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Ducatul austriac - istoria uneia dintre cele mai populare monede de aur din lume

Publicat de Daniel Vasilev în categoria Blog, Rafinării și monetării în data de 21.01.2022
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Monedă de aur 4 Ducat Austriac Franz Iosif

In 1762, during a visit with his father to Vienna, a six-year-old child prodigy was invited to sing in the Hall of Mirrors at Schonbrunn Palace, to the delight of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s reward for entertaining Her Majesty was a gold Austrian ducat .

Thanks to the special quality, strictly maintained for centuries, the Austrian gold coin with the same characteristics (weight 3.49 grams and purity 23.66 carats) as presented to the great composer can still be bought by anyone today. Strictly adhered to standards and a high content of pure gold are the reasons why the ducat not only remained in high demand for centuries, but also became an important pillar of trade in Europe.

In addition, coins with a face value of 1 ducat or 4 ducats are currently among the most popular types of gold for investment worldwide. They are of high value to history buffs and gold investment enthusiasts because the replacements, i.e. the reprints minted today, have an unchanged design since 1872. They are produced by one of the oldest mints in the world, the Münze Österreich, commonly referred to simply as the Austrian Mint.

The case of Mozart and Maria Theresa is only one episode in the history of the Austrian duchy.

The emergence of the duchy

The emergence of the duchy did not take place in Austria, but in the city-states of today’s Italy. The first to bear this name was a silver coin minted by Roger II of Sicily in the middle of the 12th century, modeled on the Byzantine coins of that time.

Silver Duchy of Roger II of Sicily

Silver Duchy of Roger II of Sicily

The name of the coin comes from the title of duke, respectively the ducats are the “coins from the ducat”, which is also mentioned in the inscription on the ducats:

Sit tibi, Christe, datus, quem tu regis iste ducatus.

May the gift of Christ be with you, lord of the duchy.

Ducats spread to northern Italy, and at the end of the 12th century they began to be produced in Venice. These remained silver coins for most of the next century.

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But in the middle of the 13th century, Florence began to mint the Florin gold coin, which, due to its high frequency and quality (0.1125 troy ounces or 3.536 grams and a purity of 23.66 carats or 98, 6% pure gold), soon became the preferred means of payment throughout Europe. Therefore, the Florentine florin gave rise to various currencies, such as the Hungarian forint, still in use today.

Read more on this topic: Hungarian forint. The history of the most “inflated” currency and how the country tries to save it with gold

Following the example of the Florentines and considering the inflation observed in other countries, for example in the Byzantine Empire, the Grand Council of Venice authorized the creation of a local gold ducat. This took place in 1284 under the leadership of Doge Giovanni Dangolo. The ducat weighed slightly more than the florin, 3.545 grams, and the same purity, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History.

It took just over a century for the ducat to become the dominant gold currency in world trade. As with the florin, due to its widespread recognition and high purity, many countries began minting ducats, and by the 1500s, coins of this denomination were produced by over 250 public and private mints. The first to adopt the standard after Venice was Hungary (1325), followed by Austria and, in the more distant future, the Netherlands (1586). After the 16th century, ducat-like designs appeared in Russia and Poland.

In Venice, production ceased in 1797, when it was captured by Napoleon Bonaparte and its territory was divided between France and Austria. The Venetian duchies did not depreciate during the 500 years. The amount of pure gold in them has remained largely the same throughout their history.

The emergence of the Austrian duchy

By the time the minting of the original ducats ceased, Austria had already adopted and issued an almost exact copy of the Venetian coinage. The country’s first ducats were produced in early 1511, during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I (who reigned from 1508 to 1519), also known as the Last Knight. The 1 ducat face value gold coin weighs 3.49 grams and has a purity of 98.6% or 23.66 carats. With these characteristics, he directly inherited the duchies of Venice and set the standard that continues to be followed to this day.

Over time, coins of 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 (weighing 35 grams) and 20 ducats were issued in Austria. All also have a fineness of 23.66 carats. For centuries, this was the ultimate technologically achievable purity, which is why the ducat became famous throughout the world. If we look at other coins in circulation at that time, such as the French 20 franc, Napoleon or Marianne coins , we will see that they have a lower pure gold content of 21.6 carats or 90% purity.

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The parameters of the Austrian duchy have remained almost unchanged throughout history. In the late 18th century, ducats bearing the faces of Andreas Jakob von Dietrichstein (designed by Franz Metzenkopf) and the emperors Franz II and Leopold VII were in circulation. They weighed 3.5 grams and only briefly dropped to 3.47 grams and a purity of 0.986 under Leopold VII.

A gold coin with the face of Maria Theresa (reigned between 1740 and 1780), which Mozart probably also received.

A gold coin with the face of Maria Theresa (ruled 1740-1780)

When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed in 1867, it included the present-day territories of Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Croatia and parts of Poland, Romania, Italy, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia and Montenegro. Thus, it was the largest state in Europe, smaller only than Russia, which, however, is not limited to a single continent. It is therefore not surprising that its currency became one of the most important currencies fueling world trade, being widely accepted. We must not forget that the entire 19th century was a period of intense technological and economic growth.

