TU Graz


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Geiger GmbH - Gemeinlebarn (14/25)
Geldstrafe Geller, Johann Nepomuk


Money: Austria's influence on the development of money in the western world dates back to the 1st century B.C. The oldest coins made on Austrian soil were produced by the Celts. They were made of silver and gold, sometimes bore the names of chieftains or kings and were patterned after Greek and especially Macedonian models. The Romans hardly stamped coins in Austria, but supplied themselves with coins from their domestic mints.

The origins of independent minting in Austria (province of Salzburg) date back to the period around 1000. The first pfennig coins (pennies) of the Babenbergs were produced in Krems, the then leading trading centre, under Margrave Leopold III (1095-1136). They were the predecessors of the Viennese pfennigs. The period of the Austrian pfennig, from the 1st half of the 12th century to the 2nd half of the 15th century, was dominated by two kinds of coins: the Friesach pfennig and the Viennese pfennig, which served as models for several secular and religious minters; the Graz pfennig was influenced by the other pfennigs and, at times, also used as a model. The Friesach pfennig originated from Inner Austria and reached its peak around 1250. The Viennese pfennig, which eventually replaced the Friesach pfennig, was used from about 1200 and reached its peak around 1350; it dominated the regions along the River Danube and lost its function as a monetary coin only at the beginning of modern times.

The medieval pfennigs were silver coins of different weight and fineness, which were counted or weighed when used for payment. Units of account were the "Pfund" (pound, for 240 pfennigs) and the schilling (for 30 pfennigs); the pfennig was the only stamped coin.

In Tyrol, the development of coins differed from the one mentioned above: the kreuzer developed on the basis of the Veronese (or Bern) pfennig and was later used throughout Austria. The kreuzer, which was made of silver until 1760 and from then until 1892 of copper, was the basis for the silver coins of much higher values in modern times. The most common coin for everyday use was the three-kreuzer piece, or groschen, which was always made of silver. 20 silbergroschen were equivalent to one gulden (fl.) of 60 kreuzers, which existed as a coin and unit of account until 1857. The gulden was subsequently replaced by the silbergulden, which was subdivided into 100 kreuzers ("Neukreuzers") according to the decimal system (ratio: 100 fl. Konventionsmünze (basic monetary unit) = 105 fl. Austrian currency).

The first large silver coins were minted in Austria at the beginning of the modern age. This marked a decisive step in the international development of money. It originated from Hall in Tirol, spread to Joachimsthal valley (Bohemia), where it assumed the name taleror "thaler", and became known throughout the world as a common coin (even the dollar derives its name from the German word "taler"). Another Austrian coin that gained importance beyond Austrian borders was the "Konventionstaler" also called Maria-Theresien-Taler (or Maria Theresa dollar), created under Maria Theresia as a basic monetary unit; it existed under this name for a long time as a currency as well. The Konventionstaler was equivalent to 2 "Konventionsgulden"; 1/3 Konventionsgulden was worth 20 kreuzer and also called "Kopfstück"; it was much used in everyday life.

Before the introduction of the krone as currency (1892), the ducat (German: Dukaten) was Austria´s dominant gold coin; it came to Austria during the 14th century and was modelled after Italian coins (Venetian: "Ducatus" = duchy). The ducat continued to exist as a currency coin even after the introduction of the gold krone and is stamped even today with the year 1915 imprinted on it.

After the end of the Seven Years´ War (1756-1763) copper was widely used for coinage and paper money was introduced. From 1760 the kreuzer (until then a silver coin) and its pieces were made of copper. Paper money was made up of consolidated notes ("Zetteln") issued by the Vienna Stadtbanco. Their inflationary multiplication during the Napoleonic Wars caused the national bankruptcy of 1811, which gave rise to the temporary introduction of the so-called Viennese currency. At that time the loss of value of the Bancozettel money eventually exceeded 90 %, which meant an almost total financial loss.

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars the National Bank, founded in 1816, started to withdraw the paper money used during the financial crisis. A fixed ratio developed between the standard currency, which existed until 1857, and the Viennese currency: 100 Gulden C. M. ("Conventionsmünze", standard coin) = 250 gulden of Viennese currency. After the Compromise with Hungary (1867) a new note-issuing bank, the Austro-Hungarian bank, was established, the first notes of which were denominated in guldens.

In 1892 the gulden, used in Austria for centuries, was replaced by the krone of 100 hellers (1 gulden = 2 kronen), but not completely withdrawn from circulation; the smaller units of the kronen currency derived their popular names from the old kreuzer ("Sechserl" = 20 hellers, "Fünferl" = 10 hellers). 1922 the kronen currency fell into disuse (Inflation).

After the recovery from the great inflation by way of rehabilitation measures introduced by I. Seipel, stabilizing the value of the gold krone at 14,400 "Papierkronen" (paper kronen), The silver schilling worth 10,000 paper kronen was introduced in 1924. At first its sub-unit (1/100) was to be called "Stüber", but was finally named groschen due to potential confusion of the abbreviations (S, s). In 1938 this first Austrian schilling was replaced by the reichsmark (exchange ratio: 1 mark = 1.50 schilling).

After World War II the schilling was re-introduced in a new form and replaced the German currency. By means of currency laws and wage and price agreements it had been possible to keep the schilling relatively stable. Its value was also underscored by issuing silver coins worth ATS 25 (1955), ATS 10 (1957) and ATS 5 (1960). In 1976 a gold coin worth ATS 1,000 was issued to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the Babenbergs in Austria. The low-quality metals and alloys used for stamping the smaller pieces during and immediately after the Second World War were gradually replaced by better and more durable ones. The first schilling notes issued by the re-established National bank were brought into circulation on December 13, 1945.

On January 1,1999 the Euro was introduced in Austria and all the other member states of the economic and monetary union as scriptural money and currency unit. Euro notes and coins and euro cent coins will be introduced from January 1, 2002.

Literature: A. Loehr, Ö. Geldgeschichte, 1946; K. Bachinger and H. Matis, Der österreichische Schilling, 1974; G. Probszt, Ö. Münz- und Geldgeschichte, 31994; Geld. 800 Jahre Münzstätte Wien, exhibition catalogue, Vienna, 1994.

References to other albums:
Video Album: Prägung eines Maria-Theresien-Talers.

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