Mansfeld Mystery Solved

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jgenn

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This a follow up on my earlier post about a 1560 Mansfeld thaler that I bought last Spring and then immediately received buy offers through the Heritage auction site.  I wondered what might be so special about this coin and made some posts on this and other forums to see if I could find out.  Finally, I got a PM through this site from a person who found my earlier post and provided some information about the attribution for this coin.  As I had speculated, there is nothing particularly special about this thaler except that the collector who contacted me has a connection to the Mansfeld region and only collects Mansfeld thalers.  I have agreed to sell this coin so that it can join a collection where it will be special.  My one condition on the sale was to ask the collector to share some of information about these Mansfeld thalers with us here.

~jack

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An underrated feature of custom sets is the ability to include coins that you don't own.  I switched the 1560 Mansfeld thaler in my Silver Dollars of '60 set from "owned" to "want" and will keep the pictures and description until I find another one.

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Hello,

actually it was me making buy offers to Jack right after the auction, since I was really interested in receiving this sharply striked and lovely toned item. When I found Jacks trade offer in this forum by chance, I decided to contact him to solve the mystery of the thaler. I was glad receiving a fair proposal, and now the thaler has finally joined my collection of Mansfeld thalers. Here I want to take the opportunity to thank Jack for his generosity again, and I want to share some information on the House of Mansfeld and its coinage in the 16th and 17th century.

The Counts of Mansfeld are among the oldest German nobilities. Supposedly from the middle of the 10th century they owned the House of Mansfeld, which was settled in todays Mansfeld county (Landkreis Mansfeld) in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. To the shire belonged the town of Eisleben, where Martin Luther was born in 1483 and died in 1546. His childhood, however, Luther spent in the town  of Mansfeld, where he also went to school.

The House of Mansfeld has an eventful history. In 1069, Emperor Heinrich IV. transferred the government of the Hassegau (an area between the towns of Mansfeld, Naumburg, Halle and Wettin) from the Wettin margraves (the later kings of Saxony) to Count Hoyer of Mansfeld. By this the Counts of Mansfeld became subordinate directly to the Emperor. In Mansfeld county large mining industries for copper shale existed, contributing to the wealth of the Counts of Mansfeld. The father of Martin Luther, who was a miner, in 1483 moved from Möhra (Thuringia) to Mansfeld county, where he established his own smelting works.

Their wealth and their loyalty to the House of Emperors maintained the privileges of the Counts of Mansfeld for centuries, while they lost it at the end of the 16th century. Due to a chain of distributions of estates between 1501 and 1563 the House of Mansfeld first split up into three branches in 1501, yielding the lineages of Mansfeld-Vorderort (“front site”, with the Earls Günther IV., Ernst II., Hoyer VI.), Mansfeld-Mittelort (“middle site”, with Gebhard VII.) and Mansfeld-Hinterort (“back site” with Albrecht VII.). Each branch built its own living castle on the castle hill of Mansfeld, named after their position on the hill. Nowadays only remains of the castle of Vorderort exist, that were re-built in the 19th century.

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Fig. 1: Photograph of the castle hill placed atop of the town of Mansfeld in Saxony-Anhalt, seen from western direction (2010). Buildings of the Mansfeld-Vorderort castle are remaining, while the castles of Mansfeld-Mittelort and Mansfeld-Hinterort were placed to the right side of the remains. Their ruins are hidden in the woods.

In between 1546 and 1563 the branch of Vorderort was further split among the sons of Ernst II., yielding the lines of Vorderort-Bornstedt with Philipp II., Vorderort-Eisleben with Johann Georg I., Vorderort-Friedeburg with Peter Ernst I., Vorderort-Arnstein with Johann Albrecht, Vorderort-Artern with Johann Hoyer, and Vorderort-Heldrungen with Johann Ernst I. The branches were named after several smaller castles. Therefore, in 1563 in total 8 eight branches existed.

The splittings were forced by a large number of children that were born to the Counts of Mansfeld, quarrels within the families regarding legal and economic decisions, as well as religious conflicts in the time of the Protestant Reformation. While the Counts of Vorderort remained Catholics, the Counts of Mittelort (Gebhard VII., Jobst I.) as well as Hinterort (Albrecht VII.) were advocates of Protestantism.

The splittings, large costs for building and maintaining the castles and the common fortress of Mansfeld, reduced economic power of the remaining estates, as well as several wars faded the properties of the Counts of Mansfeld, and they got into debts. To settle the debts the Electors of Saxony and the Bishops of Magdeburg and Halberstadt enforced the sequestration of Mansfeld-Vorderort in 1570 and the mediatization of Mansfeld-Mittelort and Mansfeld-Hinterort. In 1579, finally, three fifth of Mansfeld county belonged to the Electors of Saxony, and two fifths to the Archbishops of Magdeburg, and later on to Prussia. By this, the Wettiners received back the fiefs they had lost 500 years ago.

