A piedfort or piefort (American English /piːeɪˈfɔː/, /pjeɪˈfɔː/, or /ˈpjeɪfɔː/, British English /ˈpjeɪfɔːt/ or /ˈpɪɛdˌfɔːt/; French pied-fort or piéfort, pronounced [pjefɔʁ]) is an unusually thick coin, often exactly twice the normal weight and thickness of other coins of the same diameter and pattern. Piedforts are not normally circulated, and are only struck for presentation purposes by mint officials (such as patterns), or for collectors, dignitaries, and other VIPs. Piedfort is commonly misspelled as "piefort".
Piedfort coins were first recorded in France and Great Britain during the Middle Ages, with the first French piedforts appearing in the 12th century. The reason the coins were minted in piedfort form was probably to prevent them from being lost among normal circulating coins. Theories for the original purpose of the earliest piedfort coins are:
- As patterns for administrative approval.
- As patterns to show engravers in different mints what an approved design should look like.
- As reckoning counters or jetons for mint officials, akin to a simple milestone or the beads on a more complex abacus.
Later, the higher rarity of piedfort versions of a nation's coinage led to them being used as prestigious diplomatic gifts to kings, nobility, dignitaries, and other VIP's. Note that coin collecting has traditionally been called "the hobby of kings". The demand for piedforts from politically influential coin collectors resulted in such routine production that a droit de pied fort, or "right of piedfort", was instituted as a formal code of rules defining who was entitled to a piedfort version of a new coin design. Edicts of such rules date back to at least 1355 in France.
The first British piedforts were silver pennies minted during the reign of Edward I (1239 to 1307). Britain stopped routinely minting piedforts in 1588, but France continued to mint them for at least another 150 years before also ceasing production. The routine production of piedforts began again in France in 1890, and Britain began to produce piedforts available to the public for the first time in 1982. Since then, Great Britain's Royal Mint has become well known for creating many commemorative piedfort coins. China produced piedforts for collectors in 1988.
Piedfort is a compound of the French words "pied" (foot), and "fort" (strong, great, heavy). It literally means "heavy foot", but the idiomatic meaning is "heavy weight". 18th century encyclopedic French dictionaries record it in the form of two separate words, as "pied fort" (1774):
PIED FORT, terms of currency, this word is said of a coin of gold, silver, or other metal, that is thicker than ordinary currency...
The piefort misspelling appears in English as early as 1893, where the author and citing authors give false etymologies of the word relating to the weight (not thickness) of a coin, the depiction of human legs on a coin, and a corruption of the name of the Dutch city of Liège as "Leg".
The influential Krause and Mishler Standard Catalog of World Coins has used both piedfort and piefort interchangeably for at least the prior 3 decades, as of 2012.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- American English: pee-ay-FOR, pyay-FOR, or PYAY-for
- Random House Dictionary
- Oxford Living Dictionaries
- Collins Dictionary
- Trésor de la langue française informatisé
- Hanisco, Ray, Piedfort, BellaOnline
- The Piedfort Coin - A Rare Collector's Item | The Royal Mint
- France: coinage survey
- Woman who found coin worth £2,000 in garden becomes first to be prosecuted for not reporting treasure | Daily Mail Online
- British Museum - Brass reckoning counter, Rechenmeister type
- Jettons at mernick.org.uk
- Piéfort - Piedfort - Pieds-Forts - Essais
- Recueil général des titres: concernant les fonctions rangs ... des présidens, trésoriers de France, Simon Fournival, 1672.
- 2009 Countdown to London £5 Silver Piedfort Proof Coin, World Mint Coins
- CCT720: 1988 to 1999 1 oz silver lunar proof piedfort 12 coin set
- Collins French Dictionary - "pied"
- Collins French Dictionary - "fort"
- Encyclopedie ou dictionnaire universel raisonne des connoissances humaines mis en ordre par M. De Felice, Volume 33, Fortuné Barthélemy de Félice, Denis Diderot, 1774
- A Catalogue of the very valuable and extensive collection of ancient and modern coins and medals of the late Samuel Tyssen, Esq. F.A.S., Sotheby's, 1802.
- Albert Romer Frey, A Dictionary of Numismatic Names: Their Official and Popular Designations, American Numismatic Society, 1917
- CoinLibrary Piedforts, retrieved 2012 September 19.
- The Coinage of the European Continent: With an Introduction and Catalogues of Mints Denominations and Rulers, Volume 1, William Carew Hazlitt, 1893.
- The Account Book of John Foulis of Ravelston, Publications of the Scottish History Society, Volume 16, T. and A. Constable, 1894.
- Vème République, 50 Francs Hercule, Piéfort