World Coins

World War I-era gold coin of exiled Hungarian king

A 1918 gold 20-corona coin from Hungary, issued for Karl IV, is apparently the only example in private hands. It is offered in a June 20 auction by Künker.

Images courtesy of Künker.

Charles I or Karl I was Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Croatia, King of Bohemia, and the last of the monarchs belonging to the House of Habsburg-Lorraine to rule over Austria-Hungary.

In 1918, shortly before he stepped down and was banished from German-Austrian life, he issued a gold 20-corona coin, an example of which highlights Künker’s auction No. 409, scheduled for June 20 and 21 in Osnabrück, Germany.

Charles became heir presumptive of his grand-uncle Emperor Franz Joseph when his uncle Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in 1914.

Rise to, fall from, the throne

Charles succeeded to the throne in November 1916 following the death of Franz Joseph. He began secret negotiations with the Allies, hoping to peacefully end World War I, but was unsuccessful.

Following the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, Charles “renounced any participation” in government affairs, but did not abdicate. However, the Republic of German-Austria was proclaimed the following day, and in April 1919 the National Assembly formally dethroned the Habsburgs and banished Charles from German-Austria for life.

A Hungarian rarity

This 20-corona coin is cataloged as Friedberg-259 in Gold Coins of the World by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg.

Highly rare, this gold coin of the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary is of particular numismatic importance. Of the few gold coins that Emperor Charles had minted during his short reign, this piece is the only one available in the trade. All other gold coins of Emperor Karl are in museum collections.

Legend has it that the exiled monarch gave this coin to a caregiver close to him shortly before his death. He died of the Spanish flu April 1, 1922, at the age of 35 on Portugal’s Atlantic island of Madeira, where he had been exiled by the Allies.

This example is in Extremely Fine condition and previously sold in a 2004 auction in Vienna for a hammer price of €90,000.

It has a pre-sale estimate of €150,000 ($162,931 U.S.).

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