Republic of Italy, 50 Lire 1978

Over many centuries, 'money' was tantamount to gold and silver coins. Precious metal, thanks to its intrinsic value, represented a trade factor that could be exchanged for goods or services everywhere. In modern times, however, money is produced from base metals. Coins have lost their intrinsic value. All they have is a virtual value, defined by the respective minting authority and indicated on the coin as face value. Because they have no actual value any more, citizens have to trust the issuer enough to accept his means of credit.

To gain that trust, issuers again and again revert to the same methods. They choose traditional designs, preferably from antiquity, to insinuate the stability, continuity, and strength of their currency. This Italian coin of 50 lire is made from cheap stainless steel. The obverse depicts a female head representing the Italian republic – an ancient idea. The reverse shows the Greek god Hephaistos, whom the Romans knew under the name of Vulcan.