The best known of all the coins of the European continent, and one which enjoyed an uninterrupted popularity for four centuries. The demand for a large silver coin was manifested in the latter part of the fifteenth century for trade and commercial purposes, due to the great quantity of silver which was being used in Europe.
By an edict dated June 4, 1474, Duke Galeazzo Maria of Milan ordered the strik- ing of a silver coin of the value of one fourth of the Ducat. In 1477 Archduke Sigismund of Tyrol founded a mint at Hall (in the vicinity of the rich silver mines at Schwaz), from which mint were issued in 1484 the so-called Gulden- groschen (q.v.) of the value of one Gulden, and approximately of the size of the Tha- ler. These new, large, silver coins were rapidly copied, and a demand was created by the development of the silver mines in Tyrol and Bohemia. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the Emperor Maxi- milian issued Guldengroschen with a bust portrait and five armorial shields on the reverse, which were copied after the me- dallic Thaler of 1479, struck to commem- orate his marriage with Maria of Bur- gundy. Brandenburg copied the Thaler in 1521, and in 1525 appeared those of Count Stephan von Schlick in Joachims- thal in Bohemia, called Joachimsthaler, or Schlickthaler. As this term was no doubt found too lengthy, it was abbreviated into Thaler, a designation thereafter generally adopted. These were approximately of the size of the Guldengroschen, but of some- what inferior fineness, thus yielding a larger percentage of profit to those issuing them. This fact led to their adoption sooner or later by almost every country in Europe, with variations of the name, e.g., Daler, Tallero, etc.
By an ordinance of 1551 the value of the Thaler was made equal to seventy-two Kreuzer, and that of the Guldenthaler, a smaller coin, sixty Kreuzer. In 1566 the Thaler was made the legal imperial silver coin and reduced to a value of sixty-six Kreuzer in Austria and southern Germany, but in north Germany it was divided into Groschen. The latter varied according to the weight and fineness of the Thaler, and consequently there exist Thaler of twenty, twenty-one, twenty-four, twenty-five, thir- ty, thirty-two, thirty-six, and even forty- eight Groschen. This led to the general practice of applying a certain number of Groschen to make up the equivalent of a Thaler, called a Zahlthaler, and this coin suffered in proportion to the fineness or debasement of its component parts.
Those Thaler, however, which adhered to the legal standard were distinguished from the Zahlthaler by the name of Spe- ciesthaler (q.v.). These were accepted throughout Germany on a regular fixed basis, and in consequence they were valued at anywhere from two to ten times of the Zahlthaler. The Speciesthaler, by an or- dinance of 1623, received the name of Reichsthaler and was made equal to ninety Kreuzer, or one and one half Gulden in southern Germany, and twenty-four Gros- chen in the northern portions. The Vienna Monetary Conference of 1857 designated the Thaler to be equal to one and
See Also: Thaler
Source: Frey's Dictionary (American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 50, 1916)