James W. writes: Can you tell me the history of the Maria Theresa 1780 ‘thalla’ in Ethiopia. And its use as an ornament. Please.
The most famous of the Austrian Thalers is that of Empress Maria Theresa, 1740-80. It was so popular as a means of exchange along the North African coast and in Turkey that the coin was produced throughout the nineteenth and 20th centuries in Mints outside of Austria. It is still being produced today, mostly in Turkey, with the same date, 1780, with an “X” next to the date. It is a popular international trade unit. The coin is valued for it’s silver bullion value and contains Â¾ oz troy of pure silver.
Like any Thaler or other large silver dollar size coin, it was often worn as a talisman to ward off bullets and arrows in wartime. Of course if you lived through the battle, you could chalk it up to Maria (or to whoever was on the coin, religious figures were best). If you died in battle then I guess you’d never know that the coin didn’t work.