F.C. asks: What do the sayings on coins represent?
Legends on coins tell the holder useful information such as the coin’s value. In ancient times, coins were a perfect propaganda vehicle. The legends would praise the emperor, tell of a great victory, celebrate a good harvest. From about the 14th century to the 20th century, Latin was the universal choice for legends. A entire system of Latin abbreviations developed so rulers could get all of their titles and country names on the coin legends AND their portrait and family crest as well. Here is one of my favorites:
Take the full title of particular German coin: REX POLONIAE MAGNUS DUX LITHUANIAE RUSSIAE PRUSSIAE MASOVIAE SAMGITIAE LIVONIAE NEC NON SVECORUM GOTHORUM VANDALORUM HAEREDITARIUS REX. Translation: King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russia, Prussia, Masovia, Semgallia, Livonia as well as hereditary King of Sweden, Gotland and Vandalia.
Imagine what the die sinker must have felt like when he was asked to put all that on a single coin die. Below is the same legend as above but abbreviated for use on the coin:
REX POL.MA.DUX.LIT.RUS.PRUS.MAS.SAM.LIV.NEC NON SVEC.GOTOR.VANDAL.HAERE.REX.
I guess having just E PLURIBUS UNUM on U.S. coins is not so bad.