Prints and drawings by Albrecht Durer, £9.99
Silver 5 talers of Julius, duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel
Germany, AD 1576
A starstruck coin made for the Astrologer Prince
The dukes of the Brunswick dynasty in Germany inherited access to one of the leading silver-rich regions of Europe. This huge coin was struck for Julius of the Brunswick-Wolffenbüttel line in 1576. Julius pioneered the Löser, or redemption coin - a novel way of using coinage. These large coins were intended to be a method of storing surplus silver against future need, instead of flooding the market. The duke's subjects were obliged to buy them in proportion to their landholdings and later, if required by the duke, surrender them in return for baser currency.
The coin also illustrates the duke's interest in astrology - he was known as the Astrologer Prince. Its design features both the twelve signs of the zodiac and the seven 'planets' (shown as the appropriate Roman gods), arranged in two concentric circles around his own image. In order running clockwise, the gods are Luna (the Moon), Mars, Venus, Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter, and Sol (the Sun).
P. Fürstenwerth, 'Der Lösertaler als finanzpolitisches Instrument', Geldgeschichtliche Nachrichten, 11 (1976)
E. Fiala, Münzen und Medaillen der Welfi (Prag, Druk der K.u.K. Hofbuchdr. A. Haase, 1906)
B.J. Cook, 'Showpieces: medallic coins in early modern Europe', The Medal-4, 26 (1995)