Tornesello: coin from Stato da Màr (Republic of Venice)


Tornesello, 1382-1400: Republic of Venice (possessions Stato da Màr)

Tornesello, 1382-1400: Republic of Venice (possessions Stato da Màr)

ND (no date).

Ruler: Doge of Venice Antonio Venier (1382-1400).

ANTO VENERIO DVX: doge Antonio Venier.


VEXILIFER VENETIA: standard bearer of Venice.

Mythical winged Lion of Saint Mark (as a symbol of Venice) with nimbus, holding book of Gospels with front paws.

Venice Mint (Italy).

  • Silver (billon): 17 mm - 0.56 g
  • Reference price: 13.5$

COIN TORNESELLO — WHERE & WHEN (coins catalog: by names & emitents)
  1. REPUBLIC OF VENICE, OVERSEAS COLONIES — the so-called Stato da Màr: Venetian colonies in Greece and Dalmatia (14th-16th centuries): tornesello = 1/4 soldo

TORNESELLO as coin name.
Tornesello — low-quality billon coin of the Venetian colonies in Greece and Dalmatia (Republic of Venice's maritime and overseas possessions Stato da Màr: Coron and Modon, Negroponte and Crete). It was produced for two centuries in a row: from the middle of the 14th to the middle of the 16th centuries.
The coin was introduced in imitation of the then popular French gros tournois.
Medieval inhabitants of the aforementioned Venetian colonial possessions in the Balkans widely used silver English and gold Byzantine coins as money.
Venice, as a metropolis, decided to bring order to the motley financial sphere of its possessions. A new coin was introduced — the tornesello, which was outwardly similar to the gros tournois: the obverse also contained the image of a cross surrounded by a circular legend, but instead of the image of the city gate (the symbol of the city of Tours), the reverse displayed the symbol of Venice — the Lion of St. Mark.
This is where the similarity of tornesello to gros tournois ends... The coin of Venice was used exclusively only in its Balkan colonial possessions, it was made of extremely low-quality silver (only 0.08 grams of the precious metal with a total weight of 0.75 g), and the minting quality often was unsatisfactory. It was not uncommon for the image of the cross on the reverse of the coin to "break through"; the dint in the shape of a cross often obscured the image of the lion on the reverse, making it almost unrecognizable.
The coin (to some extent credit) was profitable for Venice, so it was issued in significant quantities. The local population was reluctant to take seriously the overrated tornesello...
It is interesting that the example of the use of tornesello vividly illustrated the famous Gresham's Law in economics: "Money overvalued by the government will crowd out money undervalued by the government" (sometimes erroneously formulated as "Bad money crowds out good money"). Tornesello, which became a mandatory means of payment in colonial lands under the threat of serious sanctions, quickly supplanted other, higher-quality coins.
The emission of the coin stopped after the conquest of the mentioned territories by the Ottoman Empire.
To summarize: tornesello — low quality medieval Venetian colonial coin. It was not used by the metropolis; exclusively a colonial coin.
The name tornesello coin comes from the name of its prototype — the French gros tournois.
By the way, a coin with very alike name — tornese — appeared in Italian lands a little later.