The Florentine Florin, a Renaissance Heirloom
The coin was introduced by Florence to consolidate its supremacy as one of Europe’s most significant exporters of a variety of products, and the nascent banking empire fueling this expansion of trade. The state coffers were full of gold due as gold was the most common form of payment required for large-scale trade of goods. Florence thus had a reserve supply of gold substantial enough to mint the coins consistently at a standardized weight and measure, along with the financial infrastructure to facilitate their circulation. The coins were struck largely using gold originating from mining operations in Africa.
By the 14th century, a number of other European countries had begun to mint their own versions of the florin, although these tended to vary in measure and weight when balanced against the gold standard maintained by the original Florentine coin. By the early 16th century, however, debasement of the lira led to an exchange rate of 7 lira per 1 florin, a fact that may have led to the demise of the Italian version. It’s reputation lived on as symbolic of good fortune in Florentine sayings such as “A florin today for a thousand florins tomorrow.”
Today, antique florins can be purchased in Florence at Numismatica Fiorentina on Via dello Statuto 10 red, phone 055.0510457
Creative jewelry designs in Florence incorporate coins such as the florin into unique heirlooms, such as the lost wax casting signet ring by Torrini, sold at Tifran Gioielli in Florence’s Piazza Duomo 12/R.
Explore Florence through the eyes of…Renaissance currency? This fun book brings the city to life through the florin!
Author Shannon Kenny is CEO of Via Papera and Founding Partner of the boutique travel concierge company, Elaia Travel, where she assists clients with off-the-beaten-path shopping requests to find anything from antique coins in Florence to vintage 1960s Hermes handbacks in Rome.