Currency, old style

These were notes I received as change in Italy in 1977. Each is from a different regional bank. I do not know the full story. Did Italy not have a central bank yet at that time?

Banco S Paolo Brescia
Banco Catolico de Veneto
Banca del Friuli

Stores would also sometimes give you subway pay-telephone tokens or even candy as change. Such was the Italian lira at the time. The euro may have its issues, but it is not as if the old currencies were always better!

7 thoughts on “Currency, old style

  1. The ‘candy as change’ concept reminds me of Guatemala even today. Despite the fact that the largest bill is worth just $13, most small businesses won’t accept it, either lacking enough change or else thinking it’s counterfeit. If they do accept it, they ask you to start a tab.

    Even for smaller notes, they try to give candy or chips or trinkets instead of cash, though whether the lack of cash for change or else the increased profit margin is the motive, I don’t know.


  2. From a word reference thread, “‘assegno circolare’ is a cheque that is guaranteed by the bank. That means that whoever recieves such a check knows that it is valid.”

    It would appear that you were paid with the equivalent of a cashier’s check or a traveler’s check at a specific bank. While I’ve never been offered such payment in any country, I don’t know why I would refuse if it looked genuine (I definitely wouldn’t refuse an unsigned AMEX traveler’s check in a developing country).

    It may have had something to do with anti-money laundering measures or else a high frequency of counterfeit banknotes from the central bank, though I would guess such checks were not legal tender.


  3. Specifically, the bottom check appears to be made out to the Chamber of Commerce in Udine, and I believe the other two are as well, meaning that you would only be able to trade them for cash at that chamber of commerce. Given that you have at least three of them, it doesn’t seem like they were that out of the ordinary.


  4. I have just seen an ad poster that is proof of the resilience of the political sub-culture (not by chance in Veneto) and the relevance of electoral legacy. The appeal to the sense of community is implicit in that kind of ‘small’ banks. The very interesting (!!!) pictures Matthew Shugart posted well illustrated a part of the Italian economic history. Those banks – the so-called Casse rurali(Rural banks…) were in fact small and sometimes very small. They privileged the face to face relationship with customers. The gave customers direct access to credit without having to give any particular guarantee in a sort of “taking on your word” system. So, small business owners and ‘normal’ citizens could face (small) economic needs. And in fact not by chance the ad poster I just saw is especially addressed to immigrants.

    That economic peculiarity had also some very relevant socio-political and electoral consequences. In act those banks were especially in the south used by politicians (that appointed the directors) as a channel of collecting votes… of preference…

    Thus Italy had a central bank but there also were many local ‘branches’ often related to specific groups of interest (agrarian, cooperatives, trade unions, etc).


  5. The tokens I received as change in Italy in the 1970s would have been telephone tokens (gettoni), not subway tokens. I probably still have some of these in with my miscellaneous coins.


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