Three gold coins

Medieval, Late 13th century AD
From Venice, Florence and England

A refound confidence

In the thirteenth century, for the first time in hundreds of years, economic life in parts of western Europe could once again accept gold coinage as high value money on top of their existing silver currency. The main source of gold was West Africa, and the commercial and sea power of Italian cities enabled them to compete for access to the North African outlets of this trade. By 1252 enough gold was passing into the cities of Florence and Genoa for them to launch gold coinages.

Gold florin from Florence (1252-1303) The florin of Florence quickly became an important international trading coin. The design - with the lily of Florence on one side and St John the Baptist on the other - was soon familiar across Europe.

Gold penny of Henry III of England (issued around 1257) Shortly afterwards Henry III of England introduced a gold coin of the same size as the florin, using a gold treasure probably intended to be used on crusade. It was not successful. Only a handful now exist, of which three are in The British Museum.

Gold ducat of Giovanni Dandolo, doge of Venice (1279-89) Like the florin, the Venetian ducat, introduced in 1284, also had a great international role, especially in the eastern Mediterranean. The design shows the doge receiving a banner from St Mark, patron of Venice, on one side, with Christ inside a halo of stars on the other. Both designs show strong Byzantine influence.

The designs of both the ducat and florin remained unchanged for centuries, reflecting their popularity as coins used for international trade.

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Three gold coins

Obverse (front)

  • Reverse



More information


R.S. Lopez, 'Back to gold, 1252', Economic Historical Review, 2nd series, 9 (1956), pp. 219-40

J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

P. Spufford, Money and its use in Medieval (Cambridge University Press, 1988)


Diameter: 21.000 mm (florin)
Diameter: 21.000 mm (florin)
Diameter: 21.000 mm (florin)

Museum number

CM 1885-4-5-28;CM Grueber 238;CM 1993-3-2-53

Not on MERLIN;CEM58629;CMB25585

Part of the Greenall Gift (ducat)


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