Author Topic: Understanding Italian currencies  (Read 1550 times)

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Offline KennyisaG

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Understanding Italian currencies
« on: July 06, 2014, 08:25:52 AM »
Hi everyone,

There are several currency systems in Italy. Here is my current understanding of a few:

  • Milan (and everyone else): ?? Grossi = 120 Seisini = 80 Quattrini / Bolognini = 20 Soldi = 16 Giorgini = 1 Lira = 1/6 Scudo = ?? Filippo (ecu philippe) = ?? Ducatona = ?? Sovrano = ?? Doppia (at some point Spanish Italy used Flemish pound?)
  • Naples & Sicily: 1440 Cavalli = 240 Tornese = 120 Grana = 12 Carlini = 6 Tari = ?? Ducatona = 1 Piastra = 5/6 Ducato = 1/5 Oncia
  • Sardinia: 600 denari = 300 Cagliarese = 100 Soldi = 5/2 Lire = 1 Scudo = 1/2 Doppie
  • Venice: 240 Denari = ?? Seisini = ?? Soldini = ?? Baggattini = ?? Grossi = 20 Soldi = 2 Gassetti = 1 Lira = ?? Tallero = 1/13 Ducato = 1/19 Scudo d'Oro = 1/20 Zecchino

Did Italy have it's own "pound" system like the reichstaler or pond Vlaaems? If anything above is incorrect, reply on this thread.
Numista Team Member: SmartOneKg

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Understanding Italian currencies
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2014, 10:01:39 AM »
No time to react in full now. Here are the basics.

Since the early Middle Ages, Italy was basically cut in three. The middle part, the Papal states, separated the South from the North. The North was originally part of the Holy Roman Empire (the empire of the West). The area around Milan and that around Venice developed into power centres in the North (Genoa and Florence playing strong secondary roles). Venice eventually became a fief of the Austrian Habsburgs. Milan was contested between France and the house of Savoy. In the end, Savoy won out.

In the South, Naples, Gaeta, Salerno and Palermo were the centres of power and originally part of the Byzantine empire (the empire of the East). Naples prevailed and eventually become a fief of a Bourbon branch, independent of, but allied to the French and Spanish Bourbons.

The coinage developed with these developments. Look for centres of power in Milan, Venice, Rome and Naples with foreign influences. You noticed foreign influences already. Venice used the Flemish Kronenthaler for some years as a unit of account. This was due to the Kronenthaler being slightly lighter than those of Vienna.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline KennyisaG

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Re: Understanding Italian currencies
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2014, 04:39:28 AM »
A lot of systems seem familiar, looking at Milan they used Escalins and Ducatons very much like Spanish Netherlands.

There is still some very blurred distinction when determining the currency of some Italian states. France had the livre tournois, Netherlands had the pond Vlaaems, so did the Italian states adopt the lira as their "pound"? Although your history seems correct (not to mention the similarity in Sicily and Naples' coinage), the coinage doesn't seem distinct like German north and south talers. Some states like Milan seem to change from Flemish pounds to liras and scudos after the shift of power from the Spanish to the Austrians in the mid-late 1700's.

I'd like to understand what coin or pound the states' coinage revolved around before I make some changes on Numista, but I will investigate more using the good information you provided.
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Offline constanius

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Re: Understanding Italian currencies
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2014, 06:55:31 PM »
As regards the Venetian Mint to 1423 this is the  best source.......Zecca: The Mint of Venice in the Middle Ages (Published in Association With the American Numismatic Society) by Alan M. Stahl.

ANE  Ancient Numismatic Enterprise  picture'
 


