That drawer full of old lira, what is its value?

Luca Alagna
Read Time: 3'
It has now been 20 years since the introduction of the euro into our daily lives, and it often happens that we find old coins in our homes that are now out of legal tender. Can they be a treasure?

Twenty years have passed since the euro's entry; perhaps because of the uniformity of currency types and culture, the old custom of keeping classic foreign coins after a trip abroad has almost been lost. Indeed, most adults will remember that, back home, it was impossible to convert them back into local currency. Therefore, these small coins were forgotten in a drawer, kept as souvenirs or collected by those who systematically searched for them.

A consequence of these old habits is that today the new generation, or those who have not yet discovered the world of numismatics, casually finding various types of old coins, may ask, "Are they old? Maybe they will be worth something?" Immediately, in that case, the online search begins, and a universe of fake information opens up, which sometimes feeds or is itself fed by attempts at sales found in the most disparate online platforms. Unfortunately, these platforms allow anyone to sell without prior inspection of any product, deluding seller and buyer that they have sold or purchased a treasure.

The value of old lira: rarity, status, demand

It is worth clarifying the fundamental concepts that determine the official market value of a coin; in fact, age is by no means an incisive parameter. Instead, rarity and condition are, without neglecting, market demand. The former depends on the number of minted pieces and how many remain available. The state of preservation is perhaps the most critical parameter in evaluating a coin. There are guidelines with a standard symbology indicating the different stages of wear, including the maximum of preservation called flor de coeur. Of course, the better the coin, the more it is worth.

With regard especially to the so-called vile coinage, conservation makes a difference on the official market, which rewards only specimens in fine mintage and almost totally depreciates coins that are normally found worn from long circulation unless they have an appreciable degree of rarity. Finally, demand is that parameter that universally governs all commercial transactions and that also, in the numismatic market, influences the different types of collections in other countries.

Some reflections on vile currency from 1900 to the entry of the euro


Analyzing the monetary production from 1900 until the entry of the euro, especially that intended for mass circulation in vile metal (aluminum, copper, nickel, etc.), we have to consider it to be averagely common. It is composed of coins minted in huge quantities to satisfy the continuous daily transactions of the population in periods when credit cards and online transactions did not exist. Therefore, finding old coins is the norm rather than the exception. Considering what happened in Italy, for example, in the transition from Monarchy to Republic, one can easily understand why it is so common to find coins from the period of Victor Emmanuel III. What happened with the Lira-Euro transition did not occur: a continuous withdrawal to issue new money, but an issuance of new money without the withdrawal of the previous one.

If we then consider the large print runs for the population's needs, we immediately understand why it is so easy to find these coins in the drawers of aunts and grandparents.

Of course, a few exceptions exist.

The low issuance in particular periods due to war events; the lower mintage of some types (since a very high mintage was issued in the previous years that already largely met the needs); the occupation of territories due to colonial expansionism (for a limited time) and many other often random reasons meant that some change even used today is still sought after in the market. Finally, since it is impossible to do this for all coins with more or less rare dates minted in base metal for circulation worldwide in the 20th century, a small reference list can be made for the Italian ones.

Old lira: here are the worthwhile ones


As for the Italian Republic Lire that circulated before the euro, the only ones that have non-flor-of-mint, hence used, value is:


All the coins minted in 1946 and 1947;

the 5 lira of 1956;

the 2 and 50 lira of 1958.


For the 1900 lira of the Kingdom of Italy:


1 cent of 1902, 1908 (allegory type), 1911 and 1918;

2 cents of 1907, 1908, 1910, and 1912;

5 cents of 1908, 1909, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1919, 1936 (eagle type), the 1937 (ear type);

10 cents of 1919 and 1936 (coat of arms type); 20 cents of 1920 and 1936;

25 cents of 1902 and 1903;

50 cents of 1924, 1936, and 1943;

1 lira of 1936 and 1943;

2 lira of 1926, 1927, 1928, 1936, 1941, 1942 and 1943;

If you find one of these coins, contact a professional numismatist who, based on its state of preservation, will give you the exact valuation, which, I remember, can vary depending on the degree of wear.

On the other hand, gold and silver coinage deserves further careful analysis, as it has various peculiarities and market dynamics. We will report on this shortly.

Author's personal opinion
This article constitutes and reflects the exclusive personal opinion and assessment of its Author; it does not replace and cannot be considered in any way equivalent to professional advice on the subject matter of the article.
WeWealth exercises only formal control over the articles on the Site; therefore, WeWealth does not guarantee in any way their truthfulness and/or accuracy, and cannot in any way be held responsible for the opinions and/or content expressed in the articles by the Authors and/or the consequences that may result from observing the indications represented therein.
Mr Alagna is a professional dealer, consultant, and numismatic expert. In this role, he has carried out numerous appraisals and consultations with law enforcement agencies and Lawyers in court and as a Judge's Technical Consultant. He has cataloged and appraised coins on behalf of several Italian superintendencies and museums.
A member of NIP (Numismatici Italiani Professionisti) since its founding, he has served as Secretary, Vice President and currently holds the position of President. He is a member of RE.N.N.P.E (National Register of NIP Expert Experts), a member of A.I.S. (Appraiser International Society) and the Italian Numismatic Society. He is an A.N.T.I.C.O. (National Association for the Protection of the Gold Sector) chartered professional. He collaborates as a consultant for the Public Auctions of Numismatica Crippa srl Milan and for Cambi Genoa Auction House. He has to his credit various publications and articles pertaining to numismatics, particularly Sardinian and House of Savoy.


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