In 1580, therefore, the Counts of Mansfeld had lost their subordination to the Emperor. The Counts of Mansfeld-Vorderort were private citizens, while the Counts of Mittelort and Hinterort were mediatized. In the 17th century, the branches of Mittelort (1602) and Hinterort (1666) died out. In 1710, the last count residing on the castle of Mansfeld, Johann Georg III. of Vorderort-Eisleben, died, and in 1780 the very last Count of Mansfeld, Josef Wenzel of Vorderort-Bornstedt, Prince of Fondi in Italy, passed away.

Among the Counts of Mansfeld were important clerks and generals, such as Hoyer I. (?-1115), Peter Ernst I. (1517-1604), Peter Ernst II. (1580-1626) and Heinrich Franz (1641-1715), as well as bishops (Johann Gebhard (1524-1564), Archbishop of Cologne). Hoyer I., who was the first earl with the title Count of Mansfeld, died as a general of Emperor Heinrich V. in 1115 in the battle lost at Welfesholz near Hettstedt.

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Fig. 2: The “Hoyer-Stone” close to the village of Welfesholz (2011) is reminding of the battle of Welfesholz in 1115.

Coinage

The Counts of Mansfeld for centuries were economically very successful. One reason was the copper shale mining, starting at around 1199 in Mansfeld county, whose profits were dedicated to the earls. For this purpose, they founded their own smelting works and shaft plants. Historically, the copper mining started close to the town of Hettstedt, where remains of mining dumps are prominent in the landscape to this day. Actually, the mining industry was one reason for the Electors of Saxony to quarrel about Mansfeld county.

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Fig. 3: Mining dumps of copper shale eastern of the town of Hettstedt, 2018.

The copper shale contained small amounts of silver (0.013 %), which the Counts of Mansfeld utilized to mint a huge amount of different coins. The coins were fabricated by different mint masters, each making use of its own mint-mark. Thereby several mint masters belonged to the Koburger family in Eisleben.

For most coins different versions of front and back side exist, yielding numerous varieties of the coins. These coins were systematically cataloged by Otto Tornau from Halberstadt in the 1930’s in the books „Münzen und Münzwesen der Grafschaft Mansfeld, Prague, 1937“ and „Münzgeschichte der Grafschaft Mansfeld währen der Kipperzeit, Frankfurt/Main, 1930“. Tornau enlisted 412 different silver thalers with 2900 different stamps alone, accompanied by several gold coins and hundreds of different sections of thalers and groschen. With this, the Counts of Mansfeld are among the most productive sovereigns of their time.

The motifs of Mansfeld coins are limited – most thalers show St. George on a horse back slaying the dragon, the patron of knights and soldiers.

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Fig. 4: A wooden relief of St. George slaying the dragon in the Church of St. George, town of Mansfeld, 2015. In the background, Mansfeld castle is displayed.

Hence, Mansfeld thalers often were carried by soldiers, as the amulets were said to protect from injuries. This yielded a wide distribution of Mansfeld coins above Europe, but it also caused many Mansfeld coins to possess handle tracks.

The splitting of Mansfeld county is partially represented in the coins by the riding direction of St. George: From 1592 on he was depicted only riding to the left side on coins of Mansfeld-Hinterort, while starting from 1573 he was depicted riding to the right on coins of Mansfeld-Vorderort.

In 1229 the House of Mansfeld was joined with the House of Querfurt by marriage. This shows up in the coat of arms depicted on the coins. In the elder version of the coat of arms the 1st and the 4th fields show cross bars of the Counts of Querfurt, while the 2nd and the 3rd fields show the three double-rhombi of the Counts of Mansfeld. Since 1550, coins of Mansfeld-Vorderort additionally possess a second new type of coat of arms, depicting the eagle of Arnstein and the lion of Heldrungen next to the Querfurt and the Mansfeld signs.

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Fig. 5: Here is an example of the new type of the Mansfeld coat of arms, depicted on a 1619 thaler of the Mansfeld-Vorderort-Artern branch by Volrat VI., Jobst II., Wolfgang III. and Bruno III.; Tornau number 710. The thaler was minted by Anton Koburger (A-K) in Eisleben, whose mint-mark was a shamrock.

Most of the Mansfeld coins were minted in the earls’ joint mint on Eisleben castle. Often, several earls issued common coins; in these cases their names appear in the order of their ages in the circumscription. Then, the oldest Earl (the “senior”) is in the first place. Notably, the attribution of the coins to the different branches of the House of Mansfeld is always determined by this senior earl.

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Fig. 6: Here is an example of a 1611 thaler of the Vorderort-Bornstedt branch by Bruno II, Wilhelm I., Johann Georg IV., and Volrat VI; Tornau number 154 e. The thaler was minted by Georg Meinhart (G-M) in Eisleben, whose mint-mark looks like a Greek Xi. Bruno II. is marked as the “senior”.

Next to Eisleben some coins were minted in the towns of Hettstedt and Schraplau, and later on also in Stolberg, Prague and Vienna.

Regardless of the sequestration in 1570 the Counts of Mansfeld did not lower their minting activities – most coins were issued in between 1614 and 1629. Possibly this is related to a rich silver yield of the copper mining in the early 17th century, as well as to the Kipperzeit (“kipper time”, see below) in the frame of the Thirty-Years-War (1618-1648), when new coins had to be circulated after the kipper coins were confiscated.

