The Vatican’s finances were in a bad way in the 16th century. As the new pope, Sixtus V – here depicted on a 1588 silver coin – therefore relied on high taxes and rigorous saving. After a pontificate of only five years, he died as one of the richest rulers in Europe.
A manilla looks like a bangle, but its opening is too wide to be used as jewellery. In fact, Manillas were used for centuries as a currency by Europeans to trade with West African nations.
In ancient China, cowries were used as a substitute for money for centuries as they were coveted and resembled one another. Imitations of cowries later led to the introduction of metal money. And, above all, they simply are beautiful to look at!
This is a boar’s tusk. On a group of islands east of Australia, wealth is traditionally quantified using pigs as a unit of measurement. Circular boar’s tusks are still used as bride price or atonement money – and they even adorn the national flag of Vanuatu.
The doge was the highest official of Venice – and lost more and more of his power as time went on. In the 1470s, Niccolò Tron became the only doge to be portraited on a coin, the Lira Tron, which was named after him.
In 1340, England’s King Edward III defeated France in a sea battle – the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War. He celebrated this victory in 1344 with a new gold coin, the noble. For centuries, the noble was an extremely popular coin on the continent, too.
Matapan is the Arabic term for the enthroned Christ on the reverse of a heavy Venetian silver coin introduced around 1200. Today, however, you will put together the obverses’ motif: St Mark who presents the banner to the head of state.
On this silver coin from AD 1270, Charles of Anjou calls himself Senator of Rome – but he was actually the King of Sicily! Put the puzzle together and you will find the unusual legend.
In the 10th century, Harald Bluetooth introduced a standardized coinage system in Denmark. His half-bracteates were wafer-thin, which is why the motif struck on the obverse could also be seen on the reverse.
When Alfred ruled over the West Saxons in the 9th century, Vikings raided Britain, his homeland. Alfred forged an alliance between numerous small realms and drove out the invaders. You can see his picture on this silver penny.