Historical Coinage "Cheat Sheet"

This is not a scholarly work.  What is is, is a guide that will hopefully help to give a rough idea of ancient coinages in Europe and the Middle East during the historical period.  It is not intended to cover the field in dry scholarly depth, as it is unlikely that anyone could create an absolute value chart for the whole of history in less than a thousand pages; this, then, is a condensation, a "Cheat Sheet," if you will, for people who have an interest in the subject, but it's not enough to spend a great deal of time studying it. You may notice that some coins were left out; this is due to either my ignorance, a lack of information on the coins of a particular region, or else those coins made a miniscule impact on the monetary scene.

Unfortunately, there are far too many variables to compare truly the purchase power of these coins over time and in different areas.  In general, however, until c.1492 it could be assumed that there was a rough equivalency in purchase power between coins of a similar form.

A variety of materials were used to manufacture coins:

  • (b) Bronze:
    Specific Gravity (sg) (or grams/cc) = 7.8
  • (bl) Billon:
    an alloy of "base" metal, containing copper, tin, lead, and a little silver. Proportions vary.
    • sg Copper = 8.9
    • sg Tin = 7.31
    • sg Lead = 11.35
    • sg Silver = 10.5
  • (br) Brass:
    May also be the alloy referred to as "Orichalcum", which was not quite brass and not quite bronze.
    • sg Brass, Red = 8.7
    • sg Brass, Yellow = 8.47
  • (c) Copper:
    Please note the Greeks and Romans did not always diferentiate between bronze and copper in coinage.
  • (e) Electrum:
    An alloy of Silver and Gold, which has between 35 and 80 per cent gold.
  • (g) Gold:
    This was never totally pure and often seriously debased.
    • sg Gold = 19.32
  • (cg) "Crown Gold"
    22 carat.
  • (s) Silver:
    Until after 1700 or so, Silver was the most important metal for money, and ranged in purity from the "White" or pure silver, to the base "Black", or silver so impure it was actually dark in color.

"Worth" is based on the silver penny, which was, more or less, a standard coin throughout history. This chart is not exact, nor can it cover all the fluctuations of a coin's value due to debasement or other economic fluctuations.

Coins marked with an asterisk have only an estimated value given. Coins marked with brackets are assumed to have existed, but no samples exist. Coins marked with an exclamation point (!) indicate a name in English as opposed to the appropriate language of the coin.

Ancient Coinages (c.600 B.C.E. - c.400 C.E.)
Value Pre Hellenic Persian Pre-Hellenic Greece HellenicWorld Roman Republic (c200-31 BCE) Early Roman Empire
(31 BCE -c.200)
Later Roman Empire (c.200-c.400) Eastern Roman Empire
1500 Talent
60 Stater (g)
40 Stater (g)
25 Mina Aureus (g) Aureus (g) Solidus (g)
20 Daric (g) *Stater (g) Stater (g)
8.3 Tremissis (g)
2.5 Dekadrachma
2 Double Denarius / Antonnianus (s) *Follis (s)
1 Siglos (s) *Stater (s) / *Owl (s) "Stater" (s) / Tetradrachm (s) Didrachm / Denarius (s) Denarius (s) Denarius (s) Siliqua (s)
.5 *Stater (g) "Stater" (g) /  Didrachm (s) Quinarus (s) Quinarus (s)
.3 Quinarius (b)
.25 Drachm / Half Stater Iis/Sestertius (s) Sestertius (s) Sestertius (s)
.16 Hecte
.125 Triobol / Hemidrachm Dupondus (br) Dupondus (b)
.1 As
.08 Hemihecte
.06 Aes Grave (b) / As (c) As (b)
.04 Obol (s,c)
.03 Triens (b) Semis (b)
.02 Hemiobol (s,c)
.016 Quadrans (b)
.015 Sextans (b)
.0104 Tetramorion (s)
.0075 Uncia (b)
.0052 Hemitartemorion / Chalkos (c)
It should be mentioned that the Stater, or "standard," is a name without meaning in context of worth, as it could refer to nearly any sort of coin. For example: Lydian Staters (c.700 B.C.) were made of electrum. Aegina Staters were silver & called "Turtles" because of the picture of the Turtles on the face of the coin. Corinthian Staters were silver and called "Colts" because of the picture of the Pegasi. Athenian Staters were called "Owls" and came in both Gold and Silver. Macedonian Staters, minted by Philip II, were gold and bore a picture of Apollo and a Chariot. All of these were worth varying amounts, in various places.

