Ian Fenn's Blog

14 Sep 2015


Coins-World | Ian Fenn

I used to love watching, when I could catch it, the late 1990s early 2000's James Burke Documentary "Connections". A, I assume, British programme it may not be familiar to Americans. I didn't see it that often but recently found it on you tube. I hadn't realized I had probably missed 80% of all episodes. The format of each episode was to lead up to one particular invention (the undeclared subject of the episode) discovery by linking a whole lot of seemingly unrelated inventions and discoveries. It was interesting; at least I found it so, even when the links seemed to be a bit forced. What I found particularly useful was the different frames of reference that were applied. Too often we become so used to one way of looking at the world, or our hobby, that we fail to see another way of looking at it.

Obviously with coins we can make heaps of connections, some are economic; others historical and we can become set in the way we view certain coins. This post and the two coins pictured demonstrate this. Before you read on have a look at the pictures attached to this blog then Imagine you are at a coin club meeting and they are holding a world coins quiz. You are shown the two photos and asked what is the relationship between those two coins?

More than likely every one groans at such an obviously easy question and gives the answer "both coins are Austrian", their groans turn to surprise and even indignation when the quiz master says, "no your wrong try again"

Of the two coins only the 1938 5 Groschen is Austrian. The Maria Theresa thaler, pictured, which everyone, including catalogers, accepts as a coin from Austria, is in actual fact an Italian coin, struck sometime between 1935 and 1941 by the mint in Rome. A Rome mint issue with a solid pedigree this variety should be listed in catalogs as Italian.

In 1935 Mussolini finally convinced the Austrian Government to give Italy the sole right to produce the Maria Theresa thaler( allowing Vienna a maximum, for domestic use only, production of 10,000 per year). Mussolini wanted the coin to support his planned invasion of Ethiopia. Italy had tried a number of times to gain Austria's approval of such an arrangement, the first time being in the late 19th century. The coin was a lucrative product and Austria declined Italy's repeated request until 1935. Mussolini, effectively made the Austrian Facist Government an offer they couldn't refuse, as part of a wider treaty Italy would support Austria's Independence from Germany and the Italians would get a 25, year concession to produce the Maria Theresa thaler. Austria agreed. The tooling was transferred to Rome. The MTT pictured is identified as Roman by the circumferential die crack and the weight ( in this case 28.1 grams) . The Italians used Lire standard silver ( 835) instead of the Thaler conventions standard of 833. That means Mint state Rome MTT weigh between 28.07 and 28.14 grams, compared to the usual 28.06 grams.

Mussolini soon betrayed the Austrians and on the 12 March 1938 Austria was subsumed into the 3rd Reich and ceased to exist. Thats the connection between the two coins. The 5 Groschen is a rare coin, worth over US$500.00 even in the condition it is in. The connection between the two is the pre-war politics in Europe. We might say The MTT was supposed to prevent that 5 Groschen becoming the rarity it is today. The fact that it is rare is due to the failed policies and broken promises that had been made to avert Austria's Anschluss with Germany.



Level 6

This was different & quite interesting!


Level 7

Interesting. A lot to ponder. I like blogs like that thanks for writing it. Mike


Level 5

Thanks for sharing both the history and your thoughts! I think that I might need to take a look at how set my view is. Thanks for the input!


Level 5

Thanks for sharing this numismatic history!!!


Level 6

Interesting history! Thanks for sharing!

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