Currencies in Austria and the Tirol

In 1753 Austria introduced "Conventions-Münze" (Conventions-Money) as agreed by the Convention of that year concluded between many European states. The Austrian currency was the Gulden (abbreviation fl) each subdivided into 60 Kreuzer (x, Xer, Xr or kr) which by the Convention of 1753 as adopted in Austria was defined thus: 20 Gulden were made from one Vienna Mark (this is a weight standard, of 280.644 gram) of "833 fine" (83.3% pure) silver; it is called Conventionsmünze, abbreviated C.M. This currency standard is also referred to as the "20-Gulden-Fuß" and the currency as Kaiserwährung (Kw). Under it, 1 fl contained 11.6935 gram of silver; 1 kr contained 0.1949 gram.

The Bavarian Conventions-Money equivalent was Reichswährung (or RW; abbreviation rh for rheinische) currency which used a South German Gulden (SGG). The Cologne Mark of 233.77 gram of silver was originally made into 20 SGG, but soon into 24 SGG and starting in 1819 & complete by 1841 into 24 SGG. In 1816, 24 was in use, a standard referred to as the "24-Gulden-Fuß", and 1 fl rh contained 9.7404 gram, 1 kr rh 0.1623 gram.

By the Peace of Pressburg (1805) Bavaria acquired the north Tirol (ie down to Bozen; the remainder became part of Illyria). This was confirmed by the Treaty of Schönbrunn in Oct 1809. The Congress of Vienna and the Treaties of Paris returned the Tirol to Austria from 1814; but it wasn't fully reabsorbed into Austria in administrative and monetary terms until late 1818. In 1806 the Bavarians introduced their Reichswährung currency of 24-Gulden-Fuß standard into the north Tirol. It, and only it, was the official currency of the north Tirol until 1 August 1818; postage rates were expressed and paid in it.

The growth in the economy (according to one source) or the problems created by Austria's propensity for fighting but losing wars (according to another) led to the issue on 15 June 1762 by the Bank of Austria of 12 million Gulden in paper money called Bankozettel. Initially these notes were only valid in parts of the Empire, excluding the Tirol; the area of validity was extended and other issues followed (eg on 1 June 1785 notes issued in 1771 were replaced by new ones "on blue paper"). Until 1796 the Bankozettel were valued (by the foreign exchanges) at 100/100, ie face value, relative to the Conventions-Münze. The value then began a decline, being 125/100 in 1804, 175/100 in 1807, and 1200/100 in 1811. Physical Conventions-Münze was withdrawn by about 1797.

On 15 March 1811 the Bankozettel were called in and replaced by a new paper note of the same face value, the Anticipationsscheine or Einlösungsscheine (redemption note), at an exchange of 1 new for 5 old. [The notes returned to the central authorities were incinerated to prevent fraud, and for a time the letter post service was responsible for this. The person in charge of the disposal had a rather long job title even by the standards of Postal Austrian: the Bancozettelvertilgungsdeputationskassaoffizier.] Everybody except the Government regarded this as "State bankruptcy"! The Government promised never to issue more paper money, but the costs of dealing with Napoleon led them to issue more in 1813. These two papers were collectively referred to as Wiener Währung. It in turn suffered inflation, being quoted at 350/100 by 1815. In 1817 the "Privileged National Bank" was created, relying on foreign capital, probably via the Rothschilds, who kept Austria from financial collapse for several decades. The bank issued notes and bought in the Wiener Währung at slightly better than the exchange rate. From 1818, Wiener Währung was not accepted in payment for postage, and rates expressed in it were converted at 300/100 which was slightly worse than the exchange rate for currency.

On 1.8.1818 the currency used in the Tirol officially reverted to Austrian Conventionsmünze, remaining until the Austrian currency reform of 1858. The exchange rate was 5 Kreuzer CM = 6 Kreuzer Reichswährung. The formal Decree stating this has recently been found in a collection of the Tiroler Landesgesetze, ie the laws made by and applying to the Land of Tirol: "In Tirol und Vorarlberg hat ab 1.8.1818 nicht mehr der 24-Gulden-Fuß, die so genannte Reichswährung, sondern der 20-Gulden-Fuß als gesetzliche Währung zu gelten.". That is, "In Tirol and Vorarlberg from 1.8.1818 no more shall the 24-Gulden-Fuß, the so-called Reichswährung, but the 20-Gulden-Fuß be valid as legal currency.". Alongside that however the Bavarian Reichswährung remained in use for decades in rural areas of North Tirol, as can be seen in messenger fees etc.

(close window when read.) ©Andy Taylor. Last updated 2 Jan 2014