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 1 Rouble 1847 Pa - Ngc Ms63 Very Very Rare !!! Ngc Ms61 Uncirculated 1883 Alexander Iii Coronation Silver Rouble RussiaWow Rare! 5 Gold Rouble Five Ruble 1909 Saint Nicholas Ii Russia Russland Oro 1774 Rouble Ruble Russian Silver Rouble. Extra Fine By Ngc Nice. Original Patina Ngc Ms63 Rare ! Uncirculated Prooflike 1765 2 Kopek Russia Russland1915 Russia Russian Silver Rouble Pcgs Au-58 Rare!French Indo China 1943-44 1/2 Tael Silver Ngc Slabbed Ms63Russia 1883 1 Rouble Coronation Silver XfRussia - 1898 Alexander Ii Gold 5 Roubles CoinItaly - 1833p Sardinia Carlo Alberto Gold 10 Lire ScarceRussia 1889 5 Roubles "at" On Neck Variety Gold UncRussia - 1900 Alexander Ii Gold 5 Roubles Coin1899 Russia Gold 10 Roubles, High Grade Russian Beauty, Scarce Coin Ten RubleRussia 1769-СПБ Ca Rouble C#67a.2 About Uncirculated Rare!!Russia 1733 1 Rouble Anna Silver Crown VfPoland 1925 20 Zlotych Gold Ngc Slabbed Ms-64Great Britain Sovereign 1872 Pcgs Ms 631798 Russian 1 Rouble Silver High Grade Lettered EdgeFrance 2 Sols 1793 Aa Rare This GradeRussia Rouble 1828 Pcgs Au 531793 End Of Pain Conder Token - Great Britain, Thomas Paine, The Wrongs Of Man1690, Kingdom Of Hungary. Large & Early Silver St. George Show Thaler Coin. R!Russia Very Rare Russian Sestroretsk Rouble 1771 Coin Giant From Catherine IiRussia 5 Kopeks 1882 - Unc Ms67 Like Proof Rare !!!Russia 1913 1 Rouble Romanov Dynasty Silver Xf8 Reale Coin From The Nuestra Senora De Atocha Recovered By Mel Fisher (#215)(no Date) Spain Gold Cob 2 Escudos (4.4g, Ex-jewelry?)Great Britain Sovereign 1871 Pcgs Ms 631800 Netherland Ngc Gold Ducat ( Utrecht ) Au55Peru, Felipe Ii (1556-1598) 8 Reales (1577-88) Lima - BFrance - 1792 Large 6 Livres Paris Mint Silver Coin High GradeAustria-olmutz 1718 Thaler Choice VfRussia 1 Rouble 1843 A Cz - Ngc Au 58 Rare !!!Russia 1 Rouble 1841 A Cz - Ngc Au Rare !!!France 1/4 Franc 1809 A High Grade Rare1902 Russia Gold 10 Roubles, Higher Grade Russian, Scarce Coin Ten Ruble (ap)Awesome 1766 Poland Silver Thaler (beautiful Example) Valuable Coin No RsrvNsw-leipzig Frankfurt Thaler 1772 City View Almost Uncirculated Great CoinLiechtenstein 1904 5 Kronen Silver Crown Au-unc1713-14 8 Reales Shipwreck Silver Coin From Plate Fleet 22.1 Grams With CoaGermany-magdeburg 1674 Hhf 2/3 Thaler Silver Vf-xfFrance, Louis Xviii, 20 Frances, 1817-a Gold Coin VfRussia 10 Kopeks 1896 - Unc Ms65 Rare !!!Austria, Charles Vi Thaler 1714, Vienna Mint, Silver Coin VfThe Netherlands: Gulden Silver 1848 UncSuperb 1915 Austria One Ducat Gold Coin 23.75k No Reserve !!!!!!!!!!!Austria 1862a Thaler Silver Xf-auFrance, Louis Philippe I, 20 Frances, 1831-a Gold Coin Gvf1783 Mo Ff 8 Reales El Cazador Shipwreck Coin,ngc Certified,highest Grade,mint4 Reale Coin From The Nuestra Senora De Atocha Recovered By Mel Fisher (#216)1786, Emperor Joseph Ii. Large Silver Madonna Thaler Coin. Kremnitz Mint!Silver Coin 1 Rouble 1886 Alexander Iii Russia Imperial1620, Austrian States, Trautson, Paul Sixtuis I. Silver Thaler Coin. Very Rare!1780, Empress Maria Theresa. Beautiful Silver "madonna" Thaler Coin. Kremnitz!Austria 1880 2 Florin Silver Crown Xf-auGermany, Third Reich 5 Pfennig 1940-j "military Issue" Pcgs Ms 62France, Louis Philippe I, 20 Frances, 1834-a Gold Coin VfRussia Rouble 1834 - Ngc Au Rare !!Russia 1772 Silver 20 KopeksRussia Poltinnik 1922 - Unc Ms63 Rare !!