Monetary system in medieval Serbia

Monetary system in medieval Serbia rested on the exploitation of rich mines which in the course of the entire period of the minting of coins represented their foundation. The production of silver had an important part in profit making, but exerted a negative impact on the development of local economy. It evolved slowly, because many items were purchased somewhere else at cheap silver. Precious metal in the form of ingots and coins were exported to Venice, for the most part through the mediation of Dubrovnik merchants. Silver was exported without fulfilling its basic monetary function.
The first Serbian coins of King Radoslav and the renewed coinage in the time of King Dragutin rested on the monetary systems of their respective epochs: the coins of King Radoslav on the Byzantine monetary system, and the one of King Dragutin on the Venetian system, representing the main monetary unit on these territories. With the passage of time, money of account developed on the basis of the perpero with the value of 12 grossi. During the entire period, the monetary system was under constant pressure for numerous reasons, such as the devaluation of the dinar for financing a budget deficit, an increasing demand for coins, payments in coins, etc. it was also influenced by external factors mirrored in the disappearance of silver from circulation and its outflow, the general trend of the deterioration of coins, fluctuation between the prices of gold and silver, etc. An important role was certainly played by non-monetary factors, which primarily include: diminishing of territories, the problem of population density, climate conditions, plague, prices, trade decline, reconversion of trade – decline in the export of one article and its replacement by a new, more perfect one, and many others. Due to numerous pressures, the value of Serbian coins from the beginning of their minting in 1276 to the beginning of the 15th century constantly declined with lesser or larger oscillations; from theoretical 2.178 g it was reduced to only 0.40 g. On the other hand, this mutation of the dinar was followed by the gradual decline in the monetary stock. This process began in the time of the Emperor Uroš and was certainly correlated with the political and economic crisis, as well as the general decline in the quantity of precious metal in Europe.
Further currents of the monetary system were determined by the gradual dissolution of the Serbian Empire and the rule of independent local rulers. In spite of having been divided into several wholes, it ought to be stressed that monetary systems remained connected. The main trend of this period, as well as the previous one, until the creation of the Serbian despotate, was the continuous depreciation of the dinar, with smaller or larger interruptions.
A sharp increase in the price of this metal at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century brought about a search for new mines and their opening. In this period new mines were opened in Serbia, and the old ones considerably increased their production. The decline in the production of silver in Europe was partially halted by the influx of new quantities of this metal, most probably originating from Balkans.
The monetary reform of the Despot Stefan Lazarević, carried out after 1402, in which the weight of dinar, that is, its value, considerably increased, should be viewed in this light. Other measures undertaken by the Despot were aimed at the preservation of revenue. With the aim of preserving the monetary system, in 1421 the Despot Stefan Lazarević forbade the export of silver and gold to the Ragusa’s.
In spite of the significant production of silver, negative trends of monetary currents were also felt in Serbia, primarily as the consequence of the political crisis, the incursion of the Turks and the loss of territories. With the fall of Smederevo in 1459, the Serbian medieval state ceased to exist.
One year prior to this, Serbian coinage, for two centuries representing one of the most important monetary markets in the Balkans, ended with the coinage of the Despot Lazar Branković. Numerous types of coins which marked this development testify to the political strength and economic power of Serbian kings, emperors, feudal lords, towns and despots. They left behind them coins, frequently as the only source, behind whose shine the still unexplored world is hidden.

From book “Serbian medieval coinage” of Vujadin Ivanišević