Dark Ages Coinages (c.400 - c 1000)
Value Byzantine Empire Merovingian Carolingian Germany Britain Anglo-Saxon Scandinavian
240 Pound
160 Mark
30 Libre Mancus Mancus
25 Solidius / Histamenon (g) Solidi (g) "Gold Stater" / Aurie (g) "Gold Dinar" (g)
16 Ore
8.5 Thrymsa (g)
8.3 Tremissis (g) Tremissis / Triens (g) [Triens (g)]
4 Shilling
1 Hexagram (s) Deniers (s) Deniers(s) Denars(s) Denarius (g) Sceat/Penny (s) Penny (s)
.5 Half Deniers (s) Half Penny (s) Half Penny (s)
.25 *Follis (b) / 40 Nummian Sestertius (b) Farthing (s) Farthing (s)
.125 20 Nummia (b)
.06 10 Nummia (b)
.03 5 Nummia (b)
.006 Nummia (b)
???? Ortagh
There is a difference between a "Standard of Value" and a "Means of Exchange." A Standard of Value, often also called a Money of Account, is not a form of money, but an estimate of what something is worth. For instance, the Pound or Pound Sterling is a Standard of Value, and not a form of money: at least it wasn't until the recent British coinage changes. On the other hand, the Sovereign was a coin that originally had the value of one Pound of silver. A Mark was a measure of weight indicating half a pound. "Means of Exchange", on the other hand, covers whatever material objects or abstractservices that two people will agree are equitable. During the "Dark Ages" and the "Middle Ages," the Means of Exchange included, coins, food, spices, cloth, clothing, jewels and jewelry, animals, physical labor, and even in some cases, loaves of bread baked to a standard size and weight.

As for the supply of coins, for the most of the period between the collapse of the Roman Empire and the spread of the economic empire of the Italian city states, the actual coinage remained in the hands of the nobility. This is not to say that the nobles actually used the coins, it's just that the coins were "held": "hoarded" might also be an appropriate term. Some sources have suggested that coinage often made the "jump" from the catagory of money into that of jewelry, i.e., something pretty one might keep about the home, but really had no use. Therefore, although the price for an item might be set in what seems to be an amount of money, that price was rarely, if ever, paid in money. This sheds an interesting light on the giving and receiving of gifts among the nobility, or people of high office.

Middle Ages Coinages (c.1000 - 1500)
Value France England Germany Italy and the Papal States Spain Arabia Byzantine Empire
240 Livre Pound Lira
80 Rose-Noble / Noble / Angel (g)
72 Florin (g)
50 Florin (g)
40 Half Noble (g)
24 Bexant (g) Fiorino / Ducato / Zecchino / *Florin / Ducat / Zeccino / "sequins" (g) Maravedi (g) Dinar (g) Solidus / Nomisma (g)
20 Quarter Noble
12 Sol/Douzain "Leopard"/Shilling Soldo (s)
10 Dizain Excellente (g)
8.3 Tremissis (g)
8 Double Gros (s) Ducato *Ducat?
6 Sixain Sesino
5 Fiorino *Florin (s)
4 Gros Tournois (s) / Florette Groat (s) Kreuzer / Groschen (s) Grosso (s) Groat (s)
3 Liard (s)
2.4 Fiorino *Florin (s)
2 Floring (s)
1 Denier (s) Penny (s) Bracteat / Heller / Pfenning (s) Denaro / Bolognini(s) Dinero (s) Dirham (s) Hexagram(s)
.5 Half Denier / Rouen Penny (s) Half Penny (s)
.25 Farthing (s) Oncia Fals (c) Follis (b)
.125 20 Nummia (b)
.06 10 Nummia (b)
.042 [Obole (c)]
.03 5 Nummia(b)
.006 Nummia (b)
???? *"sequins"? *Ecu?
The Florentine gold "Fiorino" was first issued around a.d.1250 to replace the Byzantine Nomisma and the Arabic Dinar. It maintained a stable value for about a century and a half, before it began to fluctuate. The "Florin" was later issued at a variety of worths. At one point, the Italians even recognized a golden Florin that was worth ten silver Florins. The Ducato was released as a "replacement" for the Florin, and in, Italy, it maintained its value until the end of the Venetian Republic.

It is important to note that the variety of coins called Florins, Ducats, Doubloons, and Gulders across the face of Europe, were generally copies of the originals, or coins merely named after the original; it is therefore impossible to accurately place a value to these. Also, these coins often came in a silver or gold version. Where they were adopted, they generally became the generic term for gold coins; therefore, the values given here are based on educated conjecture.

The difficulties in following the value of coinage include an extensive debasement of the coinage later in the era and the economic upheavals of the Black Death, both of which contributed to major inflation. By mid-1400s, prices had finally fallen back below their 1300's levels, and currencies were beginning to return to "normal": then Columbus contacted the Americas. The subsequent glut of precious metals on the European Market eventually destroyed any hope of a stable international economic base for centuries afterwards.

