The history of coinage in the West has deep roots in Italy, where ancient Roman coins were struck beginning in roughly the year 500 BCE. By the Middle Ages, the florin, named for its origins in the Republic of Florence, became an important trading coin throughout Europe. Little wonder that florins were widely copied by other aspiring nations.
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).
Italian coins of the late 19th century featured an assortment of impressively mustached rulers—Vittorio Emanuele II’s facial hair was particularly grand, and his 50-lira coin from 1864 is especially prized.
As for Vatican coins, after a minting hiatus that lasted more than half a century, the Papacy began striking coins again in 1929. With denominations that paralleled Italy’s, the Vatican produced coins in traditional metals from copper and nickel to silver and gold, as well as in aluminum and stainless steel.