World Coins

Uprising in Milan in 1848 leads to provisional coins

A gold 40-lira coin issued by the provisional government of Lombardy-Venetia in 1848 realized a hammer price of €2,000 ($2,274 U.S.) in Emporium Hamburg’s March 2 auction.

Images courtesy of Emporium Hamburg.

An uprising in Italy in 1848 led to the creation of a rare gold coin. 

The Five Days of Milan (Italian: Cinque giornate di Milan) were a major event in the Revolutionary Year of 1848, marking the beginning of the First Italian War of Independence. 

On March 18, a rebellion arose in the city of Milan, and in five days of street fighting drove Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz and his Austrian soldiers from the city.

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A provisional government of Lombardy and Venetia was soon installed, and one of its actions included the issuance of coins.

An example of the gold 40-lira coin realized a hammer price of €2,000 ($2,274 U.S.) during Emporium Hamburg’s March 2 auction in Munich. 

The coin weighs 12.9 grams, and is one of just two gold coins types issued for Lombardy, the other a 20-lira denomination.

The 40-lira coin is classified as Friedberg 474 in Gold Coins of the World by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg.

The obverse depicts a wreath, the year of issue, denomination and name of the issuing authority, all in Italian.

The reverse shows a standing figure of Italia (or Italia turrita), a personification of the nation. She wears a mural crown, a star is above her, and she embraces a spear with her right arm and hand. 

The inscription ITALIA LIBERA DIO LO VUOLE (translating to “God wants a free Italy”) surrounds the scene. 

The provisional government supported the wealthy landowners and rejected assistance from sympathizers in the countryside who arrived in Milan to help wage the fight for independence, according to Alexander Grab, writing in the Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions published by Ohio University.

Efforts to unify with nearby Piedmont were successful, but Austrian forces recaptured much of Venetia, and Radetzky was soon welcomed by peasants disillusioned with the provisional government (mainly due to increased taxes unfairly requiring them to shoulder the costs of the war).

Austrian forces blockaded Venice throughout the winter of 1848 and 1849, and the territory finally fell on Aug. 22, 1849, ending a brief exercise of freedom. 

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