Even when the Austrian ducat ceased to be legal tender in 1857, its high quality was maintained and the country’s mint continued to produce it. In addition, it remained a means of payment used in commerce.

The Austrian duchies we know today

In 1872, the penultimate emperor of Austria-Hungary, Franz Joseph I, was 42 years old. As such, we still see it on Austrian ducats to this day, after the designs of the first ducats with his image, minted in 1855, were altered. Then they were never changed. For the past 150 years, the coin has been minted in two gold-copper-silver alloy versions with denominations of 1 and 4 ducats.

The parameters of the Austrian duchy

Let’s take a look at the physical characteristics of the Austrian ducats, which are still in production and are in high demand.

Table: Parameters of Austrian Ducat gold coins

Name Total weight (grams) Pure gold weight (grams) Pure gold weight (troy ounces) Purity Diameter (mm) Thickness (mm)
1 ducat 3.4909 3.44203 0.11066 98.6% (23.66 carats) 20 0.8
4 ducats 13.96 13.77 0.4438 98.6% (23.66 carats) 39.5 0.71

The Austrian ducat is thinner than 1 millimeter, which is also directly borrowed from its medieval Venetian ancestor. This makes them relatively difficult to counterfeit, as gold is a heavy metal with a unique density of 19.3 grams per cubic centimeter. Often, imitations are thicker than the originals to achieve the necessary weight.

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Regardless of face value, the obverse depicts Franz Joseph I in profile, facing right, wearing a laurel wreath. The text around it is as follows: “FRANC IOS IDG AUSTRIAE IMPERATOR” (“Franz Joseph I, by the grace of God, Emperor of Austria”). On the 4 ducat coin, the bust also covers the shoulders and chest of the ruler.

Obverse of the 4 ducat coin

Obverse of the 4 ducat coin

On the back is the coat of arms of the Habsburg dynasty, crowned with a double-headed eagle and a crown. It is accompanied by the text: “HVNGAR BOHEM GAL LOD ILL REX AA ​​1915” (Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria, King and Archduke of Austria 1915).

The reverse of the Austrian Ducat gold coin

The reverse of the Austrian Ducat gold coin

In the case of the 4 ducat coin, the face value is visible in the lower center of the reverse. But both denominations have a serrated edge, which makes it easy to see if someone has tried to extract gold from them. It is a particularly useful aspect for means of payment used in circulation, such as ducats.

The date inscribed on the contemporary reprints of the Austrian duchy is interesting. Its production should have ended in 1915. This was also the last year that the Austrian Duchy was accepted in trade transactions in its native country. At that time, Austria-Hungary had entered a deep crisis due to the First World War. The conflict was sparked by Emperor Franz Joseph I, depicted on the coin. The war would split the Central European superpower he had ruled during his lifetime.

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But the Austrian Duchy was such a popular and sought-after gold coin that Münze Österreich decided to continue production. The mint used the last dies available, which notably dated from 1915. Therefore, official post-World War I coins still in production today are marked only with that year, regardless of the exact date they were minted. The Austrian Duchy remains frozen in a very different past, when the world still operated according to the gold standard.

The Austrian Duchy saved the Americans from confiscation of gold in 1933

To devalue the US dollar, President Theodore Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102 in 1933. It banned the possession of gold and required residents to surrender the precious metal to the government at a price of $20.67 per ounce. Coins minted after 1933 could not be imported into the country.

Read more on this topic: The 1933 Confiscation: The Beginning of the Gold Price Rise

Like any law, the president’s order has exceptions. Point 2, section b of the document identifies them as such:

Gold coins and gold certificates in quantities not exceeding a total value of $100 belonging to a single person; and special value gold coins for collectors of rare and unusual coins.

In short, the law provided exceptions for numismatic coins that were sought for their historical value. Since the Austrian Duchy was dated no later than 1915, and was also not that common a gold coin in the US at the time, it did not fall under the law. Its buyers pointed out that it was a rare collector’s coin from the First World War period or earlier.

Read more about this topic: A gold coin dated 1933 sold for a record price of $18.9 million

The ducat was one of the few types of investment gold that Americans could legally buy, and its popularity in the US grew. It continues to be so to this day. An important reason for this is precisely the memory of the fact that the Americans were saved from having their gold confiscated by the Austrian Duchies.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the Austrian Duchy was so widespread and sought after that its production did not stop even when it was no longer used as a means of payment in its country of origin. A century later, the fame and acquisitions of Austrian Ducats continue to grow. There are many reasons for this, including its immense historical value, its sophistication, and its extremely good performance as an investment gold and a means of preserving purchasing power.

All these positive characteristics are highlighted by its performance in the Balkan Peninsula, where the Austrian Duchy is one of the most sought-after gold coins.

Preț aur (XAU-RON)
10733 RON/oz
- 59 RON
Preț argint (XAG-RON)
145 RON/oz
- 2 RON

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