A Maria Theresa thaler is a silver bullion coin that has been minted continuously since 1741. All Maria Theresa thalers minted after 1780 bear the date ‘1780’. Probably between 400 to 800 million thalers have been minted since it was introduced and is still being made by the Austrian Mint today.
The coin is named after the Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) who was ruler of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia between 1740 and 1780.
The thaler is between 39.5 and 41 mm in diameter. 2.5 mm thick it weighs 28.0668 grams and contains 23.3890 grams (0.752 troy ounces) of fine silver. It has a silver content of .833, the rest being copper.
The obverse shows Marie Theresa with the inscription “M. THERESIA D. G. R. IMP. HU. BO. REG.” which means Maria Theresia Die Gratia (by the grace of God), Romanorum Imperatrix (Empress of the Romans), Hungariae Bohemiaeque Regina (Queen of Hungary and Bohemia).
The reverse continues the grand title of Maria Theresa: Archid Aust (Archduchess of Austria), Dux Burgundiae (Duchess of Burgundy), Comes Tyrolis (Countess of Tyrol).
The ‘X’ was added in 1750 and is know as a saltire (the Saint Andrew’s Cross, a heraldic symbol) which indicated the debased standard of the thaler (it changed from 9 to 10 thalers to the Vienna Mark).
The edge is engraved with the the motto of her reign “Justitia et Clementia” which means “Justice and Clemency”.
The coin became the official trading coin of most of the German speaking countries. The thaler also became popular in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and many other African countries. Some countries even made it a formal currency. During World War II it became the only currency in some countries.
Early on it was used in America (together with the Spanish dollar). Thaler is often spelled Taler in German speaking countries soon after 1901. Thaler led to daalder and daler which eventually became dollar in English speaking countries.
Although the coin is classed as Austrian, it has been minted (by concession) with little alteration in many countries including the UK (in London and Birmingham) and others such as France, Italy, Germany and Belgium, in several different mints. These ceased production by 1962 after political requests from Austria.
The Maria Theresa Thaler has often been called ‘the World’s most beautiful coin’ and is widely available as a silver bullion coin or as silver Proof. The coin is usually valued on its silver content but some of the early (1740’s) coins command good prices.