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What is the Quattrino?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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The quattrino is a coin once used in Italy as currency. The coin dates to at least the 1300s and was used into the 1800s, when it was replaced by the Italian lira. Eventually, the lira was in turn exchanged for the euro, when Italy joined the European union. Numerous examples of quattrini can be seen on display in museums and collections of ancient currency. Coin collectors can usually find specimens for sale at varying prices.

The name of this coin is derived from the Latin quater denari, or “four pennies,” a reflection of the value of this coin. Exchange rates with Italian trading partners varied throughout history, but usually the quattrino was a small denomination of coin and the purchasing power fluctuated, but was generally low. While pennies went significantly further during the time this coin was used than they do today, they weren't usually worth a lot.

Numerous design variations were used for the quattrino. Many ancient coins featured the heads of various popes and included heraldic designs like rampant lions. Florence was a popular minting location for the quattrino, reflecting this city's historic role as a center of Italian commerce long before Italy was a unified nation. The coin was primarily used in the central region of Italy, in regions like Tuscany.

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People may encounter references to the quattrino, along with other units of currency in ancient texts or books set in the era when these coins were used. Trade was highly active throughout Europe during much of the time this coin was in circulation, and as a result, merchants outside Italy often accepted payment in coins like the quattrino as a convenience to customers. These merchants could use the coins in trade with Italian partners or could choose to exchange them for other currency as needed.

Copper was commonly used for casting this coin. People interested in numismatics can find listings detailing the various designs in circulation and noting the period when they were available. These lists can be useful for verifying the origins of coins bought, traded, or found. Valuation by a coin professional is advised for large investments, to make sure people are purchasing a genuine specimen and to get an idea of the fair value of the coin. Prices for quattrini vary depending on the condition and vintage of the coin; older is not necessarily better, as some more recent coins were struck in fewer numbers and are therefore more rare.

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