100 Greatest Modern World Coins Series: Italy 1928-R Gold 20 Lire, Proof

The end of World War I would leave in its path unprecedented destruction in every way possible. As the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Canada, Japan, and the United States) would eventually defeat the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire) after four years, much of Europe would look and operate a little differently. One of these countries was Italy.

In our next entry in our blog series following along with Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest Modern World Coins, we will take a look at a coin that is described by authors Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker as “draped in fascist political imagery.” While its silver counterpart is much more known, this coin is highly collected and conveniently enough, exceptionally rare. In fact, mintage goes as far as being “unknown.”

#14 - Italy 1928-R Gold 20 Lire, Proof

The Mint of Rome (Zecca di Stato) celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the End of World War I in 1928 with a 20-lire silver coin, 20-lire gold coin, and gold medal. All of them had the same design except for the medal and were created by Italian medalists Giuseppe Romagnoli and Atilio Silvio Motti. The obverse featured King Victor Emmanuel III wearing a helmet, who reigned from 1900-1946. The reverse features an allegorical lion and the fasces, or a bundle of wooden rods bound with leather straps surrounding an axe. The motif often shows up on fascist coinage as it is a symbol of authority of the government and represents the unity of the people: each stick could be broken by itself but together they could not. Literally, the fasces itself is represented as the power of the state over the people under its control. Thus, Italian fascists adopted the fasces as their cornerstone symbol.

The nationalist reaction to World War I and deep roots of 19th century Italian politics helped to establish the National Fascist Party in 1921. Founded by Benito Mussolini, the party came to power after a fascist March on Rome in October of 1922. King Victor Emmanuel III allowed the march to happen without military intervention and would go on to make Mussolini the prime minister the day after. The king would endure support for more than half of his almost 50 years in power, even after the public would start to turn against Mussolini. However, affection for him would wane after the condemned conquests of Ethiopia and Albania. This would cause King Victor Emmanuel III to arrest Mussolini and take away his title in 1943. Soon after, he agreed to a ceasefire with the Allied Forces while fascism remained. The king would abdicate his throne in 1946 and the country would vote to abolish the monarch the following June.

Collectors of Italian coinage are very familiar with the silver 1928-R 20 lire coin as it is highly collected. On the other hand, the gold version is extremely rare. So rare that its actual mintage is still unknown.