The coinage in
Europe at the end of the middle ages was a two tier system, gold and
silver. The gold money issued throughout Europe was generally of
high purity, the same can not be said of the silver money.
For the most part
the silver money was debased with copper, progressively so until the
silver content was so small that the money was essentially
copper. From time to time there were reforms to restore the
integrity of the coinage, but debasement would soon start anew.
During the late
middle ages, coins were produced at numerous small mints, by anyone strong
enough to have control of their own region. An area the size of
a typical US county might have had several operating mints. Most
coins were nominally silver and quite small in size, about the size of a
US dime, except thinner than a dime.
Spain held tight
control of access to her New World colonies, as a result, the predominant
money in use was Spanish.