500 Lire Banknote

The old 500 lire (paper) banknotes are one of the most important and sought-after historical pieces of Italian numismatics. Therefore, on this page we will go through the long historical path and the events of this 500 Lire banknote.

500 Lire “Banca Nazionale” banknote

The Italian 500 Lire Banknote were printed in Italy for the first time in 1874 by the National Bank (Banca Nazionale) in the Kingdom of Italy. The period in question was that of the Kingdom of Italy and King Vittorio Emanuele II.

Originally, this Italian banknote, was printed on one side only and bore the inscription of the “Banca Nazionale”, the value of the banknote as well as the coat of arms of the cities of Turin and Genoa and the bust of Christopher Columbus in the center below.

rare Italian 500 Lire Banknote of Vittorio Emanuele II
Italian 500 Lire Banknote Lira Kingdom of Italy with Vittorio Emanuele II

The size of the first 500 Lire Banknote was 220 X 130 mm. This banknote was printed under King Vittorio Emanuele II in the years 1874 – 1875 – 1876 – 1877. Later they will be printed also under King Umberto I in the years 1881 – 1885 – 1887 – 1889 – 1893 and by the new Bank of Italy in 1894 – 1895.


Italian 500 Lire Banknote 1876 “Banco di Sicilia”

These particular Italian banknotes are very sought after. If kept in good condition they can also be worth 3.000€. A really interesting and noteworthy figure.

Fronte e Retro della rara banconota italiana 500 lire del banco di Sicilia 1876
Front and back of the 500 lire of the bank of Sicily 1876

Italian 500 Lire BanknoteBanco di Napoli

Banco di Napoli banknotes of the 500 lire denomination, if kept in good condition, can also be worth 7.500€. A banknote depicting Leonardo da Vinci printed in 1903 and restored is worth even 6.500€. Even if the banknote has been restored, it maintains a great economic value.

Banconota da 500 Lire 1903 con Leonardo da Vinci del banco di napoli
Banknote of 500 Lira 1903 with Leonardo da Vinci

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500 Lire Banknote “Grande C” (Big C)

Subsequently, the Bank of Italy made changes to the first 500 lire banknote. In fact, the 500 lira banknotes were illustrated by the Sienese artist Rinaldo Barbetti in 1896. This particular edition is also called “Grande C”. Do you know why?

Thanks to the size of the “C” of the inscription “Cinquecento”. The same banknote, with small variations, was also printed in 1950 and was declared out in 1953. The 500 Lire banknote designed by Barbetti remained in circulation for 57 years.

Italian 500 Lire Banknote "Grande C" barbetti
Italian 500 Lire Banknote “Grande C”

Value of Italian 500 Lire Banknote “Grande C”

If you have a 500 lire banknote of 1950, you could have in your hands a piece of history worth more than 10.000 €.


500 Lire Banknote “Capranesi”

This Italian banknote was printed for the first time in 1919 and was designed by Capranesi.

The Italian 500 Lire Banknote of Capranesi, represent on the back one of the two sculptural Monuments that triumphed over the facade of Palazzo Koch in Via Nazionale in Rome, which at the time was the seat of the Bank of Italy.

500 Italian liras of Capranesi with the harvester and the sculptural group of Cantalamessa
500 Italian liras of Capranesi with the harvester and the sculptural group of Cantalamessa

The three sculptures represent, starting from the left, Industry, Agriculture and Commerce. The sculptural group was born from the chisel of Nicola Cantalamessa Papotti. Later, in 1930, the sculptures were removed to protect the stability of the facade itself.

Around the representation of the monument there is a crown of leaves and two smaller ovals that flank the central one.

On the right the circle reserved for the watermark, on the left the one representing the golden eagle with the Savoy coat of arms. On the front instead is represented the figure of the reaper sitting on the sheaves with the scythe on the hand.

This banknote was printed from 1919 to 1943 and its total circulation was over 63 million pieces.

