Society for Creative Anachronism ARCHIVE
Ian Cnulle's Florin
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Ian Cnulle's Silberbyrg Mint Florin
Society for Creative Anachronism $50 Trade Token
21.6mm 3.9g .999 Gold Strike#36

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   Unlike most other coins minted in the SCA, Ian Cnulle's florin is one of several denominations of "trade coins", minted for use in the merchants' square that the populace may experience the monetary values of the original Middle Ages.

   Like other coins produced by Ian Cnulle's Silberbyrg Mint, the florin is "hand hammered" in the period manner using hand cut steel coining dies. The florins are struck in "fine gold" (i.e. 999/1000's pure gold); the original medi憊al florin that Ian Cnulle's coin is based on was nominally pure gold (i.e. as pure as the refining methods of the time allowed). Each coin weighs approximately an eighth of a troy ounce (3.88 grams) - which is somewhat heavier than the original florins (which were around 3.54 grams). An even fraction of a troy ounce was chosen for the modern bullion coin.

   Struck from 1252 to 1523 with no significant change in its design or metal content standard, the "fiorino d'oro" of the Republic of Florence was the first European gold coin struck in sufficient quantities to play a significant commercial role since the seventh century. It quickly became the dominant trade coin of Western Europe for large scale transactions, replacing silver bars in multiples of the mark (a weight unit equal to eight troy ounces or two thirds of a troy pound).

   In the fourteenth century, a hundred and fifty European states and local coin issuing authorities made their own copies of the florin. The most important of these was the Hungarian "forint" because Hungary was the only major source of gold mined in Europe (until the western hemisphere began to contribute to the supply in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most of the gold used in Europe came from Africa).

   The design of the original Florentine florins was the distinctive fleur de lis badge of the city on one side and on the other a standing facing figure of St. John the Baptist wearing a very itchy looking hair shirt. On other countries' florins, first the inscriptions were changed (from "Florentia" around the fleur, and the name of the saint on the other), then local heraldic devices were substituted for the fleur de lis.

   Usually later, other figures were substituted for St. John. On the Hungarian forints, St. John was re-labelled St. Ladislaus, an early Christian King and patron saint of Hungary, and a battle ax substituted for the original's sceptre. Gradually the image became more regal looking.

   Ian Cnulle's florin has on one side a fleur de lis modeled as closely as possible on photographs of thirteenth and fourteenth century specimens of Florentine pieces. The inscription is "AVRVM PVRVM" - Latin for "pure gold".

   The other side of Ian Cnulle's florin is modelled on a Hungarian forint of King Sigismund (minted 1387-1401) in his collection, with some of the finer details taken from a photograph of a forint of Wladislaw I Jagiello of Poland, minted in Sibiu (in what's now Rumania) in 1440-'44.

   The image has been secularized by leaving out the original saint's halo and substituting a goblet (symbolizing hospitality, as well as the general feasting and revelling aspect of the SCA) for the original's globus cruciger (i.e. an orb surmounted by a cross, originally a symbol of world domination by Christianity, and later, as the "Reichsapfel", associated with the Holy Roman Empire) in his outstretched hand.

   The inscription is "SECVLA MEDIA PRES'N'"; "secula media presens" is Ian Cnulle's attempt to render "current middle ages" in Latin. Typically, the Hungarian forints had mint mark letters in the "field" of the design of the figure side of the coin; the V-A monogram mint mark of Silberbyrg ("Villa Argens" in Latin) appears in the field below the goblet.

   The intention is that these changed inscriptions identify the trade florin as a "fantasy coin" or a "semi-replica", rather than a copy or a "forgery" of an original medi憊al coin. With gold's retail price averaging around $400 an ounce, using the this florin as a US$50 trade coin is as close as is practical to its bullion value.

   The weight of the original fiorino d'oro of Florence was chosen to equal the value of one lira (i.e. a nominal pound of 240 inflated denari) in the local money of account in 1252. However, the gold content of the florin did not change while the money of account continued to inflate; by 1500, a florin was worth seven Florentine lire.

