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Sankt Joachimsthal (“Valley of Saint Joachim”) is the German name of Jáchymov, a small town in the Czech Republic. It’s in the Erzgebirge mountains near the country’s north-western border towards Germany. This place currently has only a bit more than three thousand inhabitants, and yet its name is used daily by billions of people worldwide. Jáchymov is the birthplace of the Valley Coin, the Thaler, the daler, the dollar.

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In 1516 a major silver lode was discovered near the Bohemian village of Conradsgrün. The following year the village was re-christened Sankt Joachimsthal, and in 1519 the first Joachimsthaler coin was struck. The mint was owned by the Counts of Schlick, who grew immensely rich from it. With time the name of the characteristic high-silver coin was applied to similar ones elsewhere, until in the 18th century Daler coins were current in most of Europe.

Toward the end of that century the United States and Canada found themselves in need of their own national currencies free from any links with English coinage, and so they adopted something approximating the silver “dollars” of continental Europe. And not only that, but also the rest, is history.

Comments

  1. #1 Phillip IV
    March 23, 2011

    And in a little twist of irony, dollars are also referred to as ‘greenbacks’ – so changing the name from ‘Konradsgrün’ wouldn’t even have been necessary.

    And in a little twist of inflation, a vintage Joachmisthaler is worth around 1,100 US-dollars today (even the silver alone would be worth around 37 dollars).

  2. #2 CBR
    March 24, 2011

    “Toward the end of [the 18th] century the United States and Canada found themselves in need of their own national currencies free from any links with English coinage…”

    At this time, Canada was still a British colony, and remained so for nearly another century.

  3. #3 CBR
    March 24, 2011

    Which is to say, the search for a new currency in Canada was not primarily motivated by the desire to abandon links to European (esp. British) coinage, but had rather to do with coin shortages in general.

  4. #4 Gary
    April 3, 2011

    I suppose you know that the Maria Theresia Thaler was a common coin in the Colonies in the late 18th century (and continued to be the currency of choice in parts of Africa till within living memory):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Theresa_thaler

    Dunno if the Austrians still produce them.

  5. #5 Figleaf
    April 14, 2011

    Sorry, Gary. Not so. The MT Thaler circulated in the Eastern basin of the mediterranean, parts of Africa and the Middle East. Not the Americas. The proper ancestor of the US dollar is the Spanish piece of 8 reales, commonly called peso. A number of British colonies in the Americas also adopted the dollar, either by taking the Spanish coin as an example or by following the US example.

  6. #6 Leroy
    Michigan
    December 1, 2012

    I’m amazed that the coin pictured is mine (I can tell by the soft strike on the saint’s face/arm and the dent on the “CV” on the reverse).
    For a coin that is historically important (numismatically) , you’d think you’d see a lot of these. I bought this from CNG 10 years ago, and haven’t seen one for sale before or since.

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