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Italian 20 Lira Vittorio Emanuele II

If you would like to own a piece of 19th century Italy, a period marked by remarkable cultural changes and fascinating shifts in power, then Tavex is pleased to present a truly intriguing specimen, the 20 lira Vittorio Emanuele gold coin. The 20 lira gold coin embodies the history of  the  House  of  Savoy,  one  of the  oldest  royal families  in  the  world,  and  their  quest to conquer and unify the once divided Italian peninsula under one rule. These gold coins, besides telling the gripping history of Italy’s transformation into a unified Kingdom, also mark the first consolidation of the country’s coinage in more than 300 years. It can therefore been seen that the Italian 20 lira is well suited for coin collections, and, despite their relative scarcity, they are still favourably priced, making them likewise an ideal investment for those who wish to store their wealth in physical gold coins.

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  • 20 lira Vittorio Emanuele gold coins are well suited for collections. The relatively low mintage and their representation of the rich and colourful history of Italy make the 20 lira gold coins popular with collectors and numismatists.
  • 20 lira Vittorio Emanuele gold coins are money. They are exempt from Value Added Tax, and are exchangeable throughout Europe by bullion dealers and investors alike.
  • 20 lira Vittorio Emanuele gold coins were part of Europe’s first monetary union. The 20 lira gold coins were Italy’s monetary symbol of stability, uniformity and trust, making them an integral part of the Latin Monetary Union, Europe’s first major currency union.
  • 20 lira Vittorio Emanuele gold coins are an excellent way to diversify your portfolio. Gold’s low correlation with other financial assets makes the Italian 20 lira gold coin serve as a portfolio hedge against market risk.
  • 20 lira Vittorio Emanuele gold coins are the equivalent of savings. Italian 20 lira gold coins are an ideal choice for any long-term saver who appreciates the security and stability of owning physical gold coins.

The House of Savoy and the Italian 20 lira gold coin

The  creation  of  the  Italian  20  lira  gold  coin  can  be  attributed  to  one  of the  oldest  royal families in the world, namely the House of Savoy. The heritage of the House of Savoy began almost a millennium ago in a small alpine territory between Switzerland, France and Italy. What is of peculiar interest is that over the centuries that followed, the House of Savoy did not expand its territories through traditional means, in other words conquest by brute force, but rather by making advantageous marriages and fostering alliances. Although the dynasty lost  its  territories  several  times  to  larger  regional  players  like,  for  example,  Napoleon Bonaparte, it always miraculously managed to gain back its land and even some more. 

In the early 19th century, Italy was part of the French Empire, but because of Napoleon’s defeat at the decisive Battle of Waterloo, the Empire fell, and French rule over Italy was relinquished. Italy was divided into regions, with many becoming satellite states of Austria, as a reward for Austria’s participation in the Napoleonic wars. The House of Savoy was more fortunate in Italy’s break up, receiving autonomous rule over the Island of Sardinia and the north-western part of Italy bordering France. The new region was referred to as the Kingdom of Sardinia and became one of the three largest regions in Italy. 

The disunited Italy had no central government or strong army, just as Austria had planned, enabling  Austria  to  more  easily  indirectly  govern  a  large  part  of  Italy’s  territories.  Not surprisingly, by the middle of the 19th century, a strong revolutionary movement was born,comprised of nationalists who wished to unify Italy. Following several rebellions in major Northern Italian cities against Austrian rule, the Kingdom of Sardinia, eager to expand its territories, decided to declare the First Italian War of Independence against the Austrians. Unfortunately for the revolutionaries, the campaign came to a quick end after several decisive defeats to the Austrian forces. 

