This essay focuses upon the material and symbolic uses that some precious objects filled in the late Middle Ages and early modern period amidst the upper classes of Mantua and Genoa. The authors will show how the imperfections of some monetary circuits caused the owners of such goods to use them as currency in specific circumstances. Gold and silver coins seemed more suited to circulation than to hoarding. The latter function was in fact entrusted to gold and silver objects. The value assigned to these objects, however, changed in response to specific situations. When they were pawned or sold to get liquidity the value of raw materials was more important than workmanship. For purchasers, on the contrary, workmanship counted more than raw material. According to the authors, this depended on the fact that money consisted of the same metals that were used to make precious objects and was therefore replaceable with them. The conditions that allowed the artistic component to increase its relevance (even when the material value was next to zero, as in paintings) probably occurred when currencies became a purely abstracts representation of value and when the role of property as identity marker became more important.
Keywords: Cash equivalent goods, Modern Age, Commodity currencies, Monetary circulation, Mantua, Genoa.