The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore/London; American Numismatic Society, New York, 2001. Hardcover, purple cloth: XV, 497 pages, illustrated through with many illustrations and figures.
Book Description:
"Within a few months of assuming the position of curator of medieval coins at the American Numismatic Society in 1980, Alan M. Stahl was presented with a plastic bag containing a hoard of 5,000 recently discovered coins, most of which turned out to be from medieval Venice. The course of study of that hoard (and a later one containing more than 14,000 coins) led him to the Venetian archives, where he examined thousands of unpublished manuscripts. To provide an even more accurate account of how the Zecca mint operated in Venice in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, Stahl commissioned scientific analyses of the coins using a variety of modern techniques, uncovering information about their content and how they had been manufactured. The resulting book, Zecca: The Mint of Venice in the Middle Ages, is the first to examine the workings of a pre modern mint using extensive research in original documents as well as detailed study of the coins themselves.
The first of the book's three sections traces the coinage of Venice from its origins in the ninth century as a minor, and unofficial, regional Italian coinage to its position at the dawn of the Renaissance as the dominant currency of Mediterranean trade. The second section, entitled "The Mint in the Life of Medieval Venice," illustrates the mechanisms of the control of bullion and the strategies for mint profit and explores the mint's role in Venetian trade and the emergence of a bureaucratized government. The third section, "Within the Mint,"examines the physical operations that transformed raw bullion into coins and identifies the personnel of the mint, situating the holders of each position in the context of their social and professional backgrounds.
Illustrated with photos of Venetian coinage from the world's major collections, Zecca also includes a listing of all holders of offices related to the medieval Venetian mint and summaries of all major finds of medieval Venetian coins.
About the Author
Alan M. Stahl served for twenty years as the curator of medieval coins for the American Numismatic Society, and is currently a visiting professor in the department of history at the University of Michigan. His previous books include The Merovingian Coinage of the Region of Metz and The Venetian Tornesello A Medieval Colonial Coinage"

It is on sale here at a remarkable low price, I have already received my copy from them.
http://www.vcoins.com/en/stores/ancient_numismatic_enterprise/9/product/zecca_the_mint_of_venice_in_the_middle_ages_published_in_association_with_the_american_numismatic_society_by_alan_m_stahl/510778/Default.aspx

Pat

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Understanding Italian currencies
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2014, 08:52:37 PM »
Here's some more to go on. I am skipping the middle ages. If you want to know about medieval Italy, let me know. The big contribution of renaissance Italy to numismatics is the natural portrait coin. Unsurprisingly, the archetype is called testone (from teste, head) of 8 grossi. The most influential testone is that of Milan (remember that the Papal states and the South are different), first issued in 1474. Charles II issued a tallero (from thaler) of 42 grossi (from gros tournois), which superseded the testone as benchmark coin. This explains that when Venice had become Austrian, it could strike MT thalers for circulation both in the Eastern Mediterranean and at home. The Austrian holdings also explain the use of the Kronenthaler: they drove out regular Austrian thalers for a few years because they were somewhat lighter (Gresham's law at work.) They were demonetised relatively quickly and they are not a sign of using any Southern Netherlands standard in Italy. The grosso was eventually re-named soldo, at which time, the testone became a lira. The soldo devalued with time until it became 1/20th of a lira, so that a typical Frankish system of 1 lira = 20 soldi = 240 denari was established.

The benchmark for gold was the ducat (from ducatus, doge) of Venice and the scudo (shield), in practice a double ducat. Some coins with the same weight and fineness are called zecchino (from zecca, mint). Copper was not issued much and there was no obvious standard. Later, when they were more popular, they acquired all kind of fancy names, but they were tariffed in terms of a silver coin, in the case of the North the soldo, in the Papal states the baioccho (1/100th scudo.) To judge smaller values, express them as fractions of the testone or the scudo.

Around 1600, the North became a battlefield, pitting the Spanish Habsburgs (the winners) against the kings of France (the losers). You will encounter coins called franco or real. Otherwise, Milano ruled, with important side shows running in Florence/Tuscany (De Medici) and what remained of Savoy, Venice falling prey to Austria.

The papal states' answer to the ducat and scudo was the giulio (from pope Julius II). In silver, the piastra was the benchmark, in time succeeded by a silver scudo. Copper coin denominations are best understood by taking the quattrino as pivotal. A baioccho was 6 quattrini and a scudo was 100 baiocchi. While the names are all different, the papal states' coins are connected to those of the North by easy conversion rates.

The South was dominated by what is known as the "two Sicilies". On the death of Alfonso I of Aragon, his possessions were divided between his sons. Naples and the mainland went to Fernando. Sicily went to Juan. The inheritance was united by a branch of the Spanish Habsburgs and called the kingdom of the two Sicilies. The benchmarks were the gold scudo, the silver taro of 20 grana and the copper tornese (from gros tourneys). To complicate things, but link the system to the rest of Italy, the carlin was introduced, tariffed at 10 grana as well ½ testone. The piastra was valued at 120 grana. Of the large silver coins, the silver oncia is 30 tari, while the gold oncia was set at 6 ducats (3 scudi).

From here on, the story is first a slow conversion to the decimal system, starting during the Napoleonic wars, followed by a convergence on the lira. Yell if you need help on this period.

Peter
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 10:56:07 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.