Piece of the Month VIII

Dada a extensão deste artigo, achei por bem publicar as versões inglesa e portuguesa em separado. Para a versão portuguesa, cliquem aqui.


Collection: Museu Casa da Moeda (inv. no. MCM 4768)

Dates: 1472-1490

Provenance: Unknown (Mainland Portugal?)

Local of Production: Porto (?)

Dimensions: 22m in diametre

Weight: 2,29g

Materials: Copper

Description: A small copper coin, in good condition. On the obverse, it shows a legend (words written around the edge of the coin) and the Portuguese arms, with its four castles spread in the empty space between the quinas (escutcheons) and the edges of the shield; on the reverse, apart from the legend, there is a depiction of a fortress with three interconnected towers, a low wall and a river or sea in front of it. There is a letter “P” next to the right tower, indicating that this particular coin was minted in the city of Porto.

Obverse, or heads (left), and reverse, or tails (right), of the ceitil.

Is there anything as banal in 15th century everyday life in Portugal than a ceitil (or many) jingling in one’s purse? It was such a base, common coin, this one, that we often forget about it – particularly in reenactment, since there are no reproductions of a single Portuguese coin from the entire 15th century before the Justo of King John II (ca. 1485).

When the ceitil – named after the city of Ceuta (depicted on the reverse of the coins) [1] – was first minted isn’t known. What we do know is that they were created during the reign of Afonso V. During the 15th century, there was a scarcity of good silver coins in the kingdom – they were either being spent abroad, or squirreled away for rainy days. Therefore, the country needed a weak coin that everyone could use.

The ceitil was the only coin that reached practically everyone’s pockets, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. Not that the people were particularly pleased with it: it wasn’t unusual, given the immense weight of so many worthless coins in one’s purse, to save up lots of ceitis and exchange them for good silver coin, either Portuguese or foreign (which, again, did not help the circulation of silver coinage in Portugal at all). Sometimes, these hoards of ceitis could be used to pay very large sums of money: a few houses in Porto, for example, had their lease paid with 62,500 of these tiny coins [2].

In the absence of good silver coin, ceitis found their way to every part of Portugal, from coast to coast. Even today, large quantities of Alphonsine ceitis, of many different issues, are found during archaeological digs. The coin itself lasted more than a hundred years, and survived all the way to the reign of king D. Sebastião (1557-1578). Though small in value and size, it is fair to say that the historical context made the ceitil a great coin.

[1] Some authors insist that the word “ceitil” derives from “sextil” (sixth part), because a ceitil is worth a supposed 1/6 of a real branco – the basic unit of currency during the reign of Afonso V. They are clearly in the wrong when one considers that the value of the ceitil was initially set at 1/5 of a real branco, and not 1/6. See Tavares, M. (1981-1983). “Subsídios para o Estudo da História Monetária do Séc. XV (1448-1495)”. In Nummus : Boletim da Sociedade Portuguesa de Numismática, 2 (4-6). Porto: Sociedade Portuguesa de Numismática, p. 20.

[2] Porto, Gabinete de História da Cidade, Pergaminhos, liv. 5, fl. 46, apud Tavares, M. (1981-1983), op. cit., p. 20.


Magro, F. (1986). Ceitis. Sintra: Instituto de Sintra

Tavares, M. (1981-1983). “Subsídios para o Estudo da História Monetária do Séc. XV (1448-1495)”. In Nummus : Boletim da Sociedade Portuguesa de Numismática, 2 (4-6). Porto: Sociedade Portuguesa de Numismática


One thought on “Piece of the Month VIII

  1. Pingback: Peça do Mês VIII

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