During the Thirty Years’ War, Hamburg in northern Germany became a center of a series of medallic coins known as “schautalers,” including pieces that celebrated the institution of marriage.
Many of these marriage talers show Christ blessing a bridal couple on the obverse with a reverse showing the miracle at a wedding feast in Cana.
A rare 10-ducat gold example of a different marriage schautaler highlights Fritz Rudolph Künker’s Feb. 4 auction in Berlin. The one-day auction serves as a prelude to the World Money Fair, which annually draws thousands of collectors and dealers from across the globe to the German capital.
According to Arthur R. Doumaux Jr., in “The Hamburg Connection” (The Numismatist, February 1989), “most marriage schautalers were produced during the Thirty Years’ War,” which took place in central Europe from 1618 to 1648.
Hamburg remained part of the Hanseatic League so during the war it was not involved in the conflict, allowing art and commerce to prosper as people sought a safe haven.
“The city’s newfound wealth and security attracted artisans and craftsmen, among them skilled engravers and mintmasters,” according to Doumaux.
Though most pieces were made in Hamburg, many were apparently made in other areas, like Lüneberg, Wismer and nearby Lübeck.
A range of religious designs appear on these pieces, which were predominantly struck in silver in weights ranging from half taler to 5 talers. A small number of such pieces were struck in gold using the dies from the silver examples, with pieces of the 10-ducat weight the highest denomination.
The medals were struck on screw presses and required three or more strikings to obtain a full impression of the relief, according to Doumaux.
The striking technology used also had another effect on the medals.