Medieval Money


  1. Students will understand the history of money as used in the medieval times
  2. Students will discover the types of money used in medieval times
  3. Students will compare medieval money denominations using equations to solve
  4. Students will practice making change using medieval coin denominations
  5. Students will use medieval prices to make a budget


Lesson Steps:

Opening Activity: Anticipatory Questions

    1. Ask students to identify the coins we use as currency today. (quarter, dime, nickel, etc)
    2. Ask: “Who decided that this coin was worth 25 cents or this one worth 10?” Students may discuss this with a partner before sharing ideas as a group. At this point, allow students to make un-critiqued answers for speculation.
    3. Ask: “How do you think the people in the medieval times used money? What did they use? Did they have money? What could be used instead of coins?” Record suggestions on the board.

Lesson activities

    1. Explain: Today we will be looking at the medieval forms of money and seeing how the people of that time used money for trading. We will also try to see how each coin denomination related to the others, and how you might set up a budget in that time.
    2. Distribute paragraph for students to read. Ask students to read the information on their own or with a partner. (included below or found at
    3. When everyone is finished reading, discuss the following questions:
      1. How was money in the medieval times different than the money we use today? (possible answers: no paper money, no credit cards, different coin values, no standards for money denominations)
      2. What were some of the names they used for money denominations at that time? (nomisma, dinar, denarius)
      3. What types of problems might have arose since there was no standard for what was used for money?
    4. Explain: The early history of money in the medieval times included some changes from past practices. Because of the feudal system, there was not a standard form of money; individual feudal lords used their own style of coins to represent a certain amount, usually made of gold, silver, or copper. Another option was for the people to exchange real goods for other real goods, using receipts instead of coins to show what they brought in trade. A farmer, for example, could bring in 100 pounds of grain and receive a receipt that showed that amount. They would use that receipt to buy other items in the town that day.
    5. Discuss: How would the receipt process work in our society? Would it be work in our communities?
    6. OPTIONAL: watch and discuss the blog:
    7. Continue: Charlemagne changed that by creating a standard set of coins for everyone in his empire to use . Let’s look at some samples of this:
    8. Show a picture of these coins: pound, shilling, crown, pence, farthing (See materials for medieval coin websites)
    9. Hand out the chart labeled reading that shows the coin denominations used and what they stood for. (included below or found at
      • Money goes as follows:
      • 1 pound (L) = 20 shillings (s)
      • 1 crown = 5 shillings
      • 1 shilling = 12 pence (denarius)
      • 1 pence (denarius) = 4 farthings
      • 1 mark = 13s 4d
    10. Hand out plain, white paper. Students should make the following chart to show how it relates to each of the other denominations. Students may use ratios/equations to fill in for each blank.
      1. Example: students draw 1 pound and label as follows:
        1. 1 pound
        2. 20 shillings
        3. ____ crowns
          • 1 pound/20 shillings = ? pounds/5 shillings (1 crown)To solve use this equation:
      2. Convert: How many crowns would there be in 1 pound? (Invert the fraction created for pounds in the second half of the equation. The answer for the above equation is ¼, so it would take 4 crowns to equal 1 pound.
      3. Use the same basic process to solve for the following coin denominations:
        1. _______ pence (use the same process as above)
          • Answer: 1 pound = 240 pence
        2. _______ farthing
          • Answer: 1 pound = 960 farthings
      4. Challenge: How might you figure out how many marks there are in a pound?
        1. Ask student groups to discuss possible strategies for solving, and then try to solve together.
        2. Possible answer: 1 mark = 13 1/3 shillings; so 1 mark = 13 1/3 /20 pound
    11. Play “The Medieval Change Game
      1. Divide students into groups of 3 or 4
      2. Give each student group manipulatives used to represent denominations (See suggestions listed in materials section)
      3. Provide each group with about 15 cards with money amounts written on them:
        1. Examples: 3 pounds, 15 shillings, 9 crowns, etc.
      4. Round 1– One student will turn over a money amount at the middle of the table. Students take turns to show which denominations you could use to represent that amount. The first student has an easy job and can simply use pounds to show pounds, for example. The next student in order of the circle has to find a different way to represent that amount. For example, if the card read “2 pounds” the second person could show 40 shillings to represent this.
      5. Make sure students don’t “cheat” when it comes to counting out pence. It will take awhile to count some of the amounts, but they will better experience the relationship there. It would be best to use smaller denomination amounts on the amount cards so counting can be done in a timely fashion.
      6. Round 2– Students will turn over two cards. The smaller of the two amounts represents what something might cost at the market. The larger represents what the lord or serf actually gave to the store keeper. Together, the group decides how much change should be returned to the “shopper.” Encourage students to use the manipulatives to show that amount of change return also. (Calculators may be used for this activity.)
    12. Medieval budget activity
      1. Hand out reading 3 which shows a chart of what things might have cost in the medieval times. (included below)
      2. Give each group a different occupation: (i.e. knight, scholar, farmer, merchant, etc.)
      3. Assign student groups to look at the “shopping list” and determine what they would need to buy for this month. They should list their “first choices” first to make sure they have enough money for what they want. Each group should:
        1. be sure to buy enough food for everyone in your family for a whole month
        2. be sure to purchase or rent living quarters for the month
        3. be sure to purchase tools needed for your work (books, animals, merchandise)
      4. Discuss: Considering that the average income or merchants was 100 L per year, would your shopping list make sense? Would you have enough money to pay for food and the supplies you needed for the whole year?

