The reign of her father Charles VI (1711-1740) was dominated by the succession crisis, and the hard-pressed emperor drafted the Pragmatic Sanction during 1712 and circulated it during 1712-23. This document was supposed to assure his daughter’s peaceful succession in the patchwork of territories the Habsburgs ruled. A number of other European countries accepted the sanction as well, many without any serious intention of honoring it when the emperor left the scene.

In 1736 Maria Theresa married Francis Stephan, Duke of Lorraine and upon her ascension in 1740 launched internal reforms designed to strengthen her rule and bring her territories under tighter central control. As Charles drew his last breath, despite the Pragmatic Sanction, Austria was immediately at war with France, Spain and above all, the upstart King of Prussia, Frederick II, soon famous as Frederick the Great.

Maria Theresa’s first victory was winning the support of the wavering Hungarian magnates by appearing before them at Pressburg (Poszony) with her young son Joseph in national costume.

The resulting struggle became known as the War of the Austrian Succession, fought 1740-1748, which ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. King of the highly-militarized Prussian state, Frederick II emerged with the rich province of Silesia solidly in his grasp. The Seven Years’ War followed (1756-1763) and the War of the miserable and unnecessary Bavarian Succession (1778-1779).

Maria Theresa strengthened her hand by having her husband elected Holy Roman Emperor as Francis I in 1745, but was unable to preserve all of her dominions. Even Francis had to agree to exchange his ancestral Duchy of Lorraine for the Italian Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Upon his death in 1765 their ambitious son became Holy Roman Emperor as Joseph II, co-ruler with his mother. The dynasty was now known as Habsburg-Lorraine (Habsburg-Lothringen).

Gold ducats, silver talers and an array of minor coins in varying alloys of silver, billon and copper were struck for Maria Theresa at Vienna, Graz (Styria or Steieremark), Hall (in the silver-rich “Princely County” of Tyrol), Kremnitz (Northern Hungary), Nagybanya, Prague (Bohemia), Siebenbürgen and Karlsburg (Transylvania), Günzburg (Vorderösterreich or Further Austria, now in northern Bavaria).

There were additional Maria Theresa coinages struck to other standards in the Austrian Netherlands and for the rich Duchy of Milan in northern Italy. These are generally regarded as separate issues from her “Austrian” coins by American collectors. In fact, a lifetime could be spent assembling a reasonably complete collection of the empress’ many coins.

Her taler coins displayed the empress’ bust at various ages, ranging from the youngest draped bust of 1741 through older draped or mailed busts struck until her consort’s death in 1765. The next four portraits wore a widow’s veil, small diadem and ermine shawl, ending with the final likeness of 1780 which graced the coin universally (if somewhat carelessly) called the “Maria Theresa Taler.”

1765ducataustriaMaria Theresa died on Nov. 29, 1780, but talers of this final design were struck at Vienna, Kremnitz, Prague, and Karlsburg. It would be the taler struck at Günzburg would become the famous world trade coin. Günzburg was the capital of the westernmost German possession of the Habsburgs, a detached territory between what became Bavaria and Württemberg near the cathedral city of Ulm. It was officially styled Vorderösterreich or Further Austria.

As noted above, Josef Faby was Mint Warden under Mint Master Tobias Johann Schöbel, in 1780, recognized by their initials S.F. on the new talers. Mint Engraver was Johann Baptist Wurschbauer (died 1800), appointed to Günzburg June 24, 1774 with a salary of 600 florins per annum, plus lodging.

Austrian Mint appointments often ran in families. In his definitive Biographical Dictionary of Medallists, Leonard Forrer noted another family member Karl Wurschbauer (1774-1841), as having been reprimanded on Mar. 24, 1814 for the inferior quality of his “Levant” (i.e. Maria Theresa) taler dies, and censured in 1817 for unseemly conduct toward the Mint Master.

The term Levant taler was applied to coins exported for trade in the Middle East, particularly today’s Syria and Lebanon, later to East Africa and Arabia. As early as 1719 Charles had expanded commerce through the free ports of Fiume and Trieste and founded the Levant Company. The East India Company was launched in 1722 to develop trade with Africa, East India and even the West Indies.

The new 1780 Günzburg taler was shipped eastward and for whatever reason was an immediate and overwhelming success in Near East trade. The new Emperor Joseph II demanded that his own silver talers be exported in place of his late mother’s coins now so suddenly popular. Too late, his coins though identical in size, fineness and weight were peremptorily rejected in the Levant.

There was no help for it: additional Günzburg talers had to be struck, and were indeed struck down to the present day, as we shall see in the second installment of this history of the Maria Theresa taler.


  1. It’s hard to see why there’s any interest in this coin. The main and significant problem is there’s no way to tell if a coin is older or newer then another. In other words, there’s no dates. This equals zero collectibility in my book. Sure, they are pretty, there’s some history involved, but once you owned one you have owned them all. Imagine an American Eagle coin going on for two hundred years. Pretty boring for collectors, cool for history and traditions. If there are differences among these coins, maybe designs have changed a few times in minor ways, please write about that. Someone should

    • Joe s repeats a very commonly held myth. That the coin has been produced in exactly the same form since 1780. With a little thought an experienced collector will realise that with the changes in minting technology it is impossible to not have differences. There are over 90 varieties of this coin although most are only worth bullion value some, particularly the original 1780 strikes can demand (and get) prices in excess of US$1000.00.

        • Do you mean you want to get the coin appraised (how much is it worth) or certified (graded by a third party and most likely put in a plastic holder)? Either way will require a little research on your part. A reputable coin dealer will let you know how much they will pay for the coin, and you may want to talk to more than one. If you want to see what it is selling for, perhaps eBay is the easiest place to look for a general idea. Small-time antique dealers may or may not have numismatic expertise, and larger antique dealers who have a numismatist on staff or on call may or may not be a good place to take one coin. You will have to talk to dealers or appraisers in your area in person or over the phone.

          At any rate, good luck!


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