German Silver Coins
and a currency discussion

The Thaler (or Taler) was the official coin in Germany until 1908. It weighed approximately 37 grains, compared to the 26 grains in the Silver Dollar. In 1875 a laborer could earn as much as 30 Thaler annually. Since Germany was not a unified country until 1871, every principality, kingdom, duchy, and other configuration set the value of their currency, making it difficult to answer a question like "What was the value of the Thaler in _______ (entity), in ______ (year)".  (Fill in the blanks).

In 1566 the "Reichthaler" was installed as an uniform currency unit for trade, joining the Kreuzer and Groschen coins. In 1750 Prussia started a reform of their currency and created a new Reichsthaler, which remained in use until 1821. In 1753 Austria and Bavaria reformed their currency, in an effort to find a common denominator, known as the Koventionsthaler (conventional Thaler). In 1761 the Rheinische Gulden was in the forefront of regional currencies. Napoleon changed everything he touched - in areas under his control, beginning in 1792, the Rheinische Gulden was replaced by the Kronenthaler, which remained in use until about 1840. After Napoleon met his Waterloo, Prussia began a new currency reform: the Prussian Thaler, equal to 30 Silbergroschen. One Silbergroschen was equal to 12 Pfennig. The Prussian Thaler was the dominant currency in northern "Germany." In the south, it was the Rheinische Rechnungsgulden. A Rechnungsgulden was equal to 60 Kreuzer. The value of a Kreuzer depended upon where you were in "Germany" - difficult to determine today.

Go to this link for a list of values in Hessen:

In 1838 the "Dresdener Muenzkonvention" (Dresden Coin Convention) set the value of two Prussian Thaler as equal to 3.5 Gulden (3,5 Gulden in the German format). Thaler and Gulden were always a silver currency.

After the German Empire was founded in 1871 a law was passed announcing a new single currency, the German Mark. However, the Thaler and a coin known as the Doppelthaler (double Thaler) continued to be used. One Thaler at that time was equal to about 3 German Marks, which equaled about 75 cents in the USA. A gold Doppelthaler was equal to 6 gold German Marks. The value of the German Mark was placed as 100 Pffenig, just as 100 cents equals one U.S. dollar, but the Mark was the equivalent of 25 cents, not 100 cents.

There were, prior to 1871, 10's of coins in use across Europe. A few are mentioned here: Albus, Batzen, Pfennig, Denar, Dukat, Floren, Gulden, Gutergroschen, Groschen, Gröschel, Groten, Gosle, Heller, Kaisergroschen, KonventionsThaler, Mariengulden, Mariengroschen, Mark, Matthier, Neugroschen, preuss. Thaler, Reichsgroschen, ReichsThaler, Silbergroschen, Stueber (Stuever), Schwaar, Schilling, Thaler, Weisspfennig, Weissgroschen, Witte, Kreuzer and Rechnungsthaler.

The following incredibly valuable information was provided by Horst Wilden, .

"Many years ago I found a listing in the book "Literatur und Ökonomie" about the living costs of students at the end of the 18th century. This list contained the living costs in Thaler of 15 students, so I divided it by 15:

room rent: 21.67 Thaler

bed tax: 1.60

fire wood: 8.57

washing clothes: 7.08

light: 5.62

clothes: 29.20

shoemaker: 7.47

shoe polish: 1.40

meals: 49.89

breakfast & dinner: 37.65

graduation: 5.76

writing materials: 4.28

hair cutter: 6.74

barber: 1.57

College costs: 28.34 presents: 0.36 books: 10.55 other: 32.70

Therefore, the average student had 271.68 Thaler per month.

In the same source there was the following comparison:

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had 2-300 Thaler as a student in 1765. He was a Counselor in Weimar, needed 1411 Thaler in 1776. As a Privy Councillor he needed 2249 Thaler in 1780. Up until 1787 he earned between 1500 and 2000 Thaler annually. As a writer he earned 3000-3200 in the years 1795 to 1832. As others said here that there were differences of value in different places; therefore, it is important to know that these students lived in Göttingen, Halle, Leipzig and Wittenberg.

400 to 500 Thaler would be the monthly income for actors, teachers, bakers and so on. Less than 100 Thaler was the income of messengers, servants, journeymen and so on.

See also: (It is in the German language. A translation site is at ./donstrans.htm .)

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