Austria continues its four-coin historical Maria Theresa silver coin series with Justice & Character
A classic in the numismatic world, the Maria Theresa thaler (MTT) was first minted in 1741 and this silver bullion coin remained currency in the Austrian Empire until 1858. It continued to be used for far longer as a standard trade coin and many other countries began to mint them, including mints in Birmingham, Bombay, Brussels, London, Paris, Rome and Utrecht. The last coins were struck in the UK in 1962 and between 1751 and 2000, some 389 million were minted. It remains popular in North Africa and the Middle East to this day, spread by the various Empires that held sway in the region.
Maria Theresa herself is widely admired in Austria for bringing the country and its empire new organisation and prosperity in the tumultuous eighteenth century. It’s no surprise that she has continued to be the subject of coin issues and this four-coin series from the Austrian Mint is a particularly well realised effort. Struck in 22.42 grams of sterling silver, each coin takes a historical portrait of the Empress on one face, and a representation of defining characteristics of her on the other.
This second coin has taken justice and character as its subject, and the portrait is a combined one along with her husband, Francis I. Very classic looking in design, something we feel is underrepresented these days, the portrait obverse also manages to cram in almost all the required inscriptions. The mint claims these are struck with an ‘extra bold relief’ and the images do seem to indicate deeper relief than is usual from this mint. The reverse show Theresa in the guise of Justice, dressed and place in the ancient-style of the Greek and Roman Empires of old. Just the word IUSTITIA (Justice) and the date in Roman numerals (MMXVII) are inscribed here and neither are intrusive.
Packaging remains the ‘little red box’ that the mint uses with great regularity. We like them because they’re small and neat, making storage a breeze. As a four-coin set (you can see the first coin further down), there are packaging options to hold it, but both, while decent enough, miss the mark in our view. At the cheap end the coloured gatefold card is full of information, but looks a little fragile. Still, hard to complain at under €10. The second option is at the other end of the scale. Handmade by Viennese leathermaker R. Horns Wien, it manages to look quite bland but still cost a very hefty €195.00. Quite how many people will pay that much to hold a set of coins that cost under €240.00 is open to question. A nice idea, but we’d much rather have seen a gloss black wooden box with a silver portrait on the lid, for example – something around the €60 mark.
As you might have guessed, we really like this series and look forward to the second pair of coins next year. Clemency and Faith is due out on the 25th April 2018, with the final piece, Prudence and Reform, launching on the 3rd October.
Celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Empress Maria Theresa in 1717, this four-coin series is based on the four cardinal virtues, Courage, Justice, Clemency and Prudence, which drove the only ever female ruler of the Habsburg Empire. The most fascinating female figure in Austrian history unexpectedly came to power at the age of 23. Although unprepared for the role of ruler, Maria Theresa managed to take the helm of the Habsburg Empire for 40 years, during which she steered it on a highly successful course while managing to give birth to 16 children. The embodiment of both monarchic and matriarchal virtues, even during her own lifetime the imposing Empress made it difficult to distinguish between the woman and the myth.
The series combines the four cardinal virtues with four different portraits that show the Empress as a young woman, a wife, a widow and a mother. Featuring an amalgam of original motifs taken from medals issued during Maria Theresa’s reign (1740–1780), each 20 euro Proof quality coin is minted in extra bold relief to give it a special antique look. The obverse of Justice and Character shows the Empress as Justice. The reverse of the coin features a portrait, based on a medal by Anton Wiedemann (1724-1792), of Maria Theresa alongside her husband, Francis I.
A loving wife, caring mother of 16 children and hard-working absolute ruler, Empress Maria Theresa was the early prototype of the modern multi-tasking woman. Like the other three Proof quality 20 euro silver coins in our Empress Maria Theresa series, the second coin, Justice and Character, is minted in extra bold relief. The three-dimensional nature of the series, which celebrates the 300th anniversary of the birth of Maria Theresa in 1717, not only gives each coin a special antique look, but also underlines the multi-faceted role that the Empress played in the history of Austria.
BELOW: Maria Theresa coat-of-arms (left) and a portrait painted by Martin van Meytens in 1759, just six years before her death.
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