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Old coins names
Coins have been a part of our lives for millennia, with commerce and trading centred around coins since the 6th Century BC. Each culture had their own currency or variation, and as such there are a huge number of old coin names that have been lost to time. Fortunately, the process of accurately recording transactions was as popular and vital two thousand years ago as it is today, and means that we do still know the names for a number of old coins.
A Lydian coin, one of the first ever gold coins.
Old coin names
Listing the names of every old coin in the world is beyond the remit of this page, but we will list a number of the most famous currencies, as well as old English coin names. Many of these coins are explored in further detail in our collectible coins section. Our range of numismatic coins is growing every week, providing our customers a chance to buy old coins at low prices, with the advantage of our high-quality service.
Below is a list of names for a number of ancient coins.
- Stater: The stater was one of the most prolific old coins in the ancient world. It originated in Greece, beginning as a silver ingot, and then eventually was produced as a silver coin. Gold stater coins were minted in some specific Greek regions, with Macedonia being claimed as a likely origin.
- Trite: The trite was one of the very first coins used. Found in the ancient Lydian civilisation, the Trite was made using electrum – a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver.
- Hekte: The hekte was another ancient Greek coin that was used for centuries. Hekte coins were originally made of electrum and would go on to also use gold and silver.
- Daric: The daric was a Persian gold coin. When Cyrus the Great conquered Lydia he brought coins back to Persia. Despite being widespread at the time, few daric coins exist today. When Alexander the Great invaded Persia he confiscated and melted down the daric coins for his own coinage.
- Siglos: The siglos was the silver sister to the daric – the Persian empire used a bi-metallic monetary system.
- Drachma: Eventually re-adopted by modern Greece, the drachma was originally used for about ten centuries, and covered some of the most famous periods of Greek history. The drachma was predominantly minted in silver, and had a number of denominations, such as the tetradrachm (commonly known as an owl).
- Aureus: The aureus was the coin that drove the Roman Empire. Issued from the 1st Century BC, until the 4th Century AD, the aureus was made of very high purity, 24 carat gold.
- Denarius: The denarius was the sister coin to the aureus, and was made of pure silver. The denarius had a lasting legacy; the abbreviated ‘d’ used when writing prices in denarius, has translated to the abbreviated ‘p’ in the British penny.
- Sestertius: The sestertius began life as a small silver coin, used only for very rare occasions. With the growth of the Roman Empire it became a large brass coin.
- Solidus: The solidus was the replacement to the aureus coin, introduced by Constantine. It would go on to influence much of medieval Europe’s currency, and would last until 1092 when Alexius I abolished it in favour of the hyperpyron.
- Tremissis: The ‘tremissis’ or ‘tremis’, was a small gold coin that was worth a third of a solidus. The coin would spread across Europe, and variants could be found in Anglo-Saxon, French and Germanic countries to name a few.
As the Roman Empire collapsed and the various countries of Europe became more defined, their coins split into national (or sometimes regional) variations.
England had a vast array of coins, with names, weights, and values changing regularly. The list below gives the names for a number of old English coins.
- Penny: The penny is synonymous with English coins, whether old or new. Stretching back to the formation of the English monarchy at the turn of the second millennium, the penny has remained until the present day.
- Crown: The crown was commonly made of silver, and was minted between 1707 and 1965. Rarer gold crown coins, were produced in the 16th and 17th centuries. 22 carat gold was for years known as ‘Crown Gold’ as a result of these coins.
- Farthing: The farthing was most commonly known for the Victorian period onwards, when it was made of copper, and then bronze. Earlier silver three-farthing coins did exist during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
- Florin: The florin was a name used for old coins across Europe. Originating in Florence, the florin was introduced to England in 1344 as a gold coin. The attempt failed and the coins were melted down. The silver florin was brought back in 1849.
- Sovereign: The gold sovereign is one of the most popular British coins to this day. Originally a circulating coin, it is now used for bullion investment purposes. Produced in 22 carat gold, the sovereign as it is now known was introduced in 1817 following the Great Recoinage.
- Groat: The groat was a silver coin worth four pence, and was introduced in the 13th Century. The coin was removed from circulation during the reign of Queen Victoria, but remained in production for colonial use.
- Guinea: The gold guinea coin was a precursor to the sovereign. Produced in 22 carat gold, guineas were named for the region in Africa, where much of the gold used to make the coins was mined.
- Noble: The noble was a gold coin used during the 14th and 15th centuries.
- Ryal: The Ryal was a gold coin with many names – the Rose Noble, Rose Ryal and Spur Ryal. Due to low mintage numbers the Ryal is quite scarce these days, and highly collectable.
- Unite: The unite gold coin is one of the oldest variations of a pound coin. It was introduced during the reign of James I, and was named for his efforts to unite the countries of England and Scotland.
- Laurel: The laurel replaced the unite as the pound coin for England. Produced between 1619 – 1625 the laurel is a unique old coin.
- Shilling: The shilling has a history stretching back hundreds of years, but was actually first minted in the early-Tudor period. It was prevalent during the Victorian period, and many beautiful examples exist of the silver shilling.
- Sixpence: The sixpence was a mass circulating silver coin, commonly known as a ‘tanner’ or ‘sixpenny bit’. The sixpence was first minted in 1551, but – like the shilling – was minted in significant numbers in the Victorian reign.
Old European gold coin names
Europe was the major economic powerhouse of the world for most of the medieval period, and the coins of Europe spread to every corner of globe. Old European gold coin names are numerous, and occasionally overlapped with each other as languages melded, and military campaigns saw land claimed by different rulers.
Below are some of the names for old gold coins that came out of Europe.
- Schilling: The schilling had numerous variations across Europe, and helped inspire the name for the English shilling coin.
- Franc: The main currency of France for centuries, the franc was produced in several gold denominations. The gold franc celebrated the lavish French royalty, as well as the Emperors of France.
- Pound: Although most commonly known as the currency of Britain, the pound was also the choice for Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and a number of other countries throughout the years.
- Guilder: The guilder was most commonly associated with the Netherlands, and was the shortening of a phrase that literally meant ‘gold penny’.
- Mark: The mark was the currency for a number of European countries, but is most famous for its use in Germany, in which it was known as the Deutsch Mark.
- Lira: The lira was predominantly used in Italy, but was also used in Lebanon and Syria, and is still used in Turkey. The lira was the basis for the currency models in England and France as well as Italy. Libra meant a troy pound in Latin; with coin values being determined by their weights, the word would spread to the English pound, French livre, and Italian lira.
- Escudo: The escudo, Portuguese for shield, was a currency used in Portugal, Spain, and Latin America. There was also a gold coin type known as the escudo, which featured a shield as part of its design.
- Ducat: The ducat was used by several countries across Europe, but was most famously known in Italy. The name was derived from the Latin ‘ducalis’ meaning duke or dukedom. The Venetian ducat was well known, but Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia also produced their own versions.