Bruised, but not beaten, the Kingdom of Sardinia, with Vittorio Emanuele II at the helm, tried again  a  decade  later  by  declaring  the  Second  Italian  War  of  Independence  against  the Austrians  in  1859.  This  campaign  proved  more  successful,  partially  due  to  the  military support provided by Napoleon III of France and the stronger and more organised nationalist movement led by the notorious Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. After two bloody years, Vittorio Emanuele II managed to secure all parts of Italy  except for Rome and the Venetian  region  in  the  northeast.  Subsequently,  in 1861,  the  Kingdom  of  Italy  was proclaimed, with King Vittorio Emanuele II as the sovereign. To mark the almost five decade quest of unifying Italy, the gold lira was introduced, bearing the effigy of the victor, King Vittorio  Emanuele  II,  and  the  royal  arms  of  his  dynasty,  the  House  of  Savoy.  Many considered  King  Vittorio the “Father of the Fatherland” because  of the role  he  played in Italian unification. Although not the only person to be responsible for Italy’s unification, he certainly proved to be a great diplomat and military strategist. King Vittorio Emanuele II would reign firmly over Italy until his death in 1878, when the throne was passed on to his son Umberto I. 


The lira gold coins unify Italy’s coinage

The House of Savoy not only managed to unify Italy, but also managed to unify the country’s coinage.  Before  unification,  the  custom  was  for  every  larger  region  to  issue  its  own circulating coinage. As an example, the Papal States, part of Italy ruled by the Pope, used scudos, the Kingdom of Naples traded with piastras, Lombardy-Venetia minted florins, and the Kingdom of Sardinia issued liras. The new gold liras were a continuation of the currency used by the Kingdom of Sardinia. The reason for selecting the Sardinian lira was the fact that it had already been unified in 1816 to equal the French gold franc in terms of fineness and weight. This enabled it to circulate inside France at parity with the franc, as did the franc inside  the  Sardinian  Kingdom,  thus  making  it  easier  to  trade  and  exchange  goods. Furthermore, the French gold franc was, at the time of Italy’s unification of coinage, a major regional currency, so the decision to base the lira on the French franc made even more sense. The new uniformity of the gold lira fostered trade inside Italy and likewise contributed to making Italy one of the founding members of Europe’s first major currency union, the Latin Monetary Union.


The Italian 20 lira gold coin was part of Europe’s gold standard

In 1865, Italy, France, Belgium and Switzerland founded Europe’s first major currency union under the name “Latin Monetary Union”. This union was an attempt to unify those countries’ money  into  a  single  uniform  currency.  The  founding members  of the  union  agreed  on  a uniform fineness and weight of their coinage, which was set to equal the French silver and gold franc, as the Kingdom of Sardinia had done 50 years previously, and they agreed to interchange each other’s gold and silver coinage at parity, irrespective of whether it carried another  design,  effigy  or  name.  The  ratio  of  the  two  precious  metals  was  likewise standardised, with 4.5 grams of silver being equal to .290322 grams of gold, a ratio of 15.5 to 1. The standardisation facilitated and simplified trade among the member countries and was seen as an appealing concept, leading other European countries to join as well. Although the union came with numerous flaws, one of them being that individual governments over-issued paper notes above the stipulated fixed ratio that was set between paper notes and circulating precious metal coinage, they were all the consequence of poor human judgement rather than the failure of the uniform precious metal coinage itself. Nevertheless, the union expanded until the advent of World War I, and came to a formal end a decade later in 1927. 

Face value descriptionDiameterCapsule diameterFinenessGold weight in gramsProduct weight in gramsGold weight in Troy ouncesManufacturer country
20 lira21239005.806446.45160.18668Italy

The obverse portrays the effigy of King Vittorio Emanuele II. His portrait is encircled with his title “VITORRIO EMANUELE II”. Under the King’s neckline is the year of mintage and the signature of the master engraver “FERRARIS”.

The reverse contains the royal arms of the House of Savoy which is embellished with a crown on the top and surrounded by a wreath of leaves. Around these markings is the text “REGNO D’ITALIA”, which translates as “Kingdom of Italy”, and at the bottom of the coin is the denomination “L 20” and the mint mark.

Each coin is individually packaged in a hard plastic capsule.

Your order is fully insured and delivered by ELS Express. After we have received your payment, the products will be dispatched within 24 hours. Delivery time is within 1 or 2 working days. The ELS courier will contact you via phone. If you wish, you can also personally pick up your order at one of our offices in Tallinn or Tartu the same day we receive your payment. In cases where we are unable to send your order right away, we will always inform you about the time delay.