Medieval Serbian coins are among the most diverse and interesting areas of numismatics both in terms of the numerous types, the rulers, feudal lords and cities that minted coinage, and also in the remarkable beauty of the different images and inscriptions.
The earliest written record of a Serbian unit currency dates from the time of Stefan the First-crowned (1196-1228). A document dated 1214 mentions payment of 140 Slavonian perperi of Dubrovnik weight “yperperos Sclaunie ad pondus Ragusii”. The above-mentioned Slavonian coins refer to a specified amount of the Serbian state, alongside Byzantine silver and gold coins, until local minting. The later basic Serbian coin was the dinar, its name indirectly derived from the Roman denarius through the Italian unit denarius grossus or groschen. The former term appeared mostly in Cyrilic sources, and the latter in documents written in Latin or Italian. The dinar cited in documents is the same as the groschen mentioned in certain archaic sources. It was a minted silver coin, which initially had an image, weight (2.17 g) and the value of a Venetian matapan.
In use besides the dinar as a larger unit of currency was the perperus, which during the period of minting royal and imperial coins was equal to the sum of 12 dinars.
The first Serbian ruler to mint coins was King Stefan Radoslav (1228-1233), the eldest son of Stefan the First-crowned. This was a scyphate silver and cooper coin with a Greek inscription, similar to Byzantine coins of the period. Here one finds the ruler’s name and title “STEFANOS RIZ O DOUKAS” as in the signature on the only surviving charter granted by King Stefan Radoslav in 1234. His coins were minted outside the territory of the Serbian state at a mint belonging to his father-in-law Theodore Angelus in Thessalonica.
For a fairly long time after the death of King Stefan Radoslav there are no traces of the existence of Serbian coinage.
The first minted Serbian dinars appear during the reign of King Uroš I (1243-1276), probably towards the end of his rule. A document dated 1281 mentions payment in Brescoa dinars „denariorum grossorum Brescoa“, effected in the summer of 1276. Serbian dinars were also mentioned together with Venetian matapans, „denariis grossis de Veneciis et de Brescoa“ on September 29, 1277 in a Dubrovnik customs register stating that they were exempt from export duties. Not only were Venetian dinars exempt from custom duties, but also Serbian dinars from Brescoa, the place they were minted. These were the first Serbian dinars modelled after Venetian silver coins clearly differing from them with their inscription. The original type of Serbian dinar was later called a flagged dinar, „de Brescoa de bandera“. Cited in 1281 are dinars with a cross and lily, „de cruce et de lilio“ and dinars with a sword, „de macia“. These new Serbian dinars differ not only in design and inscription but also in weight and value, increasingly dinstinct from the original Venetian matapan.
During the reign of King Milutin (1282-1321) two basic types were established, their issue continuing until the end of his rule and possibly longer. The first basic type was the dinar with a cross, mentioned 1312-1358, inscribed with a symbolic image of the king receiving a cross with a double crosspiece from St. Stephen. Another distinctive feature was that its value was less the other basic type, the Rudnik dinar.
The Rudnik dinar was heavier and worth about 20 percent more than the dinar with the cross. During the reigns of kings Dragutin (1276-1316) and Vladislav II (1316-1325) it bore images of the rulers in a standing position, later replaced by illustrations of the king in armour, seated on his throne, holding a sword on his knees.
When Dušan became king (1331-1345) there appeared dinars with an image of a helmet. The term Novo Brdo dinar, “de Nouaberda”, may refer to this type, also minted later during the imperial period.