Hungarian Gold Forint

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The forint (proper plural: forintok) is the current currency of Hungary which had historical beginnings in a gold coin of a similar name. The gold forint was originally a coin of Florentine origin, the florin, which was later adopted by Hungary as a currency of its own. The original gold forint was in fact nothing more than the Florentine gold coin, which was minted in Florence and then shipped or consigned to various areas of Europe for use as general currency for large transactions and trade. The use of gold forints in Hungary began in 1252, where they had a borrowed form of currency in the Florentine fiorino d’oros. By 1325, the Hungarians began to mint their own version of the Florentine gold coins and adopted the name florentinus, which was eventually shortened to forint, a move which began with the rule of Charles I of Hungary. These early examples of gold forints bore striking resemblance to its Florentine predecessor, with symbolism often bordering on the iconographic styles then popularly used in the busts of Florentine currency (in imitation of the Byzantine styles of portraiture).[1]

Originally following the practice of incorporating saint’s icons into coinage, it was not until the middle of the 1500s that the gold forint began to change into an iconic ‘imperial’ style currency that featured the bust of rulers of the past and present alongside Latin legends proclaiming their sovereignty. The earliest types of gold forints usually only bore heraldic arms with legends that attributed the arms origins to one Hungarian king or other on the obverse, with the reverse side usually depicted an iconographic rendering of a saint (usually St. John the Baptizer or St. Matthew). Later on, the aesthetics of the coinage changed and it began to incorporate imagery of local rulers as well as the national coat of arms, in the stead of personal arms as depicted in earlier examples of coins. As with the previous practice of depicting saints in their coinage, the latter examples of the gold forint also featured the image of saints, although these were not typical saints of the Catholic faith but local kings that were canonized as saints by the Church. Some of the most well-known Saint-Kings were Matyas Hunyadi (Matthias Corvinus), Istvan I (Stephen I of Hungary), and Ladislavs (Ladislaus I of Hungary), all of which were commonly depicted in latter examples of the gold forints of the 1500s. In keeping with the practice, the legends of the coins on the obverse bore the names of the depicted saints in Latin, while the obverse bore the legend of stating the current king, also written in Latin, usually accompanied by the phrase ‘REX D G VNGARIE’ (Rex Dei Gratia Ungaria / Ungarie – By the Grace of God King of Hungary).[2] By the middle period of its production, the gold forint was subdivided into 100 Krajczar or kreuzers, a type of silver coin used as general currency among the masses. The use of gold coinage among the poor was uncommon, and it was only commonly found in the hands of the elite.

Eventually, the production of the gold forint continued until the annexation of Hungary to the Austrian empire, where it was later referred to as the Austro-Hungarian gulden or Austrian florin. By the early 1900s, the production of gold forints and its related coinage ceased, to be replaced by non-gold coins and paper money. On the 1st of August 1946, the forint was once again reintroduced as current, although it became base-metal coinage.

The production of gold forints resumed shortly thereafter, but no longer as legal tender. Gold forints minted today are usually used as bullion coins and are expressly minted for commemorative and numismatic purposes.[3] They are unique in that they often come in piedfort versions – coins that are slightly heavier than normal, for bullion purposes. Many modern gold forints are imitations of medieval coinage.[4] Early gold forints are scarce and highly-prized by numismatists, while modern gold forints are highly sought-after by both collectors and bullion investors for their value and beauty.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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