Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1040: Re-Coinage in Medieval Sweden

Roger Svensson ()
Additional contact information
Roger Svensson: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: In medieval Europe, old coins were frequently declared invalid and exchanged for new ones at fixed rates and dates. Here, the question of whether and when such re-coinage was applied in medieval Sweden is analyzed against the historical record. A theory of how short-lived coinage systems work is applied to Swedish coinage. It is shown that Sweden adopted similar coin types as those minted in Continental Europe in the Middle Ages, and also adopted the corresponding continental coinage and monetary taxation policies linked to these coin types. Swedish experience is extraordinarily well in line with what one would expect from the theory of short-lived coins. Economic backwardness, limited monetization of society and separate currency areas facilitated re-coinage. Re-coinage with varying frequency was applied in 1180–1290 when only bracteates were minted. This is evidenced by many different coin types per reign, coin hoards which are dominated by a few types and dating of types to specific periods of the kings' reigns. However, monetization increased in the late 13th century, making re-coinage more difficult, and bracteates were replaced by long-lived two-faced coins in 1290. With an end to re-coinage, the Swedish kings then accelerated the debasement of the long-lived coins. The disappearing re-coinage fees were compensated for by debasing the silver content. Such debasements –interrupted by several coinage reforms – were applied until the beginning of the 16th century.

Keywords: Re-coinage; Bracteates; Medieval Sweden; Coinage policies; Monetization; Debasements

JEL-codes: E31; E42; E52; N13

28 pages, September 3, 2014

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