Diameter: 45.000 mm
Gift of Dr F. Parkes Weber
Coins and Medals
Silver Joachimsthaler of Stephen, count of Schlik
Bohemia, AD 1520s
The original dollar
The supply of silver within Europe expanded in the late fifteenth century, from mines in Saxony, Bohemia and Tyrol. The mining states replaced their gold coins (gulden or ducats weighing about 3.5g) with large silver ones of the same face value, weighing about 30g. They were called guldiners or guldengroschen from their origin as equivalents to gold coins.
The most productive mines were Schwaz in Tyrol and Schneeburg in Saxony, which became active from the 1460s. In the early sixteenth century they were joined by Annaberg in Saxony, and St Joachimsthal (modern Jachymov) in Bohemia. St Joachimsthal was hugely productive, and gave this type of coin a new name: the thaler. The name is derived from Joachimsthaler guldengroschen, the coin introduced by Stephen, count of Schlik (about 1519-30), who owned St Joachimsthal in 1519. Many countries were to produce versions of this coin and its name: daler, daalder, tallero. Dollar was the version of the name adopted in England, and was often applied to the large silver coins of Spain and Spanish America. This became the commonest coinage used by English colonists in North America. The silver of St Joachimsthal and other European supplies of silver peaked in the 1530s, and was beginning to decline just as silver was being discovered in Mexico and the Andes. The discoveries ensured that the new pattern of coinage represented by the thaler would have a long life.
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
W. Hess and D. Klose, Vom Taler zum Dollar 1486-1986 (Munich, 1986)