List of Medieval Coins (150+ Terms with Photos!)
What Coins Did People Use in the Middle Ages? What Were Medieval Coins Called? And What Were They Made Of? Let’s Find Out!
This list of medieval coins includes units of account and money from all over the Western and Mediterranean world throughout the entire Middle Ages. The coins in this list are terms I’ve accumulated during my own reading and research over the years, until I decided to put them into a glossary and used Wikipedia to complete it. I’ve had the time and patience to provide a photo and rough description of each coin to the best of my ability. But especially because this glossary of medieval coinage was mostly designed to aid the fiction writer in making their worlds more realistic, I recommend that you do further research on the terms that you find here if you wish to confirm the truth and learn more about them. With that said, this list, if read from top to bottom like an article, is also designed to add context on how these coins and their relevant terms are related to each other, in order to provide historical insight into how ancient and medieval money evolved throughout early modern times.
If any of the descriptions I’ve provided for each coin here should be adjusted, or if you know other medieval coins and means of exchange that I should add to this list, please contact me and I will aptly make the changes. All the best in your research and writing!
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Glossary of Coins from the Middle Ages:
Half-pence / Halfpenny– An English copper or silver coin equaling half a pence, first minted circa 1100.
Pence – A penny in medieval England first minted by Anglo-Saxons circa 600; a pence was primarily a subdivision of the English “pound” which was not a coin but a unit of account equaling 240 pence. *“unit of account” = not a coin but an accepted amount of value received in coins or other means of exchange.
Thruppence / Threepence – A sliver coin minted by King Edward VI of England in 1551, worth three pence. Like the sixpence below, this coin was issued to combat the debasement of the pound during the 16th century, when the twopence or tuppence was also made.
Sixpence / Tanner – A silver coin minted by King Edward VI of England in 1551, worth six pence. The Scots called the sixpence a tanner.
Pound (quid) – A pound of silver sterling (92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals); worth 240 pence or 20 shilling; the pound was the main unit of account in medieval England.
Sovereign – An English gold coin, the first coin worth one pound, introduced in 1489 by King Henry VII. The half-sovereign wasn’t introduced until King Henry VIII issued it in 1544. The image here shows a sovereign from the 16th century.
Crown – An English gold coin worth 1/4 of a pound, issued by King Henry VIII in 1526, also known as “crown of the double rose”, inspired by the French écu. *See écu below.
Half crown – An English gold coin worth 1/8 of a pound, issued by King Edward VI in 1549.
Farthing – An English copper or silver coin worth 1/4 pence, or 1/10 denarii. *See Denarius below.
Groat (grout) – An English medieval silver coin worth four pence; also a coin in medieval Scotland. Also, groat was a nickname for various coins throughout medieval Europe, so that the term also simply meant a small amount of money. As a coin, however, the groat was derived from the German groschen and Italian grosso. *See Grosso and Groschen below.
Half-groat / Dandyprat – An English medieval silver coin worth two pence minted during the reign of King Henry VIII; also, a nickname for a twopence coin. In late 16th-century England newly minted two-penny (half-groat) was known as a dandyprat.
Shilling (schilling) / Testoon / Tester – A unit of account in medieval England equal to 12 pence or 1/20th of a pound, being a subdivision of the English pound, the value of which has changed throughout the Middle Ages like all currencies in this list. A shilling, as a coin rather than a unit of account, also became known as a testoon or tester in 16th-century England.
Leopard – A 14th-century English golden coin worth 72 pence or 6 shilling, issued by King Edward III and meant for trade throughout Europe. The leopard was also known as the “English florin” and a version of it with a different design was known as a double leopard.
Noble – An English gold coin worth 80 pence, first minted under King Edward III in the 14th century.
Angel – A 15th-century English gold coin worth 80 pence, inspired by the French angelot or ange coin, and it was also known as an angel-noble. The half-angel was introduced in 1472.
Rose noble – A 15th-century English gold coin worth 120 pence, considered a new version of the noble.
Ora – A unit of account in medieval England equal to 16 or 20 pence, may come in the form of many different coins or metal nuggets.
Mancus – A unit of account in medieval England equal to 30 pence, may come in the form of many different coins or metal nuggets.
Mark – A unit of account in medieval England equal to 160 pence, may come in the form of many different coins or metal nuggets. The word “mark” is derived from the Latin word marca and was used as a unit of account varying in worth throughout medieval Europe, like the Kölner Mark in the Holy Roman Empire for example. The mark was also a coin in various medieval states, like the 16th-century Reichsthaler for example, not just a unit of account.
