British Museum collections, £12.99
Diameter: 41.000 mm
Gift of King George IV
CM George III Ger.c.64
Coins and Medals
Silver schraubthaler ('box thaler') of Leopold, archduke of Tyrol
Tyrol, Germany, AD 1632
An unusual money box
There were may new large silver coins issued in the sixteenth century, and they could easily be regarded as decorative pieces, thalers especially. Many still survive showing signs of having been gilded and/or mounted for wear. Some were also turned into what became known as schraubthalers ('box thalers') which became fashionable toys in seventeenth-century Germany. Augsburg was a particular centre of their manufacture.
To make a schraubthaler, a thaler or pair of thalers was cut in half along the edge and hollowed out, with a groove added so that the two halves could be screwed together. One could place small pictures inside: religious symbols, portraits, or other miniature pictures were common (including pornography), as were sets of mica sheets which could be used, for example, to superimpose different costumes on one main image. This example has two pictures on the insides of the piece: a country scene and a woman's portrait.
Eventually, schraubthalers were purpose-made at the mint, using genuine coinage dies. The Hall mint in Tyrol was a particular centre of these novelties. A further development was the use of coinage dies, or adapted dies to make decorative strikings in larger metalwork such as plates and tankards. This became a common feature of seventeenth-century Germany.
G. Förschner, Kleinkunst in Silber, Schraubt (Melsungen, 1978)