Reniassance and Enlightenment Era Coinages (c.1500 - 1800)
Value *rough* 2000 equivalent England France Spain Garmany Holland Italy and the Papal States
180 Louis d'Or
64 Doublon de a Ocha (g)
60 *Ecu d'Or
50 Cincintino (s) -Never circulated
40 Rose-Ryal (g) 8 Scudi
30 Sovereign (g); Sword Dollar (s)
21 Guinea/Spade (g)
20 ($500) Pound Sovereign (cg); "Broad" Livre Ducat / Sequin (g) Ducat / Pistole / Gulden (g) Ducatoon / Ducat / Ducato 4 Scudi / Doublone
16 Pistole (s) Pistole / Doublon (g)
15 Ryal (g)
10 Half Pound / Double Crown (cg); Angel (g) ; 1/5 Sovereign? Leone
8 Escudo (g) Lion Dollar Guistina
5 Crown (s); Crown (cg); Half Angel (g) Sou / Sol Florin (s) Scudo (g) / Ducatone (s)
4 ($100) [Dollar] Piastre / Peso / Duro (s) Taler / Thaler Daalder (s)
2.5 1/2 Crown (s); Half Crown (cg); Quarter Angel (g) Gulden (s)
2 Florin (s) Quart D'Ecu
1 ($25) Testoon/Shilling (s) Testoon / Franc (s) Escalin (s) Teston / Lira (s)
.5 Six Pence (s) Real "Bit" (s)
.33 Groat (s) Grosi / Tornese (s)
.24 Three Pence (s)
.2 Stuiver (c)
.16 Half Groat / "Dandyprat" / Two Pence (s)
.125 Three Ha'pence (s) Cuarto (s)
.083 Penny (s)
.065 Octavo
.06 Three Farthings (s)
.041 ($1) Ha'Pence / Half Penny (s)
.02 Farthing
.015 Maravedi (c)
.0825 Baiocco / Septino (c)
About 1519, a silver mine in St. Joachim's Valley, or St. Joachimsthaler, in Baveria began to produce it's own coinage. The coin they produced, the Thaler, gradually found acceptance in nearly every country in Europe (I suspect this is due to the rapidly declining value of the silver penny). This coin was generally known as the Thaler, the Crown, the Piastre or the Escudo, as well as by a variety of other names. As the Thaler, it remained in use in Germany until 1908, and as the Dollar, it is still in use today.

19th and early 20th Centuries Coinages (1800 - Up to World War II)

Great Britain / United Kingdom

United States France Germany Austria-Hungary Denmark-Norway-Sweden
100 5 Pound Coin (g)
80   Double Eagle (g) 100 Francs (g)
40   Eagle (g) 50 Francs (g)
21 Guinea (g)
20 Sovereign, or Pound Sterling (g) Pound (bl)* "Wagonwheel" (g)
(The Pound is not a coin, but an increment of money used for accounting)
16   Napoleon (g) / 20 Francs (g)
10 Half Sovereign (g)
8   10 Francs (g)
5 Crown (s)
4 Double Florin (s) Dollar (s) 5 Francs (g,s)
3   Thaler / 3 Marks
2.5 Half Crown (s)
2 Florin (s) Shilling (bl)* .50 Cents (s) 2 Marks
1.6   2 Francs (s)
1.1   Crown / Krone / Krona
1  Shilling (s) .25 cents / "2 bits" (s, bl) 1 Mark / 100 Pfennings
.83   Crown / Kroner
.8   1 Franc / 100 centimes (s)
.5 6 Penny, Sixpence (s) 50 Pfennings Florin
.4   50 Centimes (s)
.25 3 Penny, Thruppence (s)
.2 Newpence (bl)*
1.6   20 Centimes (s)
.1   Pfenning
.083 Penny (br)
.08   10 Centimes (br)
.041 1/2 Penny, Ha'pence (br)
.04   Penny (c) Sou / 5 Centimes (br)
.02 Farthing (br)
.016   2 Centimes (br)
.008   1 Centime (br)

*relative placement with regards to the post-1967 decimalization currency - although it's impossible to suggest what these are worth relative to the others.

Value Italy Greece Spain Portugal Russia Egypt Turkey
33.3         Imperial (g), 15 Rubles    
22.2         10 Ruble Piece    
20.5           Pound (Egyptian), 100 Piastres  
19.17             Pound (Turkish)
17.99           Pound (Turkish)  
16 20 Lira (s)            
11.1         5 Ruble Piece    
8 10 Lira (s)            
4 5 Lira (s)   Duro (s), 5 Peseta Milreis (s)      
3.8             Mejidieh, 20 Piastres
2.22         Ruble, 100 Kopeks    
2       Coroa (s)      
1.19             Ruble (Russian)
.96             Cheirek
.8 Lira (s), 100 Centesimi Drachma (s), 100 Lepton Peseta (s), 100 Centimo        
.5             Dinar,100 Paras
.36       Tostao (bl)      
.19             Piastre* / Gurush
.09             1/2 Piastre, 20 Paras
.08     Perro Grande (c), 10 Centimo        
.05             Onlik (s),10 Paras
.04 Soldo (br), 5 Centesimi Pendara (br), 5 Lepton Perro Chico (c), 5 Centimo        
.022         Kopek    
.0205           Piastre (Kirsh / Kurush), 10 Milliemes  
.02       Vintem (c), 20 Reis      
.008 Centesimi (br) Lepton (br) Centimo (c)        
.005             Para
.002           Millieme  
.001       Real (c)      
.0004             Churuk / "Bad Piastre"
*In Beruit, Damascus & Jerusalem:
1 Piastre (Turkish). = .15
1 Pound (Turkish) = 14.67
1 Pound (English) = 19.92

In Jaffa:

1 Piastre (Turkish) = .13
1 Pound (Turkish) = 12.75
1 Pound (English) = 19.92

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This page was created by Marc Carlson
It was last edited 25 April 2005