Örtug – A silver Swedish coin minted by King Albert in 1370. Plural is örtugar
Öre – A Swedish unit of account in the Middle Ages. One öre was equal to 3 örtugar or 1/8th of a mark. The word öre was derived from Latin aureus.
Penning – A Norwegian coin first minted in 995 by Olaf Tryggvason, inspired by Anglo-Saxon coinage.
Pfennig – The Old High German word for denarius in the Holy Roman Empire, which came to be worth 1/100 of the Dutch mark in the 16th century. Keep in mind that there were many earlier medieval versions and later early modern versions of the pfennig in various Germanic states, such as the scharfer pfennig, the lilienpfennig, the gehulchter pfennig, the schüsselpfennig, the großpfennig, the ewiger pfennig, the weckelerpfennig, the otto adelheid pfennig, the sachsenpfennig, and many, many more.
Denarius – A silver coin from ancient Rome (equal to 4 sesterces) that continued to circulate throughout medieval Europe, especially in Italy, until it was replaced by the Italian grosso in the 13th century. The plural of denarius is denari or denarii. *See Grosso below.
Dinar – A gold Islamic coin first issued in the 7th century, derived from the Latin word denarius. The half-dinar was called a masmudina.
Denier – Known as a denaro in Italy, the denier was a medieval French coin also known as the “tour penny“, issued by Charlemagne in the late 8th century; 1 denier was worth 1/10th of a sou. *See Sou below.
Sou (Sol) – The sol, later called sou, was a medieval French coin derived from the late-Roman/Byzantine solidus, minted by Visigoths in Gaul in the 5th century. In late medieval and early modern France, the sou tournois was also a unit of account (80.88 grams of silver). *See Solidus below.
Gros – A 13th-century French silver coin worth 1 sou.
Livre – A French gold coin issued by Charlemagne equal to one pound of silver or 240 denier. The word “livre” is derived from the Latin word libra meaning “weight”. The livre tournois (tour pound) was also a unit of account equal to a pound of silver in late medieval and early modern France. Other related terms of note for you to research at your pleasure are sous parisis and double tournois.
Franc – The “French franc” was a medieval French gold coin issued in the 14th century, worth 1 livre tournois. Different versions of the French franc are known as franc à cheval and franc à pied.
Solidus – The solidus, later know as a soldus, was a gold coin introduced in the Late Roman Empire to replace the aureus. The solidus later became the main gold coinage of Byzantium, called a bezant, until it was replaced in the 10th century by the histamenon and the tetarteron. *See histamenon and tetarteron below.
Soldo – A medieval Italian silver coin issued in the 12th century. Plural of soldo is soldi. Soldi were the measurements of value that non-Italians were often forced to use when hiring condottieri (medieval Italian mercenaries). The soldo was derived from the Roman and Byzantine coin solidus/solidi.
Bezant – A Byzantine solidus, used throughout medieval Europe and named after the Greek city Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul). A bezant was also simply called nomisma, the ancient Greek word for “money”.
Nummus – A bronze coin issued in 5th- to 7th-century Byzantium. Plural is nummis or nummi. Nummus was also a generic word for “coin” in Rome and southern Italy during Late Antiquity.
Follis – A Roman bronze coin issued during the coinage reform of Diocletian (3rd century). The follis was re-introduced in Byzantium in the late 5th century when it contained 4% silver. Plural of follis is folles.
Trifollaro / Trifollaris – A copper coin minted by Normans in southern Italy during the 12th century, worth 3 folles.
Fals – A copper coin first minted by the Umayyad caliphate in the 7th century, derived from the Roman and Byzantine follis. In the 17th century, the Moroccan falus, a copper coin, was another derivative.
Dirham / Dirhem / Dirhm – Derived from the ancient Greek drachma, a dirham was a unit of weight (1/400th of an oka) as well as a standardized silver coin used throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Persia beginning in the 7th century.
Maravedí – A gold or silver coin used by Spaniards, Portuguese and Moors on the Iberian Peninsula between the 11th and 14th centuries. Plural is maravedíes.
Dobla – An Iberian gold coin used from the 11th to 16th centuries, derived from the double maravedí and was also the Castilian word for the Muslim dinar, although 15th-century Castile also minted their own dobla castellana which was also known as a castellano.
Real – A Spanish silver coin first introduced in 14th-centry Castile under King Pedro I, worth 3 maravedíes. In the 18th century a pistareen was also a Spanish coin used in the Americas, worth two reales (plural of real). Also, the rial is an 18th-century Iranian subdivision of the Islamic dinar.
Peso / Piece of eight – “Piece of eight” is the English term for a Spanish dollar (peso) worth eight reales, first minted by the Spanish Empire in 1497. Venetian traders in the 16th century called the piece of eight a piaster or piastre. In literature, pieces of eight are often the coins mentioned by Carribean pirates.
