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The Bracteate as Economic Idea and Monetary Instrument

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Abstract

Although the leaf-thin bracteates are the most fragile coins in monetary history, they were the main coin type for almost two centuries in large parts of medieval Europe. The usefulness of the bracteates can be linked to the contemporary monetary taxation policy. Medieval coins were frequently withdrawn by the coin issuer and re-minted, where people had to pay an exchange fee. Bracteates had several favourable characteristics for such a policy: 1) Low production costs; and 2) various pictures could be displayed given their relatively large diameter, making it easy to distinguish between valid and invalid types. The fragility was not a big problem, since the bracteates would not circulate for a long period. When monetization increased and it became more difficult to handle re-coinage (around 1300), the bracteates lost their function as the principal coin. However, for a further two centuries (1300–1500) they were used as small change to larger denominations.

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  • Svensson, Roger, 2013. "The Bracteate as Economic Idea and Monetary Instrument," Working Paper Series 973, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0973
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    1. Dowd, Kevin & Greenaway, David, 1993. "Currency Competition, Network Externalities and Switching Costs: Towards an Alternative View of Optimum Currency Areas," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(420), pages 1180-1189, September.
    2. Sussman, Nathan, 1993. "Debasements, Royal Revenues, and Inflation in France During the Hundred Years' War, 1415–1422," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(01), pages 44-70, March.
    3. Svensson, Roger, 2013. "Re-Coinage as a Monetary Tax: Conditions, Consequences and Comparisons with Debasement," Working Paper Series 950, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bracteates; Medieval coins; Re-coinage; Short-lived coinage system; Monetization; Monetary taxation policy; Small change;

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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