Value of Italian 500 Lire Banknote “Capranesi”

If you own a 500 italian lira banknote like this one, you should know that its value is around 900€.


Italian 500 Lire Banknote “Crown of Spikes”

Here is another version of the Italian 500 lire banknote. This one in particular, was issued in 1947 and signed on the watermark by Luigi Einaudi, at the time governor of the Bank of Italy.

On the occasion of this edition of the 500 lire, the banknotes were transformed reducing the size to 146 X 70 mm. The printing was carried out by the Officina Carte Valori of the Bank of Italy.

Italian 500 Lire Banknote "Crown of Spikes" 1947
Italian 500 Lire Banknote “Crown of Spikes” 1947

Made front and back on white paper with paste watermark, these 500 lire represent, on the front, a part of Raphael Sanzio’s painting “Venus, Juno and Ceres”. , realized by the artist in the Loggia di Psiche at the Farnesina in Rome.

The Tuscan artist’s painting allegorically symbolizes Italy and the banknote depicts the detail of Ceres’ face with his head adorned with ears of corn. Hence the name of the banknote.

The Banconota, called “Italia Ornata di Spighe”, circulated until 1953 together with the previous versions, after which they all came out on June 30 of the same year.

From 1953 to 1958 in Italy no more 500 Lire banknote circulated.

Value of Italian 500 Lire Banknote “Ornata di Spighe”

If you have a “Italia Ornata di Spighe” banknote from 1947 you can easily sell it at auction (on this site) and find a bidder for 400€.


The 500 Lire Silver Coin with Caravelle

After a long pause from the 500 Lire paper cut, in 1858 the State tried again and issued a Silver coin with a value of 500 Lire. It is the very famous 500 Silver Lire that we talked a lot about in the page dedicated to them: the 500 Silver Lire with the caravels.

Very rare Caravelle 500 Italian Silver Lire (Exemplary with the flag upside down)
Very rare Caravelle 500 Italian Silver Lire (Exemplary with the flag upside down)

This silver coin, however, was soon replaced due to the excessive cost of production. If you want to know more about the 500 silver lire, on this page you can find all the information about this coin, the current market prices, the mint errors and the different printing runs before their definitive disappearance.

Value of the Italian 500 Lire Silver Coin with Caravelle

The great peculiarity of this Silver coin is the Caravel Flag. If the flag flies to the right (in the direction of the wind) it is a common specimen. If the Caravel Flag flies on the left (against the wind) it is a very rare and sought after coin by numismatic collectors around the world and its value could fluctuate around 15.000€.


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The American 500 “AM-Lire” Italian Banknotes

After the fall of Mussolini’s government, in the years between 1943 and 1946, in Italy there was a period of transition and the U.S. Command had the AM – Lire banknotes printed. “AM” stands for “Allied Military Currency”.

The AM – Lire were US dollar-sized banknotes and reported their value in both Italian and English. Obviously there was also the 500 AM – Lire bill.

The American 500 "AM-Lire" Italian Banknotes - 1943 1946
The American 500 “AM-Lire” Italian Banknotes – 1943 1946

On the back side were the 4 freedoms enshrined in the American Constitution both in the original language and in Italian: Freedom of speech, Freedom of religion, Freedom from want, Freedom from fear.

It was a legal tender currency. Used throughout the Italian territory subject to the Military Government for payments of any amount! Nobody could refuse to accept it. These 500 Lire of paper circulated throughout the Second World War with the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 Lire.

At the end of 1946, precisely on December 12, the AM lire became to all intents and purposes currency of Italian issuance and no longer American. They remained in circulation until June 30, 1950 before going out definitively out of course.

Value of the 500 “AM-Lire” Italian Banknotes

This banknote, controversial and witness of such a particular historical period for Italy, if in good condition, can be worth more than 1.000 €.


