Gold Florin

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What Is A Gold Florin?

The gold florin, or fiorino d'oro, was originally a type of gold coin first struck from 1252 until 1533, although other types of coins (both gold and otherwise) have been made to follow its original specifications and have been used as currency in many parts of Europe - from the early 11th century until the latter part of the 16th to 17th century.

Originally a coin minted by the Republic of Florence (hence the name according to some sources), the florin was one of the earliest gold coins that were minted in quantities large enough to greatly affect the economical and commercial evolution of trade. As with the Venetian zecchino or sequin, the florin is remarkable for its unchanged design since the moment of its inception until its eventual discontinuation. The coin is also remarkable for its having been adopted by many other countries as a form of currency, whether made from gold or otherwise, sharing similar or wholly dissimilar values with no more than the name and a few ‘standard’ features to link the disparate coins.

Originally referred to as the fiorino d’oro, (lit. ‘little flower of gold’) either due to its place of origin (Florence), or due to the symbol of the fleur de lis which it sported on the obverse, the coin featured a figure of John the Baptist wearing a hair shirt on the reverse.[1] The obverse symbol is usually credited as being the origin of the name fiorino d’oro, along with the accompanying inscription ‘FLORENTIA’ around the heraldic symbol itself.

Florence was, at the time a great center of banking and commerce, and under the rule of the shrewd and masterfully calculating Medici family, it prospered, becoming renowned throughout Europe as the center of trade and financing. The florin thus became an important coin and a standard for larger transactions in Europe. Due to its being at the hub of monetary matters, the florin was later imitated by many other nations, amounting to as much as one hundred and fifty European states and local authorities imitating and developing their own versions of the florin [2]

The Florentine fiorino d’oro was made from 23 to 24 carat gold, weighing in at 3.5 grams or 0.1125 troy ounces. Other imitations varied in size, weight, and gold purity (with some latter types of non-Florentine florins being made metals other than gold).

While the Florentine gold florin remained very consistent in its aesthetic design and gold content, other European coins based on the fiorino d’oro did away with the fleur de lis and John the Baptism symbolism and replaced it with local heraldic devices and religious or regal iconography and inscriptions of their own.

The coin was a great success and was used as a sort of universal currency for many transactions all across Europe: However not every Gold Florin released by other countries fared so well. The English gold florin was withdrawn very quickly; owing to confusion over the gold-silver ratio the coin was highly unpopular. Now, only three English gold florins are known, and they are worth a fortune. [3] It survived the inevitable debasement that was common in many other types of currency. The only drawback to this seeming permanence is the inevitable deflation that came about due to the increase or drastic change in economical standards, eliciting a change of the value of coinage. Despite this, the florin retained its original worth (albeit only in a sense), and when it was later abolished sometime during the latter part of the 1500s, its use as a measure of value remained well after its production as a gold coin ceased.[4]

Today, gold florins remain in general pop-culture as a period coin, commonly employed in historical fiction. It has even been incorporated as a currency in a number of video games, among them the popular action adventure game Assassins Creed, and the strategy game Medieval. Gold florins are highly sought after by numismatists, although it is bullion investors that have a keener eye on acquiring them.

Gold Florin - References:


Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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