia (italian State) 5 Lire 1833 P - Silver - Carlo Alberto - Xf/aunc #746Mbb 1934d Germany Third Reich 5 Mark " Potsdam " Pcgs-ms63+Puerto Rico Km# 21, 1896 Pgv 10 Centavos Xf+ (low Mintage)1 Rouble 1828 (russia) SilverPcgs Ms69 Pope John Paul Ii Silver 200 Zlotych 1986 Mintage Only 32 !!50 Kopeck 1912 Eb - Pcgs Ms63Greece (kingdom) 5 Drachmai 1876 A - Silver - George I. - Vf/xf #722Russian: Rouble 1779 Ekaterina Ii ! Silver !super Condition! Origina 100% ! Mbb 1908a Germany Prussia 3 Mark Pcgs-pr67camUncirculated 1930 Great Britain Gold Sovereign Foreign Coin Free S/hFrance, Republic, 20 Francs, 1912 Gold Coin Bu1890 Kingdom Of Denmark Christian Ix Gold 10 Kroner Coin