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    

Russia Alexander Iii 5 Roubles 1890 Russian Gold Rubles Pcgs Ms641641 Concepcion Shipwreck Recovered 164(?) Potosi Assayer Tr Silver Cob 8 Reales1831, Russia, Emperor Nicholas I. Large Silver Rouble Coin. Xf+Ca. 1629 Spice Islands Shipwreck Recovered Philip Iv Mexico Silver Cob 8 Reales1735 Vliegenthart Shipwreck Recovered 1732 Assayer F Mexico Silver Cob 8 RealesRussia, Silver Rouble 1897 ** Brussels Mint Ngc Au1622 Atocha Shipwreck Recovered Philip Iii Potosi, Bolivia Silver Cob 8 Reales1622 Atocha Shipwreck Spanish 8 Reales Silver Coin - Potosi Mint -grade Iv-w/coa1906 Gold 20 Lei *reign Carol I* Romania, Rare, Ngc Au-581656 Maravillas Shipwreck Recovered Mexico, Assayer P Silver Cob 8 Reales1654 Capitana Shipwreck Recovered Crowned-dot-f-dot Countermarked Cob 8 RealesRussia Gold Coin 4 Roubles, 1903 Year "nikolay Ii", Ms65 Ngc Certificated1848, Russia, Emperor Nicholas I. Silver Poltina (½ Rouble) Coin. Au-1682 Joanna Shipwreck Recovered Charles Ii, Mexico Silver Cob 8 RealesRussia, Copper 5 Kopecks 1835 Em, Nicholas I, Au1897 Russia Gold 15 Rouble Beautiful Au Probably Bu Coin.Uncirculated 1889 Great Britain Crown Silver Foreign Coin Free S/hGerman States Saxony 1871-e Thaler Unc1835 German Bavaria Thaler Monument Maximilian Josef Russia 5 Roubles 1890 At Ngc Ms 631659 Jupiter Shipwreck Recovered (1654) Potosi Assayer E Silver Cob 8 RealesGerman States Lippe-detmold 1860-a Taler Xf Rare State1925 Poland 20 Zlotych, Gold Coin Km-y33 Graded Ms 63 By Ngc .1867 Oz Gold G152Norway, Oscar Ii, 50 Ore, 1893 Silver Coin AuRussian Silver Rouble 1730 Rare1681 Consolacion Shipwreck Recovered 1673 Potosi Assayer E Silver Cob 8 Reales1925 Poland 10 Zlotych, Gold Coin Km-y32. Graded Ms 64 By Ngc .0933 Oz Gold G151Greece: George Ii Silver 100 Drachmai 1935 Coin2017 Great Britain Silver Britannia Ngc Ms70 Dpl Plain Fields Fr Coa Under 1000Uncirculataed 1990 China Gold & Platinum 25 Yuan Elite Panda Set Free S/h5 Mark 1902-d Pcgs Ms64 Syxony Meiningen Short Beard J-153b Rare Prooflike UncRussia Empire 1842 Rouble Unc But Harshly Cleaned #1071762 Netherlands: Utrecht Duit, Silver, Pcgs Ms63, Nicely Toned, ScarceRussia Gold Coin 10 Roubles, 1899 Year "nikolay Ii"Norway, Oscar Ii, 1 Krone, 1892 Silver Coin AuRussia Nicholas I, Silver Poltina 1858 СПБ ФБ , C# 167.1Russia, Silver Rouble 1813 Cnb Nc, Alexander I, XfFine Great Britian Uk 1958 Elizabeth Ms/bu Full Sovereign 22k Gold Coin No Rsrv!Greece: George Ii Silver 100 Drachmai 1940 Coin1783 Mo Ff Mexico Whale Cluster Clump 8 Reales El Cazador 8r Shipwreck Coin,ngc Austria 1852 Double Florin Unc But Very Light Scratch On Neck1763 Russia Rouble, "cnb Ti Яi", Empress Catherine Ii, Large Silver CoinSpain Coin, 1899 M, Madrid Mint, 5 Pesetas Silver, Alfonso Xiii, Grade Xf++Russian Silver Rouble 1723 Russian Silver Rouble 1859 RareNgc Bu Rare 1865 20 Kopek Russia Alexander Ii Silver Gem Unc Mint LusterVatican Papal States 5 Baiocchi 1853 Unc Lustre1911, Baden (grand Duchy), Frederick Ii. Gold 20 Mark Coin. (au-unc!) 7.98gm!Russian Silver Rouble 1770Greece King George A 5 Silver Drachma 18761764 Netherlands: Utrecht Duit, Copper, Pcgs Ms65bn, ChoiceAnhalt Dessau (german State) 5 Mark 1914 A - Silver - Friedrich Ii. - Xf #6621864, Germany, Baden (grand Duchy), Ferderick I. Silver Thaler Coin. Xf-France Silver Gros Tournois Philip Iv The Fair 1290-1295 Ad 3.82 Grams Long 0Greece - Crete 5 Drachma 1901 Silver Coin - Cretan State - Very Rare - KretaGreece: George I Silver 2 Drachmai 1911 CoinStart 1 $ Puerto Rico Alfonso Xiii De Espana 10 Centavos 1896 Rare High Grade Greece Crete 1901 5 Drachmai Fine+ #85 Austria Ferdinand I., 1/2 Thaler 1848a , Km# 222527 Early World Coins