The coin weight collection of the collegio del cambio
From the beginning of coinage until the 20th century gold and silver coins have been valued according to their metal content, calculated on the basis of their weight and fineness. Since the fineness was determined by the issuing authority, those who received payments in coins, in particular gold coins, were interested in controlling the exactness of their weight.
The first coin-weights were produced in the Roman Empire in the 4th century and production went on in the East under the Byzantines and the Arabs. In Western Europe production ceased after the barbaric invasions and was resumed in the 13th century, in connection with the coinage of the new gold coins.
Coin-weights were broadly used in Western Europe until the first decades of the 20th century.
The collection of the Collegio del Cambio, the most complete accessible to the public, is made of more than 550 coin-weights for coins circulating in Perugia and in the State of the Church in the period between the 15th and the second half of the 19th century. Most of its coin-weights were made in Rome and are recognizable from the papal arms on the obverse. The collection contains also many coinweights made in Bologna, with the arms of the city on the obverse. Other weights originate from Northern Italy, France or Germany.
The collection is complemented by 14 boxes containing coin-scales and weights, being examples of the European production from the 17th to the 20th century.
The coin-weight collection is fully in line with the tradition of the Collegio del Cambio since already in the 14th century the Perugia “Statuti” entrusted the Collegio del Cambio (at that time the guild of the bankers and moneychangers) with the control of the weight of the coins.