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History of the Maria Theresa Thaler


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Maria Theresia (1717-1780)

Maria Theresa Maria Theresa Maria Theresia was born in on May 13, 1717, as daughter of Emperor Charles IV and his wife, Elisabeth von Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel. She succeeded her father in 1740 at the age of 23. She was Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and Archduchess of Austria.

Maria Theresia's father had tried to guarantee the female succession through the Pragmatic Sanction. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed to this idea, leading to 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 Theresia created the foundations of the modern state.

In 1736, Maria Theresia married Francis Stephen of Lorraine. With him, she had 16 children. Francis Stephen was an able businessman, but he had little political ambition. Even after he became the emperor, he preferred to leave the business of governing to his wife. He died in 1765 and was succeeded by his son Joseph II, who became the co-regent with his mother, Maria Theresia.

Maria Theresia died on November 29, 1780, at the age of 63.

The literature often refers to Maria Theresia as an Empress. In reality she only had this title as the spouse of Emperor Franz I from 1745, when he was elected Holy Roman Emperor, until he died in 1765. She herself was never elected Empress, due to the Salische Gesetz, which regulated succession in the Holy Roman Empire and only accepted succession to the male heir. More details can be found in Deutsche Geldgeschichte 1484-1914.

The 1780 Taler

On September 21, 1753, Maria Theresia and the Dutch of Bavaria signed a coinage convention. This treaty defined the exact weight and silver content of every silver coin to be struck in Austria and Bavaria. The Maria Theresia Taler, also called "Levante Taler" or "Levantine Taler", was effectively created by this coinage convention.

The taler's weight and silver content was actually already determined at July 30, 1748, in an edict issued by Maria Theresia. Until above coinage convention was signed, its weight and silver content was only used for coins struck in areas ruled by Maria Theresia.

It should be mentioned that the Maria Theresia Taler had less weight and contained less silver than previously struck talers. With the amount of silver directly indicating the value of currency, one might also call this "inflation".

Talers with Maria Theresia's portrait were struck since 1741. Initially, the coins had a changing appearance. Starting with 1765 (after her husband died), the Taler was struck with Maria Theresia's portrait showing a widow's veil. The appearance started to be similar only after Maria Theresia died in 1780. Since then, the taler has been restruck with date 1780. Initially, there were easy to identify variations in the coin's appearance. Due to improvements in coin striking technology, the coin's appearance has been almost unchanged since 1850. For this reason, the strike date of coins struck after 1780 is often not easy - if at all - to determine.

The Maria Theresia Taler was official currency in Austria until October 31, 1858. It was used as currency in large parts of Africa until after the second world war. It was common from North Africa to Somalia, Aethiopia, Kenia, all the way to the coastline of Tansania. It could also be found everywhere in the muslim areas of Asia and in India.

On September 19, 1857, Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria declared the Maria Theresia Taler to be an official trade coinage. Subsequently, it was restruck not only in Austria, but also in Rome, London, Paris, Brussels, Bombay, and other locations. This can be seen as an indicator for the importance of this coin.

Several hundred Million pieces of the Maria Theresia Taler were struck since 1751. In the first two hundred years alone the confirmed count reaches 320,000,000. Some sources even claim that more than 800,000,000 pieces have been struck. Today, the Maria Theresia Taler is still struck as needed in the Vienna mint.


The obverse has a portrait of the mature Empress. She wears a widow's veil (which was reduced in size in order to meet Arab demands at the time) and a brooch with nine pearls. The inscription "M. THERESIA D.G. R.IMP.HU.BO.REG." translates as: "Maria Theresia, by the grace of God Roman Empress, of Hungary and Bohemia Queen". Below the bust are the initials "S.F.", which stand for the names of the two Guenzburg mint officials in 1780, Tobias Schoebl (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 (Guenzburg). The inscription reads "ARCHID.AVST.DUX.BURG.CO.TYR.1780" and translates: "Archduchess of Austria, Duchess of Burgundy, Countess of Tyrol, 1780". The "X" next to the year, sometimes referred to as cross or saltire, indicates that the coin has been struck following the coinage convention of 1753.

The raised edge of the coin shows the motto of the Empress "IUSTITIA ET CLEMENTIA" (Justice and Clemency) with various ornaments.

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