The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 40, October 1, 2017, Article 24


A couple weeks back, Pablo Hoffman challenged E-Sylum readers to...

Attention Lexinumiscryptographers:

You say you've been all over the world? Great!

Take a “Travel Quiz,” which has ten different letters. Use any or all of these letters to spell names of coins or denominations of money from any country, any era, any language, singular and/or plural.

Each letter occurs only once in “Travel Quiz,” so you can use a letter only once in each name. For example, “quarter” doesn't work because it has two Rs. No slang, nicknames, abbreviations or symbols.

Martin Purdy and Ron Haller-Williams were the only readers to try their hand publicly. See last week's article for their answers. Here are their comments, followed by Pablo's review. -Editor

Martin Purdy of New Zealand writes:

Interesting to see the list of words drawn from TRAVEL QUIZ, and to see I found a couple the compiler missed :-) The longest list contains some oddities, though - AS and REAS would have to be discounted since there's no S there that I can see.

Good game, in any case. I repeated it on the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand's Facebook page and didn't get a single response. Some folks clearly have no sense of fun.

Ron Haller-Williams writes:

We all missed the tin TRA dated AH1224 of Kedah (now part of Malaysia, NNW of Singapore), also the Turkish 18th-century gold ZERI (or ZERI MAHBUB, which is said to translate as "beloved gold"), which weighed about 3 grams. But I'd love to learn a bit about the AT and TAL submitted by Pablo (who set the quiz) – I presume the RAI is/are from the South Pacific island of Yap?

Pablo reviewed the entries for us, and here are his thoughts on the results. Thanks! -Editor

It occurred to me that we're all feeling the strain of our full-time day job: saving the world from Evil. A quick look at the headlines shows that we're not doing well at it. So . . . I thought a little break would do us good, a momentary wordful divertissement was in order, and Wayne was good enough to indulge me. Hence, the “Travel Quiz.”



At Equals 1/100th of one Laotian kip. Fractional notes of 10 at, 20 at, and 50 at were issued in 1945. The language of Laos is Lao, in the Tai-Kadai language group.

Lari Replaced the old Kuponi denomination in the Republic of Georgia in October, 1995. The lari is the equivalent of 100 tetri. Its international symbol is ? .

Lat The English name for the lats, the official currency of Latvia until 31 December 2013. It was replaced by the euro on 1 January 2014. Lat is singular, as is lats. It is divided into 100 santimu.

Lati Plural of lats in quantities of 2 to 9; found on the 5 lati note only

Latu Plural of lats in quantities of 10 or more; found on all other notes.

Leu Singular form of the Moldovan and Romanian currency unit. One leu equals 100 bani. The name leu derives from the Dutch leeuwendaalder coin, or lion thaler, first minted in 1575. This large silver piece owed its name to an image of a rampant heraldic lion (in Dutch, “leeuw”) prominently depicted in its Dutch coat-of-arms. “Leeuw” became abbreviated to yield the Balkan denominations of leu and lev.

Lei Plural of the Romanian leu.

Lev Introduced as Bulgaria's currency in 1881, with a value equal to the French franc.

Leva Plural of lev.

Lira The monetary system of the Roman Empire was originally based on the libra, Latin for the value of a troy pound of approximately pure silver. The term was subsequently translated into local languages. In current use in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, and in Bulgaria, Egypt, and Romania as translation of the British pound; in Croatia as translation of the Italian lira. Formerly used in Cyprus, Israel, Italy, Italian East Africa, Italian Somaliland, pre-unification Italian kingdoms, states, and republics, Malta, Ottoman Empire, San Marino, Tripolitania, Vatican City, and elsewhere.

Lire Plural of lira

Litu Plural genitive form of the Lithuanian litas (singular,) the currency of Lithuania until 1 January 2015, when it was replaced by the euro.

Livre Denomination introduced in the late eighth century by Charlemagne, unifier of Western Europe into the Carolingian Empire. Livre was the French translation of the Roman Empire's libra (see Lira, above.) It was a standard currency in metropolitan and colonial France until displaced by the franc in 1795.

Quetzal Created in 1925, and named for Guatemala's national bird, the resplendent quetzal, whose magnificent tail feathers had been used as currency by the ancient Mayan inhabitants of Meso-America.