Centesimo – Means “1/100” in Italian, a monetary unit used for calculation in medieval and early modern Italy (plural is centesimi). Likewise, the centésimo means 1/100 in Spanish. Interestingly, the balboa, worth 100 centésimos, replaced the peso as Panama’s official currency in 1904. Also, the lira, a monetary unity equivalent to 100 centesimi was introduced by the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in 1807 and was made to the match the price of the French franc at the time; the lira was also a late 19th- and 20th-century Italian coin equal to 20 soldi until the soldo and lira were replaced by the euro in 2002. The image here shows a 19th-century lira.
Groschen – “Grout” in German, derived from Latin denarius grossus which means “thick penny” because they were some of the largest coins you’d find in the medieval world. *See Groat above and Grosso below for more details.
Grosso – A medieval Italian silver coin worth six denarii. Plural is grossi. Like the German groschen and the English groat, nearly every European and Arabic nation after the 13th century had their own version of the groat and there were many variants. For example, the groschen’s image above shows a fürstengroschen from the 15th century. Then there was the Albanian grosh, the Slavonic hroš, the Dutch groot, the Estonian kross, the French gros and many more. The image here shows a Venetian gross from the mid-14th century. Sometimes, groats were also made of gold rater than silver, like the late 15th-century guldengroschen.
Thaler – A successor of the groschen, the thaler was a medieval silver coin of Germanic origin, used in Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century, which had many variations in spelling: taler, toler, thaller, etc. In Sweden, the thaler was known as a daler. Later in early modern Europe double thalers were also made.
Florin / Fioroni d’oro – A gold coin issued in Florence beginning in the mid-13th century. Because it was one of the few gold coins made in large quantities it became highly used throughout medieval Europe, and other nations even began to make their own versions, such as the English florin.
Guilder / Gulden – In the Holy Roman Empire, the guilder or gulden (golden coin) used to refer to a florin in the 13th century, however the guilder then became the official word for the Holy Roman Empire’s own homemade version of the florin in the 14th century. To illustrate, the image here shows the reverse side of a Florentine gulden. In the 17th century, a silver coin known as stuiver was used in the Netherlands, worth 1/20th of a Dutch gulden. Furthermore, a coin known as a vierlander (coin of the four provinces) emerged from 14th-century Burgundy as denomination for the various golden coins circulating around Holland, Flanders and neighboring provinces, and was also known as a dubbele groot because it was worth 2 Flemish groats.
Shekel – A coin used in ancient Mesopotamia, roughly 11 grams of silver, which later became the currency of Israel under the Maccabees. Shekels, eroded by time, still circulated in medieval treasure hoards like many ancient coins, and versions were struck in Jerusalem as late as the 1st and 2nd centuries AD during various Jewish revolts. The image here shows a Carthaginian shekel from circa 3rd century BC. In early times 60 shekels were worth one Athenian mina, and the mina was worth 1/60th of a talent or 100 drachmas.
Ducat / Ducket / Ducado – A gold coin first issued in Venice in the late 13th century, originally weighing 3.5 grams. Over time the ducat became an important coin for trade across Europe and was also known as a zecchino, short for “ducato de zecca” (ducat of the mint) when it became more standardized.
Sequin – A corruption of the Venetian word “zecchino”, the sequin refers to a 16th-century Venetian gold ducat to differentiate it from the silver ducats that Venice began to mint in the 16th century, and was used in Arabia as well as Europe.
Genovino / Genoin – A gold Genoese coin minted from the years 1252 to 1415. Genoa also minted subdivisions of the genovino: the quartarola, worth 1/4th of a genovino, and the ottavino, worth 1/8th of the genovino.
Double Patard – A Burgundian silver coin used in the 15th century, issued by Charles the Bold, when it also began to circulate in England.
Écu – “Écu” originally referred to the écu d’or, a French gold coin minted under Louis IX of France in 1266, then later it also referred to a French silver coin known as the écu d’argent. Later versions of the écu from the High Middle Ages are the écu à la chaise, the écu à la couronne and the écu au soleil.
Gigliato / Gillat / Carlino / Carleno – A silver coin issued in Naples by Charles II of Anjou in 1303 to replace the saluto d’argento which was made by Charles I of Anjou. In 1330, the gigliato was also minted by Robert the Wise in Provence. Gigliato was the widely known name for the coin although it was officially called the carleno (plural carleni), named after Charles II of Anjou. A double-gigliato was also the inspiration for the Byzantine stavraton. *See Stavraton below.