   The values of other countries' money continually varied against each other, reinforcing the florin's utility as a common measure of value for foreign exchange transactions. By the end of the fourteenth century, a local variant of the florin, minted by several German states under a monetary convention at a lower weight and alloy standard, became the "Rheingulden" widely used throughout Germany. In the fifteenth century, the Rheingulden was adopted by the Holy Roman Empire as the "Reichsgulden".

   In central and northern Europe, florin sized gold coins were generically called "gulden" (meaning golden), until the Tiroler Guldiner or Austrian guldensgroschen (a one ounce silver coin intended to equal a gulden - although this relationship did not survive long) was introduced in 1486. After that, gulden were referred to by the redundant name of "goldgulden" to distinguish the gold coins from their silver equivalents.

   The silver guldensgroschen was the ancester of the "Joachimsthaler" (minted in Bohemia 1516-'26), which inspired many other countries' thalers (south German), talers (north German), talleros (Italian), dalers (Scandinavian), daalders (Dutch), and dollars (English and Scottish). In the 1650's, Dutch daalders were overstruck to mint the first Russian rubles. Guldensgroschen was corrupted by the Turks to "Qursh" (and later Kurus); Turkish qursh were large silver coins until the early nineteenth century.

   In 1285, the Republic of Venice began minting ducati d'oro that had almost the same gold content (3.56 grams) as the Florentine fiorino d'oro. The Venetian ducats were the dominant trade coin in the eastern Mediterranean trade with the Romaion (i.e. Byzantine) Empire and India and ultimately China through the Muslim states of the Levant for the next five hundred years.

   From at least the sixteenth century, Italian gold coins, including ducati and fiorini, were generically called "zecchini" (from "zecco", the Italian word for "mint"). (The Venetian zecchino was minted until the French under Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797; the last Florentine zecchino was minted in 1853.) In the lingua franca trade language of the Mediterranean, zecchino was corrupted to "sequin" (the lingua franca term for dollar size silver coins was "piastre").

   In northern and central Europe from the sixteenth century onward, florins and gulden came to be indiscriminately called "ducats". Up until the twentieth century, many states minted gold ducats as international trade coins of unvarying gold content and no fixed relationship to the national currency, while simultaneously minting gold coins of various weights and alloys equal in value to even multiples of the national units.

   As all of the European states gradually joined one of three monetary unions - all based on the gold standard - in the second half of the nineteenth century, gold ducats came to be minted only for trade outside of Europe. The Austro-Hungarian Empire stopped minting ducats (as well as 4 ducat coins) in 1914, but the Republik of Austria minted ducats of the 1914 type, but with the date 1915, from 1920 to 1936. Czechoslovakia minted gold ducats for trade until 1939, and for collectors as late as 1951. The Netherlands last minted ducats for trade in 1937, although the same type has been minted as a bullion/collector coin between 1960 and the present.

   Your gold florin is #36, struck May 16, 2000 in the fifth (of six) mintings. The source of gold for that minting was two Credit Suisse one ounce bars (#595577 and #595578.) Sometimes I use Canadian Maple leaves (older ones are .999 fine, newer ones .9999 fine), but for smaller quantities I just buy 24K casting shot from a refiner/jeweler supplier. The target weight of the florins remains an unchanged 1/8 troy ounce. When I started issuing the florins at TYC in June of '96, that was close enough to an even $50 worth of gold. Now, since the price of gold has gone down, and I haven't changed the weight of the coins, it's only a little over $30 worth of gold. The trade coin is worth $50 only because I'll buy it back for $50. Thus, despite its substantial intrinsic value, it is really a token rather than a "bullion coin" as described in the info sheet - which I never updated.

The Moneyer of Silberbyrg ... EMail:Ian Cnulle (Greg Franck-Weiby)