Interesting Questions, Facts, and Information
Coins and Banknotes
|The mark became Germany's currency in 1873, shortly after unification. Before this event, many German states issued their own currency. What was the now obsolete currency used in Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, and several other German states just prior to unification? ||Obsolete European Coins and Currencies
Gulden. In 1837, many of the states in southern Germany formed a currency union to facilitate trade and make currency conversions easier. The gulden was divided into 60 kreuzer. When the mark was adopted as the currency of unified Germany, 35 kreuzer equaled one mark.
Markka. The markka became the official currency of Finland in 1860, replacing the Russian ruble. The markka was divided into 100 pennia. The markka could be exchanged for euros until February 29, 2012.
Portugal. In medieval times, Portugal, like Spain, used the real (plural, reis). In 1911, after the abolition of the monarchy, Portugal adopted the escudo. Escudo means shield in Portuguese. Most of Portugal's colonies adopted their own currencies after achieving independence. As of 2013, only Cape Verde continued to use the escudo.
Kroon. The ruble was the currency in Estonia when it was part of the Soviet Union. The lats is the currency of Latvia, and Lithuania uses the litas. When Estonia regained its independence on August 20, 1991 it was decided to reintroduce the kroon, which had been the national currency from 1928 through 1940. The kroon remained the currency of Estonia until January 1, 2011, when it was replaced by the euro. Although the kroon is no longer legal tender, the Bank of Estonia will continue to convert kroon banknotes into euros indefinitely.
Hungary. The Hungarian pengo was in use from January 1, 1927 through July 31, 1946. The pengo is famous for undergoing the greatest inflation ever known. Hungary suffered greatly during WWII, and was in economic chaos following the end of the conflict. The Hungarian government printed paper money with no backing in precious metals, and inflation soon began to escalate out of control. On August 31, 1945, 1,321 pengo = $1 U.S. A few months later, on July 31, 1946, the exchange rate was an unbelievable 460,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pengo to a dollar. Even 100 million billion pengo notes were virually worthless. Collectors can still buy examples of these notes for pennies each.
|When it achieved unification in 1861, Italy adopted the lira as its national currency. The lira became obsolete in Italy on February 28, 2002. Some small states like Vatican City and San Marino had also used the lira as their currency, and they, too, adopted the euro along with Italy. But one country, partly in Europe and partly in Asia, retains the lira as its currency. Which is it?||Obsolete European Coins and Currencies
Turkey. Turkey has used the lira as its national currency since 1844. Because of hyperinflation, Turkey had to revalue its currency in 2005, and for a brief period the currency was called the "New Turkish Lira." The word "new" was dropped on January 1, 2009, and it once again became the plain Turkish lira.
|Many Spanish-speaking countries use the peso as their currency, but, interestingly enough, just before it adopted the euro, the peso was not the currency used in Spain. What was it? ||Obsolete European Coins and Currencies
Peseta. The peseta was adopted as Spain's national currency in 1869, and remained so until 2002. The peseta was divided into 100 centimos. It was originally a silver coin worth about the same as the French franc, but inflation steadily reduced its value until it was worth less than one cent. At the time of the conversion to the euro, which was completed in 2002, it took 166.386 pesetas to equal one euro.
|The United Kingdom still uses the pound sterling as its currency, but in 1971 it officially changed from the old way of reckoning in pounds, shillings and pence, to a decimal system. The terms pound and pence remained in the new system, but the shilling was no more. How much was a shilling worth?||Obsolete European Coins and Currencies
12 pence. The predecimal system of British coinage wasn't all that complicated. Twelve pence equaled one shilling, and twenty shillings equaled one pound. Of course, you also had to know that four farthings equaled a penny, two shillings were a florin, five shillings were a crown, and . . .well, maybe it was pretty complicated. Not to mention that the British had nicknames for their coins. A sixpence might be called a "tanner," a shilling a "bob," and there was a gold coin worth 21 shillings called a "guinea." The shilling was a coin about the same size and value as a U.S. quarter.
|Why do you need to know about obsolete money? Well, for one thing, if you like to read, you will find a lot of references to it classic literature. If you read 19th century French novels, you will often encounter a coin called a "sou." How much was it worth?||Obsolete European Coins and Currencies
Five centimes. The sou was worth five centimes, or 1/20 of a franc. In the 1800s, it was a fairly large copper coin, worth approximately one U.S. cent, or a British halfpenny. If you read Zola or Balzac, you will find sous frequently mentioned.