State Ticket “Arethusa” 500 Lire

Later, in the sixties and exactly in 1966, a 500 Lire State Ticket was printed. These Italian 500 Lire Banknote are printed by the State Printing and Mint Institute, signed by the Treasurer of the Treasury Ministry.

It was not a banknote issued by the Bank of Italy but a title from the State, so seigniorage belonged directly to the State. In fact the wording is no longer Bank of Italy but “Italian Republic”.

banconota 500 Lire Aretusa 1966
Cartamoneta da 500 Lire Aretusa 1966 – 110 x 55 mm

The Arethusa state ticket was introduced to replace the 500 lire Silver coin (the one with the caravels), whose production costs became too high due to the increase of the silver quotation.

The size of the new banknote, further reduced compared to the previous banknotes, is now 110 x 55 mm. On the front, the banknote represented the head of the Arethusa Nymph with the symbols of the Dolphins, the Eagle and the Snakes around it. With cornucopias on the watermark.

Value of Italian State Ticket “Arethusa” 500 Lire

A 500 Lire Arethusa banknote in good condition from 1975 can be worth around 300€. Owning instead a very rare version (of the substitutive B6 series) could make you earn even more than 600€. The site that we always recommend to sell and buy banknotes both Italian and from all over the world is this one (click here to open it).


Italian 500 Lire State ticket “Mercury” Banknote

The year 1974 saw the issue of a new State Ticket with a value of 500 Lire, printed by Poligrafico dello Stato. Now, the size of the new banknote increased slightly compared to the previous version and became 115 x 59 mm. The State Ticket “Mercury” (mercurio) was printed in the years 1974 – 1976 – 1979.

Italian 500 Lire State ticket "Mercury" Banknote 1974
Italian 500 Lire State ticket “Mercury” Banknote 1974

This particular Italian banknote denomination, representing on the front the head of Mercury, became the last republican paper issue. In fact in 1982 it is replaced by the italian 500 lire Bimetallic Coin.

This is an excerpt from an article dated February 25, 1986:

25th February 1986 – THE 500 LIRE Banknote will be out of effect from the 28th February

ROME – Next February 28th the 500 lire tickets leave the scene to give way to the bimetallic coin of equal value, already in circulation. Who was still in possession of the banknote has time until this date to “sell it” or to change it in the bank. After the next February 28th, the 500 lira banknotes will go “out of course” and in order to change them it will be necessary to go to the counters of the Bank of Italy or to the Central Treasury. No new 500 lire banknote will be issued.

Value of Italian 500 Lire State ticket “Mercury”

If you have a “Mercury” state ticket you should know that its value is around 70€ /100€.


The Italian Bimetallic Coin 500 Lire

In 1982 the new 500 Lire bimetallic coin was issued after the silver one with caravels. Remember to read the dedicated article where you will find descriptions and prices of all the 500 lire bimetallic coins: Italian 500 lire coin.

This coin was composed of two metals. Its innovative use of more metals was necessary to combat the high counterfeiting of coins.

The Italian Bimetallic Coin 500 Lire
The Italian Bimetallic Coin 500 Lire 1982

The patent for the manufacture of the double metal and double color coin was proposed to the Ministry of Treasury in July 1981. Another innovative feature was the appearance of the Braille character and the discontinuous outline.

The metals used of Italian production were Bronzital and Acmonital. No wonder that their combination was called “Matrimonio all’Italiana” (Wedding Italian Style).

Curiosity about the italian Bimetallic 500 Lire

In the whole year 1982 more than 162 million coins of 500 bimetallic lira were produced.

One of these is kept and exhibited at the British Museum in London and many were immediately collected by tourists visiting Italy. You too could have one in the attic and not know it! The Vatican City State has its own 500 lire coins that are looking the same as the italian, you can check them here: 500 lire vatican coins here.


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Autore dell'articolo

Marco Salvatori

I don't like to call myself a Numismatic but rather a passionate collector of italian lira, modern and even ancient coins. I love studying the history of our country through coins and each piece tells me its story.

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