Thaler of Empress Maria Theresa
Manufactory Günzburg Mint
Not on view
The legend in Latin on the obverse reads: M[ARIA] THERESIA D[EI] G[RATIA] R[OMANORVM] IMP[ERATRIX] HV[NGARIAE] BO[HEMIAE] REG[INA] (Maria Theresa, by the Grace of God, Empress of the Romans, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia). This coin continues to be struck by the Austrian Mint with the date set at 1780. It is one and one half inches in diameter, about a tenth of an inch thick, weighs just under one ounce, and contains approximately four-fifths of an ounce of fine silver. It has a fineness (or silver purity ratio) of 833:1000.
The word "thaler" (from the German thal, or “valley”) became a generic name for a large silver coin weighing about an ounce. It evolved into a widely known currency standard, and after the sixteenth century the term was applied to basic European silver coinage. It was adapted later as the monetary unit (in silver) of the United States: the dollar.
The combined weight of the two silver wine coolers (cat. no. 31a) nearby is about 434 thalers (not taking the different metal purity into account). In the eighteenth century, a weaver or cloth maker earned about 150 thalers a year; a university professor, who was required to dress appropriately for class and purchase books to maintain his educational standards, about 400. In 1779, when the Second Sachsen-Teschen Silver Service was begun, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was working in Salzburg as “court organist and concertmaster,” with an annual salary of 225 thalers. Thus, the amount of silver in these two wine coolers represents roughly two years of the young Mozart’s salary.
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