The design of the Venetian gold ducat, or zecchino, remained unchanged for over 500 years, from its introduction in 1284 to the takeover of Venice by Napoleon in 1797. No other coin design has ever been produced over such a long historical period. The 500-year run of the zecchino is unique in history.
Initially called "ducat" (ducato), for the ruling Doge of Venice, who was prominently depicted on it, it was called the "zecchino" after the name of the Venetian mint, the "zecca", since 1543 when Venice began minting a silver coin also called a ducat. The name of the mint ultimately derives from the Arabic sikka, meaning a coin mould or die.
In some regions, in later centuries, these type of coins were stitched to women's clothing such as headdresses - this eventually led to the origin of the more modern word "sequins" to denote small shiny, circular decorations. Following the Venetian model, similar coins were used for centuries throughout the Mediterranean. After two hundred years of continuous zecchino production, the Byzantine Empire imitated with the basilikon. In 1478, the Ottoman Empire introduced a similar unit. In 1535, the Knights Hospitaller of Malta did so. The Ottoman and the Maltese coins were also gold.
Because the zecchino (of Venice) was issued for many centuries under a long list of doges, coin collectors often try to accumulate a complete set of zecchinos of "all the doges."
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