Austria has a tradition
of issuing commemorative coins after the death of an
emperor, with the date frozen.
Millions have been issued over two centuries, and they
have, and still are, used as a "trade dollar" in parts
of the Middle East.
They have also been issued by a number of other mints,
presumably under the auspices of the Austrian
government or mint.
The various issues can
apparently be distinguished by the mintmarks, but
unless you have specialized knowledge of these coins,
assume all are modern re-strikes.
World's Most Beautiful Coin
One good reason for
every coin collector to own one of these coins, is
that they have often been described as one of the
world's most beautiful coins. They are certainly
They are produced in two
versions, proof and normal.
We usually have single
pieces of these coins listed in our eBay auctions, and
sometimes also offer them in quantity as silver
The Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780)
Maria Theresa succeeded
her father, Charles VI, in 1740 at the age of 23. Her
father had tried to guarantee the female succession
through the Pragmatic Sanction, although Prince Eugene
of Savoy believed he would have done better to have
left her an efficient army and a full treasury! She
was Queen of Hungary and of Bohemia, Archduchess of
Austria (the title of Empress came in 1745 when her
husband, Francis Stephen, was elected Holy Roman
Emperor), and she defended her lands and rights
courageously in the War of the Austrian Succession
against Frederick of Prussia and his allies.
Internally her reign was marked by great reforms in
the areas of justice, finance, education, agriculture
and medicine. Maria Theresa created the foundations of
the modern state.
Her marriage to Francis
Stephen of Lorraine was a love-match. She bore him 16
children. Francis Stephen was an able businessman, but
had little in the way of political ambition. Even
after he became the emperor, he preferred to leave the
business of governing to his extremely capable
consort. He died in 1765 and was succeeded by his son
Joseph II, who now became the frustrated co-regent
with his mother, Maria Theresa.
The 1780 Taler
The silver taler was the
currency of the Empire and of the Austrian hereditary
lands. The silver taler was very important for trade
with the Levant (parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria) and
the Maria Theresa Taler became the best known and most
popular silver coin in the Arabian world. After the
death of the Empress, Joseph II permitted the mint at
Günzburg (today in Bavaria, but at that time Austrian
territory) to continue striking with the 1780 dies in
order to meet the demand from the Middle East. The
1780 taler was the only silver coin that the Arabs
trusted and would accept. Thus began the long minting
history of the "Levantine Taler" of the Empress Maria
Theresa. Since then the Günzburg taler has been
re-struck for trade purposes at Vienna, as well as at
mints in Prague, Milan and Venice from time to time.
The taler became the unofficial currency of some of
the lands in North Africa, and it can still be found
today in many Arabian bazaars. This version of the
taler became so important that it was restruck even in
London, Bombay, Paris and Rome. The "Levantine Taler"
lost its status as legal tender in Austria in 1858,
but thanks to an imperial edict of 1857 as well as the
present laws of the Austrian Republic, the mint at
Vienna still produces this famous trade-taler down to
the present day.
The obverse has a
portrait of the mature Empress. She wears a widow`s
veil (which was reduced in order to meet Arabian
demands) and a brooch with nine pearls. The
inscription "M. THERESIA D.G.R. IMP. HU. BO .REG."
translates as: Maria Theresa, by the grace of God
Roman Empress, of Hungary and Bohemia Queen. Below the
bust one finds the initials "S.F.", which stand for
the names of the two Günzburg mint officials in 1780,
Tobias Schöbl (S) and Joseph Faby (F). The reverse
shows the imperial double-headed eagle with the arms
of Austria at the centre, surrounded by four quarters
representing Hungary, Bohemia, Burgundy and Burgau (Günzburg).
The inscription reads "ARCHID. AUST. DUX. BURG. CO.
TYR. 1780" and translates: Archduchess of Austria,
Duchess of Burgundy, Countess of Tyrol, 1780. The
raised edge of the coin has the motto of the Empress "Iustitia
et Clementia" (Justice and Clemency) with various
ornaments. The story of the Maria Theresa Taler is
undoubtedly unique in the history of money and
numismatics. It is not only one of the most beautiful
silver coins in the world, it is also the most famous
and most widely spread. The Maria Theresa Taler
belongs in every collection because of its special
history. It is, however, also a gift of unusual
interest and a souvenir of lasting value!
According to Krause,
there have been an estimated 800 million Maria Theresa
thalers struck since 1780.