Closure: Discussion questions/review

  1. How did the use and value of money change through the medieval times?
  2. What were some of the common coins used in the medieval times? What was each coin worth?
  3. What items might one be able to buy for a shilling?


  1. Group participation for activity #1
  2. Student money exchange charts
  3. Class discussion
  4. Participation in change game
  5. Budget worksheet


Research information on weights and measures in medieval times. It is interesting to see how merchants used different measures for different items. You could also tie this idea into the lesson on goods and trade and learn more in-depth how the guilds controlled the marketplace.

Reading 1

During the Medieval times, money consisted of metal coins. Paper money was unknown at the time. The value of the coin depended on which type of metal it was made from. The most valuable coins were gold then silver, and then copper. This was widely recognized as a ‘standard ‘of currency throughout the medieval world. There were many different coins, each of which had different designs, weights, inscriptions, and the purity of the metals varied greatly. In the Byzantine Empire, gold, silver, and copper coins were minted and used throughout the medieval period. The most important Byzantine coined was the gold nomisma. This is because it was the standard of exchange in the Mediterranean trade. The most important mint in the Byzantine Empire was in Constantinople, but there were other provincial mints as well.

The Islamic world of this time had no coins of its own, but as the Muslims conquered the Byzatines, they adopted the minting processes, and soon started minting their own coins. The most important Islamic coin was the gold dinar. The dinar had inscriptions from the Qur’an that reflected its Islamic Ideals. In the Islamic world, the relationship among values of coins was not set, so it was determined in the marketplace by supply and demand. The coins of Western Europe were very diverse, they had many different authorities because of Feudalism so the coins vary in size, shape, and weight. But increased trading led to the standardizing of coins. This allowed for trade from one region the next. The earliest coin was the gold triens, it was derived from an early Roman coin. Charlemagne standardized the coinage system in his empire. The basic coin in his empire was the silver coin called the denarius or penny.

Information taken from:

Reading 1, continued

Medieval Money

by Michael E. Marotta
© Copyright 1998 by Michael E. Marotta

Castles, crusaders, and questing knights come to mind when you handle the coins of the Middle Ages. Medievel coins are surprisingly affordable and offer an opportunity to hold history in your hand.

Kings and barons created silver pennies to pay their armies and to buy imported items for their domains. Europe in those days consisted of about 100 small, independent states. Occasionally, a powerful king from Lithuania, Poland, or Hungary would expand their realm. While England and France had monetary traditions reaching back to Roman times, new towns like Florence and Antwerp became prosperous trading centers.

The fact is that most knights never held much money. Those landed nobles and warriors were generally outside the mainstream of commerce. Coined money was the medium of city-dwellers who traded in wool, pickled herring, pepper, and other the necessities of daily life. Coins were carried to great fairs that lasted several days or even several months.

Most coinage from the middle ages does not impress the viewer the way ancient Greek or 19th century American coins do. Most medieval coins were small and thin. The coins are so thin that often only one side was struck well. The artwork did not glorify life on Earth. But there is no denying that the coins of the Middle Ages carry their own history.

