Many different calendars through history

How often do we travel to countries across the world, and take for granted that wherever we are everyone uses the same months and days? We all do. That has been the way it is for a long time, even if there are religious observances in some cases which may occur on different dates each year.

But it wasn’t always that way. Not by a long shot. Very early on, men calculated time by observing periods of light and darkness that alternated. This solar day has been considered the earliest form of the calendar. Next was the arbitrary calendar, which was the counting of days over and over. That didn’t work, as early civilization farmers could not calculate the best time to plant their crops. Humans then started observing the sun’s passage through a fixed point, and the solar calendar began.

The Egyptian calendar was one of the first truly scientific ones. Each year had 12 months, and each month had exactly 30 days. Each month had three weeks, each lasting 10 days. Later, the Babylonian calendar was developed, which was based on 12 lunar months. A new month began when a new crescent moon appeared. The Greeks had a similar calendar, but experimented with a democratic state calendar consisting of 10 arbitrary months, and an agricultural calendar.

The Romans got into the act when Romulus created a calendar that had 10 months in the year, with each month lasting 30 or 31 days. The Romans eventually had a number of calendars, the most notable one being the Julian calendar.

The Julian calendar was started in 45 BC by Julius Caesar, and had 12 months. Months were of different lengths, and in fact, one Julian year consisted of only 355 days. Thanks to Caesar, a number of reforms were made, which have been incorporated into the calendar we know today. For one, February was given an extra day so that it is now 28 days. Each week was reduced from eight days to seven. Also, Caesar introduced the leap year rule, which said that every fourth year was a leap year.

It was in the 14th century that the powerful Roman Church decided the “Anno Domini” dating, or “AD”, was implemented, which is the counting of years from the time of Jesus Christ’s incarnation.

Things went pretty smoothly until 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII thought that there should be a change in the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar was based on 365 ¼ days a year, but really it was technically 11 minutes less. As a result, the Gregorian calendar, based on precise calculations of vernal equinoxes had to do some adjusting. Three leap years were removed for every 400 years. All was set, and everyone should have been happy.

But that was not the case. Some people in England thought that since their calendars had to be adjusted 12 days forward that they were losing 12 days of their life. Oh, well.

The Gregorian calendar is the standard and most widely used calendar in the world today, referred to as the Western calendar.

Calendars have been favorites among collectors. For some reason, sports celebrities, as well as politicians, have been akin to signing calendars.

Take for example, two calendars, from 1981 and 1982 that were signed by the University of North Carolina basketball team, went for almost $2300. Amazing, you might say, except that both of the calendars had pictures of a young Michael Jordan, and of course, his signatures.

A 1957 Brown & Bigelow calendar, signed by Joe DiMaggio, was sold for almost $5700. It would have sole for a lot more if Marilyn Monroe had also signed it.

But speaking of Marilyn Monroe, a 1962 sterling silver calendar presented to President John Kennedy by Tiffany’s went at auction in 2013 for a pretty pricey sum. Would you believe $30,000?

As for me, I’m satisfied going to my local office supply store in November of every year and buying a calendar for the following year.

Jeff Figler has authored more than 700 published articles about collecting. He is a certified professional appraiser and one of the world’s leading experts on collectibles. His latest book, “The Picker’s Pocket Guide to Baseball Memorabilia” has been #1 on Amazon. He can be reached at