World Coins

Italian sale features 1928 WWI anniversary fair token

A 2-lira token was issued for use at an exhibition marking the 10th anniversary of World War I.

Images courtesy of Numismatic Ranieri.

To mark the tenth anniversary of victory in World War I, Italy held an exhibition in Milan.

The fair was held from April 12 to June 19, 1928. During that time, a number of 2-lira tokens were issued to be spent at the fair. Visitors could trade regular Italian currency for the tokens.

An example of this curious episode in Italian numismatics is being offered in Numismatica Ranieri’s Oct. 28 and 29 auction in Bologna, Italy.

Taking a nod from a similar token coinage issued for a 1906 exhibition also in Milan, the organizing committee of the festival commissioned these pieces to be made by the Stefano Johnson company in Milan.

The obverse depicts a bust of Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III.

The reverse shows a nude male rider astride a rearing horse; the man holds a fasces (a bundle of rods with a blade attached), and the horse tramples on a snake. The legend on the reverse translates to “valid in the interior of the fair exhibition of Milan and convertible from the fair in legal currency until June 19.” The reverse also bears a reference to Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini.

These pieces were later accepted during the Fascist Revolution Exhibition, held in Rome in 1932 at the exhibition building.

This piece is cataloged as Montenegro 726 by E. Montenegro in Manuale del Collezionista di monete italiane con val. e rarita, published in 2018 in Turin.

Graded Fleur-de-coin (according to the auction house), this white metal token has an estimate of €200 (about $198 U.S.).

Inspiration for the issue

Another lot in the sale is one of those 1906 tokens that inspired the 1928 token issue.

This bronze 20-centesimi token depicts Minerva on the obverse, with small figures representing art and industry above her diadem.

A ribbon, sprigs of pine and olive and explanatory inscriptions, including the value for use at the fair, appear on the reverse.

Also in FDC (which means Mint condition), this token has an estimate of €80 ($79 U.S.).

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