The stamp cut of Mansfeld coins is of diverse quality. In some cases it is aesthetic and elaborately, while it is of quite rough appearance in other cases.

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Fig. 7: This is an example of an aesthetically cut stamp of a 1616 thaler by Volrat VI., Jobst II. and Wolfgang III., minted by Anton Koburger in Eisleben. The Tornau number is 682 c.

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Fig. 8: This example of a roughly cut 1655 half thaler by Karl Adam of the Vorderort-Bornstedt branch was coined by Hans Philipp Koburger (HP-K) in Eisleben, whose mint-mark was a shamrock, as well. The Tornau number is 275 d.

In the 1560 thaler at the root of this thread (from which I reproduce the photo!) St. George is depicted in a relatively large and format filling fashion, breaking through the circumscription to a large extend. This thaler of the Vorderort-Eisleben branch by Johann Georg I., Peter Ernst I. and Christoph II. was minted by Anton Korburger in Eisleben. The Tornau number is 339 k(p). It shows both the old and the new coats of arms in parallel.

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Fig. 9: The 1560 thaler, photographed by Jack.

In other cases St. George is smaller, such as in the case of another 1560 thaler by Christoph II., Johann Albrecht and Bruno II., attributed to the Mansfeld-Hinterort branch.

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Fig. 10: The thaler was minted by Anton Koburger in Eisleben, and the Tornau number is 941I. This thaler is a so-called Zwittertaler (“hybrid thaler”), as the stamps of front and back side originally belonged to different thalers. Actually, here a stamp similar to that of the above 1560 thaler with Tornau number 339 was used.

Among the most well-known Counts of Mansfeld is Peter Ernst I. of the Vorderort-Friedeburg branch. He was a field marshal in the Spanish army in the Netherlands and governor of the Spanish crown in Luxemburg and in the Netherlands. Here is an example of a thaler with him as the senior earl.

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Fig. 11: 1597 thaler of Peter Ernst I., Bruno II., Christoph II., Gebhard VIII., and Johann Georg IV. The mint master was Georg Meinhart in Eisleben. The Tornau number is 603 g/d.

In the conciliations of the 1546 splitting of the Mansfeld-Vorderort branch Martin Luther was involved. For that purpose he moved to his birth town Eisleben in January 1546 – where he died shortly thereon on 18th Feb. 1546. He died in the presence of Albert VII. from Mansfeld-Hinterort, who was his close friend and supporter of Protestantism. After the splitting Albert VII. founded his own mints in Eisleben and in Hettstedt.

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Fig. 12: From the latter mint in Hettstedt here is an example of an Albert VII. thaler of the respective year 1546. The thaler was coined by an unknown mint master, whose mint-mark was a sun. The Tornau number is 1032 f. St. George is riding to the left side, and the thaler shows the old Mansfeld coat of arms.

A famous type of Mansfeld coins are Spruchtaler (“motto thalers”), where some of the counts issued their personal slogans. To give an example, here is a 1619 thaler of Philipp Ernst of the Vorderort-Artern branch, whose slogan was “Zu Gott allein mein Hoffnung” (“to god alone my hope”).

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Fig. 13: Spruchtaler. The thaler was minted in Eisleben by Hans Jacob (H-I), whose mint-mark were two crossed Zainhaken (“billet hooks”). The Tornau number is 825 d.

In the course of money devaluation in the Thirty-Years-War the Counts of Mansfeld startet to mint small nominals at diverse places in the years 1621-1623. These coins were often made from copper and depicted the Mansfeld coat of arms in a number of various shapes. They can be regarded as a separate collecting field of Mansfeld coins.

 

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Fig. 14: Kipper Dreier (3 Pfennig) of the year 1621. It shows the old coat of arms and the orb with value 3. The Tornau Kipper number is 646. The Kipper measures 14 mm and was minted in Gerbstedt.

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Fig. 15: Kipper Dreier (3 Pfennig) of the year 1621 with the old coat of arms in a nicely heart-shaped shield. The Tornau Kipper number is 878. This 16 mm token was minted in Bornstedt.

Finally, the mint masters prepared their own tokens (“Rechenpfennige”). These could be of virtuosic appearance, as shown by the following example.

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Fig. 16: 1560 token by Anton Koburger, depicting an armored mercenary. The Tornau number of this 21 mm token is 1487. The slogan calls “WI DV WILT” (“as you want”).

With the best wishes

m

Edited by mansfeld01

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Mansfeld01 deserves a great big thank you for giving us such a wonderful overview of the Mansfeld region, history and a fantastic display of its thalers.  Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah! 

I had to look up the definition of mediatisation -- when the former immediate vassals of the Holy Roman Emperor became instead vassals of other immediate states.

Hopefully we'll see more posts as new thalers come into Mansfeld01's collection.  

 

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Thankyou both for the detailed history of Mansfeld, it is this historical context that I find fascinating as coins, with their changing design and production not only highlight the critical issues of the day but are sometimes the only tangible thing left to show that a person or place ever existed.

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