Rai The rai are calcitic limestone discs in varied sizes, from less than an inch and a half to twelve feet in diameter. Their weight varies between a mere few ounces to almost 9,000 pounds. They have been used as ritual currency on the island of Yap for over a thousand years. Although the U S dollar is now in everyday usage by the Yapese, rai are still utilized in traditional ceremonial interchanges. Yap is now part of the Caroline Islands in the Federated States of Micronesia, in the western Pacific Ocean.

Real The Treaty of Tordesillas, signed on June 7, 1494, divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between the Portuguese Empire and the Crown of Castile. The silver real was the currency of the Spanish colonies in America and the Philippines. The first Portuguese settlers in the Americas brought with them the use of the Portuguese real in the 1500s.

The native Brazilian real originated in 1654, during the Dutch occupation of the northeast region of Brazil. On 1 July 1994, Brazil eliminated the cruzeiro and introduced the modern real as its official national currency.

Rial Unit of currency in many Middle Eastern and North African countries. The term is written as rial or riyal, and derives from the Portuguese real. Some of its issuers, past and present, are Hejaz, Iran, Morocco, Muscat & Oman, Oman, Qatar, Qatar & Dubai. Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Riel The national currency of Cambodia. The term is translated into Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, from the Spanish-American and Mexican real, one of the most widely accepted currencies in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years. An alternative interpretation for the origin of the term is that it is adapted from the riel, a small fish. Commonly referred to in Khmer as trey riel, or the “money fish,” it provides a livelihood for tens of millions of Cambodians, who annually harvest millions of pounds of the diminutive carp-like fish from the Tonlé Sap lake and river systems, major tributaries of the immense Mekong River, one of the world's most ecologically and economically important waterways.

Tael The tael is the basic unit of a complex interrelated system of weight and currency equivalents, likely originating in Ta'ng Dynastry China during the 7th Century AD. The English word tael entered the language from Portuguese, which absorbed it from the Malay word tahil, or weight. The tael, or tahil, is today still in use, albeit adapted to a myriad of differing market quantifications, in Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, as well as in financial transactions in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam, and in local population nodes of the vast world-wide Chinese diaspora from New Zealand to New York.

[It is left to your own criteria whether to consider “Teal,” the improbable but true misspelling, as an additional entry to this list of currency names; it occurs on the scarce but avidly collected Five Tael note of The Hunan Government Bank, issued in 1908.]

Tal The revised form of thal, a rendition of thaler, by the Berlin II Orthographic Conference of 1901. The thaler was a large silver coin predominant in Europe for centuries; its name is the derivation of “dollar.”

Taler The revised form of thaler, by the Berlin II Orthographic Conference of 1901.

Vatu The unitary currency of Vanuatu, independent since 1980, formerly Nouvelles Hebrides. The vatu displaced other currencies, including the New Hebrides franc and the Australian dollar.

Challenges and comments welcome! I invite all readers as well as the contributors themselves to verify or debunk any of our entries, quoting your references if possible.

Ron Haller-Williams found the beautiful pair, TRA and ZERI, both legitimate additions to the menagerie of coin and/or denomination names, as well as others, mining Central European and classical languages for linguistic gems. Well done, magisterial! As you see above, Ron, your assumption regarding the RAI of Yap is perfectly correct. I do take issue with the ISO 4217 currency codes; I think they wouldn't pass muster given the prohibition on abbreviations or symbols. Ron also appended some interesting bibliographic references.

Martin Purdy nicely nailed some that escaped me, including great catches like AUREI and ZAIRE, although I can't find the LI anywhere. He also notes that some E-Sylumers may have stepped on the out-of-bounds line by using letters not present in “Travel Quiz.” There are other reasons as well. QUART, for example, from the Greek ??????, was probably a unit of dry weight rather than a denomination. Hey, nobody's perfect. Martin displays impressive Travel Quiz chops.

Thank you Martin and Ron for your participation, and to all others who followed along . . . much appreciated!

BTW, lexinumiscryptographer and Wayne's derivative, lexinumiscryptography, are fanciful neologisms arisen from my warped mind. Don't let that prevent you from liberally and proudly sprinkling the terms into your everyday conversations with bus drivers, IRS examiners, and precocious children; it will surely expand your reputation and possibly get your picture in the papers, should any of those conversations lead to newsworthy incidents. Just remember to carry your attorney's card in your wallet.

Thanks for a great quiz, everyone. BTW, as far as I can tell, Pablo's word and my modification are seen nowhere else on the internet. E-Sylumites are a unique bunch. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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