The Search for Seigniorage: Periodic Re-Coinage in Medieval Sweden
Scandinavian Economic History Review, Vol. 65(2), pp. 189-205, 2017
27 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020 Last revised: 27 Mar 2021
Date Written: November 21, 2016
A specific monetary tax − called periodic re-coinage − was applied for almost 200 years in large parts of medieval Europe. Old coins were frequently declared invalid and exchanged for new ones based on publicly announced dates and exchange fees. A theoretical framework of how periodic re-coinage works in practice is tested on Swedish coinage. The theory suggests that economic backwardness, limited monetization of society and separate currency areas facilitated re-coinage. The Swedish experience is extraordinarily consistent with this theory. It is shown that Sweden adopted coin types similar to those minted in Continental Europe during the Middle Ages and the corresponding coinage and monetary taxation policies. Periodic re-coinage was applied with varying frequency from 1180–1290. However, monetization increased in the late 13th century, making periodic re-coinage more difficult, and long-lived coins were introduced in 1290. With the end of periodic re-coinage, Swedish kings accelerated the debasement of long-lived coins, which continued until the beginning of the 16th century.
Keywords: Periodic re-coinage, monetary tax, coinage policies, monetization, debasements, medieval Sweden
JEL Classification: E31, E42, E52, N13
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