Sunday, October 25, 2015


The other day I read an article: Die neuen Münzen des Alten Fritz (The new coins of Old Fritz) describing Frederick the Great's efforts for a unified currency in German territories.

The representatives of the Holy Roman Empire* had been struggling in vain at the Perpetual Diet in Regensburg for more than 100 years to create a common currency for the more than 300 political entities in Germany.
*a mere shadow of it's former self following the Thirty Years' War

"Friedrichsthaler" of 1785 minted in Berlin (A): FRIEDERICUS BORUSSORUM REX, EIN REICHS THALER (©Wikipedia/GNU Free Documentation License)
It was the Prussian king taking the initiative in 1750 who created the Preußenthaler (Prussian Thaler). Was this a reaction to the imperial Maria-Theresia-Thaler* of 1741?

Maria-Theresia-Thaler of 1780 (©Wikipedia/Carlomorino)
In fact, initially the Prussian Thaler carried the stamp REICHS THALER. Were they cheating? The Prussian coin had a fine weight of only 16,704 gram silver while the Austrian Thaler had a fineness of 23,389 grams.
*The name Thaler originates from the silver mining city of Joachimsthal in Bohemia being part of the Holy Roman Empire. Later Thaler became eponymous for many other coins: Daalder in the Netherlands, Daler in Skandinavia, Talero in Italy, Talar in Poland, and Dollar in the USA.

Joachimsthaler of 1525 (©Wikipedia/Stephan Schlick)
All silver coins of the First Reich were based on a silver weight, the mark, in particular the Kölner Mark (mark of Cologne) weighing 233,85 grams of fine silver. This is to be compared with the Pound Sterling based, as the name suggests, on a weight too, a pound of silver. German Thalers had another feature in common with the original non-decimal English system. Thalers were divided into 24 Groschen. In some regions of the Reich Gulden (guilders) based on gold and divided into 60 Kreuzer were in use.

As would be expected. Without exception European rulers manipulated currencies based on the weight of silver or gold. Gold coins were "diluted" with silver whereas silver coins lost their fineness with time.

Three mark coin of 1910
Later the Prussian Thaler had quite a success in Northern Germany with the creation of the German Zollverein (tariff union) in 1834.

Following the foundation of the Second Reich in 1871 all existing German currencies were replaced by the Goldmark* deliberately using the old name Mark. As a curiosity and a reminiscence the Second Reich minted a silver coin with a value of 3 marks! corresponding in value exactly to the Prussian Thaler. This "new" Thaler coin was still used in the Weimar Republic.
*divided into 100 Pfennig

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