A Little History Lesson
We'll begin with a little History lesson . . .

Medieval European coinage was standardized by Charlemagne around 800 AD when he conquered most of Europe. The standard Denier (Penny in English, Pfennig in German, Denaro in Italian) was a silver coin about the size of a US penny. Historians have suggested that its value at the time was about that of a meal or a pitcher of ale. For the next 4-500 years, most coinage in Europe followed this standard pattern. Most Medieval coins incorporate a cross somewhere into the design. German and other eastern regions often incorporate an eagle into the design while English coins generally carry a crude portrait of the King, which is a distinction that remains to this day (now Queen Elizabeth). French coins will often show a monogram, castle, or cathedral.

Medieval history is fascinating as it is quite chaotic. From the disintegration of Charlemagne's empire in the mid to late 10th century, the region of what is now modern-day France emerges as an incredibly complex web of feudal states, ruled by Counts and Dukes who owed nominal allegiance to the King who in reality was often less powerful than his subjects. This is the feudal era where political intrigue and complex inter-familial relationships lead ultimately to the mess called the Hundred Years War (1337-1451). The coinage of this time is very complex as well. Every Count or Duke had his own mint, as it was a very profitable enterprise. The variety of these coins, while adhering to the basic Denier style, is staggering. There are literally thousands of varieties.

Continue the tour - A short photo essay on grading the quality of medieval coins