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I'm curious how pure metals (such as in coins) were by the mid 1500s in Europe. I know that in some cases metal purities are purposely less than what they could be, such as with WWII era US coins, but if they were trying to make it pure what purity could they achieve and was it very standard between coins with the same minting?

I am just kind of curious in general, but what motivates me to ask is that I bought a 1/2 Grosz Sigsmund II from the year 1567.

  • Why would people make coins pure? impurities in coins in specie money are called inflation. Inflation is the tax that nobody has to vote for; the government gets more money, and the majority of the population are happy with the change. – Mark C. Wallace Aug 30 '17 at 19:50
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The standard for the Middle Ages was "ducat", fineness or .986 pure.

This was adopted in Venice in the 13th century, and by then Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian in 1511. The Red zloty or "Polish ducat" was produced beginning in 1526.

The "ducats" could be of either gold or silver. In Poland, however, only gold coins "red zlotys" were treated as ducats. The silver Grosz was debased over time.

  • Thank you +1. A couple of questions. Do you know if the .986 / .9947 figures quoted on Wikipedia apply only to gold (which is what it sounded like to me) or also silver? Would this apply only to a coin explicitly called a ducat, or also coins like the 1/2 Grosz Sigsmund II (which is from Poland/Latvia, 1567)? – Hack-R Aug 30 '17 at 18:50
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    @Hack-R: The "ducats" could be of either gold or silver. In Poland, however, only gold coins "red zlotys" were treated as ducats. The silver Grosz was debased over time, I believe. – Tom Au Aug 30 '17 at 18:56

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