Quattrino – An ancient Italian coin also known as the quater denari that was still produced throughout medieval Central Italy, worth 4 denarii. Plural is quattrini. The image here shows a quattrino from the 15th century. Furthermore, to illustrate the quattrino’s legacy, Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued the crazia (plural crazie) in the mid-16th century at a value of 5 quattrini. The quattrino was finally replaced by the Italian lira in 1861 when Italy unified.
Giulio – A papal silver coin worth two grossi issued in the early 16th century, named after Pope Julius II. In Rome the giulio was also worth 10 baiocchi (the baiocco was an ancient Italian coin that still circulated in medieval Central Italy similarly to the quattrino).
Paolo – A papal silver coin worth 14 soldi, named after Pope Paul III and was made to replace the giulio in 1540. Plural is paoli.
Escudo – A Spanish gold coin worth 16 reales or 1 ducat, first issued in the mid-16th century. Also in the 16th century, the doubloon was a two-escudo gold coin worth 32 reales. The French called the doubloon a pistole. There was also a pistolet, a half-pistole, and many more denominations of the escudo. The image here shows a 17th-century escudo. In Portugal, the escudo was divided into 100 centavos.
Douzain – A French silver coin worth a dozen deniers (hence the name) issued by Charles VII in the 15th century. The douzain was only 25% silver, 70% copper and 5% lead.
Thrymsa – An Anglo-Saxon gold coin first minted in Canterbury and London in the mid-7th century, worth four Anglo-Saxon pence, and was inspired by the Roman tremissis of Late Antiquity. *See tremissis below.
Tremissis / Tremis – A Roman gold coin minted from the 4th to 8th centuries AD, which means “a third of a unit.” The semis, which means “half” was a Roman bronze coin that was no longer struck after the 3rd century BC, although Roman quadrans were struck as late as the 2nd century BC. Like the Anglo-Saxon thrysma above, early medieval Germans also produced a dremise and the Franks produced a tiers de sou all inspired by the tremmisis.
Trachy / Scyphate – Terms that refer to the cup-shaped Byzantine coins of the 11th-14th centuries, commonly of an alloy called billon, which is gold or silver majorly debased with copper.
Aspron – “Aspron” is simply the Byzantine name for any silver or silver-alloy coin, similarly how to nummus was the Roman name for a coin of any sort.
Hexagram – A Byzantine silver coin issued by Emperor Heraclius in the 7th century to help pay for a war with Sassanid Persia.
Miliaresion – A Byzantine silver coin issued in the 4th century, worth 1000 nummi. Plural is miliaresia. By the 7th century miliaresion became the alternative name for the hexagram coin above.
Hyperpyron – A word meaning “super-refined”, the hyperpyron is a Byzantine gold coin issued in the 11th century by Emperor Alexios I Komnenos. The coin was introduced to replace the solidus and nomisma coins which had become greatly debased over previous decades.
Stavraton / Stauraton – A Byzantine silver coin issued by Emperor John V Palaiologos in the mid-14th century. The stavraton was extremely heavy, weighed 8.5 grams, because it was designed to replace the hyperpyron as Byzantium’s highest value coin. A half-stavraton was also made, as well as a 1/8th-stavratron known as a doukatopoulon (Greek for “little ducat”).
Tetarteron – Meaning “quarter coin” because it is worth much less than a whole solidus, the tetarteron is a Byzantine gold coin first minted in the 960s by Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas alongside the heavier coin histamenon listed below.
Histamenon – Histamenon was the name given to the new Byzantine gold solidus after the teterteron, a lighter gold coin listed above, was issued in the 960s by Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas.
Sceat – An Anglo-Saxon silver coin dating back to the 7th century. Plural is sceattas. They were the coins used in Mercia under King Aethelbald.
Styca – A debased silver coin first minted by Æthelred I of Northumbria in the late 8th century, to replace the sceat in Northumbria. Production of stycas ceased after the Viking invasion of Northumbria in 867.
Tajadero – The Spanish word (meaning “chopping knife”) for the currency used by the Aztecs (who existed from 1300 to 1521) known today as Aztec axe money.
Wampum – Short for wampumpeag, wampum is beads and shells laced or weaved onto strings and was used for many things by Native American tribes (wampum was first recorded by Europeans in 1510) one of which uses was as a currency or means of exchange. Interestingly, wampum is somewhat (perhaps coincidentally) similar to the ancient Incan quipu.
List of Medieval Coins in Numbered Order:
- Half crown
- Rose noble
- Doublle Patard
Attribution: Images are from Wikipedia.org with creative commons licenses which allows me or you to share them. A few images which are not from Wikipedia.org are in the public domain.
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