The silver pennies of Richard the Lionhearted are perhaps the best-known coins from the Middle Ages. Demand from buyers keeps them priced near $100 each. However, you can buy the silver pennies of lesser known kings, such as Wladislaw of Hungary, for as little as five dollars.

Information taken from:

Reading 2

Money goes as follows:

1 pound (L) = 20 shillings (s)
1 crown = 5 shillings
1 shilling = 12 pence (d)
1 penny = 4 farthings
1 mark = 13s 4d

Information taken from:

Reading 3

*By going to the website found at the bottom of the page, you can read how the author came to these price lists by using several different resources. There are also many more lists found there.

KEY: L = pound, s= shilling, d = denarius, or pence,


Item Price Date

2 yokes 4s c1350

Foot iron of plough 5d ” ” ”

3 mason’s tools (not named) 9d ” ” ”

1 spade and shovel 3d 1457 ” ”

1 axe 5d ” ” ”

1 augur 3d ” ” ”

1 vise 13s 4d 1514

Anvil 20s ” ” ”

Bellows 30s ” ” ”

Hammers 8d-2s 8d ” ” ”

2 chisels 8d ” ” ”

Compete set of armorer’s tools L13 16s 11d ” ” ”

Spinning Wheel 10 d 1457


Item Price Date

War Horse up to L80 13 cen

Knight’s 2 horses L10 1374

High-grade riding horse L10 13th cen

Draught horse 10s-20s 13th cen ” ”

Note: Horse prices varied dramatically; for instance, they doubled between 1210 and 1310.


Item Price Date


Cheapest 3d-4d/gal Late 13 cen

Best 8d-10d/gal ” ” ”

Ale (beer comes later):

Good 1.5d/gal 14 cen

Medium 1d/gal ” ” ”

Poor .75d/gal ” ” ”

Dried Fruit (eg raisins, dates, 1-4d/lb, up

figs, prunes), almonds, rice to 6d rare 14 cen(?)

Spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace,

pepper, sugar, etc). 1-3s/lb ” ” ”

Pepper 4s/lb mid 13 cen

Pepper 6d/.5lb 1279-1280

Cow (good) 10s 12 cen(?)

Cow 9s 5d mid 14th

Cow 6s 1285-1290

Ox 13s 1.25d mid 14 cen

Sheep 1s 5d ” ” ”

Pig: 3s

Fowl 1d ” ” ”

2 Chickens 1d 14 cen

2 Dozen Eggs 1d ” ” ”

Goose (in London) 6d (legal)

7d-8d asked 1375

80 lb cheese 3s 4d late 13 cen

Salted herring (wholesale) 5-10/1d 1382

Salt conger 6d each 1422-1423

Oats: 2s 2d per ” ” ”

Cost of feeding a knight’s or L30-L60, 15 cen

NOTE: a merchants household per year could equal up to L100

Related note: around 1380, these are the average costs per day of feeding people on an estate lord, 7d; esquire, 4d; yeoman, 3d; and groom, 1d.


Item Price Date

Monastary School L2 (approx) 1392-1393

per year

Schoolmaster at Croyden:

Board 2s/week* 1394

Instruction 13s 4d/year ” ” ”


Board 104s/year 1374 ” ”

Clothing 40s/year ” ” ”

Instruction 26s 8d/year ” ” ”


Minimum L2-L3/year Late 14 cen

Student of good birth L4-L10/year ” ” ”

Fencing Instruction 10s/month Late 16 cen

7 Books L5 (approx) 1479

To Rent a book .5d-1d per mid 13 cen [9] 172


* One source says 2s/day. This is not only insanely high, but the text also claims that the board was the same as at Oxford–i.e., 2s/week or 104s/year.

** Apecia is 16 columns of 62 lines of 32 letters, i.e., 31 744 letters, or about 7 500 – 8 000 words. Rental period is not specified, but I would guess a year; books were rented to be copied, and copying the Bible took 15 months.


Item Price Date

Rent per year for 138 shops on

London Bridge L160 4s 1365

Rent cottage 5s/year 14 cen(?)

Rent craftsman’s house 20s/year ” ” ”

Rent merchant’s house L2-L3/year ” ” ”

Information taken from: