The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 34, August 22, 2021, Article 13


Gil Parsons submitted this write-up of two interesting items in his stock relating to Schraubtalers, or "screw coins", in which the two halves can be screwed apart to reveal items hidden within, such as engraved portraits. Thanks! -Editor

Schraubtaler (literally screw-thaler) refers to a numismatic genre in which two halves of a coin or medal are separated, hollowed out, filled with content of artistic or other significance, and rejoined with a threaded connection to reconstitute the appearance of the original. {Actual technique involved the manipulation of two coins reassembled into a unified whole) A related genre Steckmedaille relied upon a simple plug connection and was thus easier to make and thus more widely circulated. Schraubtaler coins evolved in the sixteenth century, with a heyday of production in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Examples of the technique continued to appear well into the twentieth century, with World War I propaganda a favored theme.

The coins were filled with painted portraits or scenes, engravings on paper, often presented as a series of images, or occasionally images were engraved on the inner surfaces of the coin itself (as for example in a 1639 piece depicting Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus and his wife.)

Content ranged from the political to betrothal portraits and, most especially religious imagery.

Not infrequently the coins were exported empty, and could be used for personal messages or even espionage. Alas, the emptiness of most examples seen today is a reflection of the fragility and ephemeral nature of the content. (One notes especially in this context a subgenre known as Glimmerbildschen, in which images were painted on thin slivers of mica.)

Seventeenth century Schraubtaler are found from many sources (A 1634 Polish crown of Zygmunt III Vasa with fourteen miniatures inside and an ecus of Louis XIV of 1664 from Bayonne with holy pictures within might serve as examples) but the vast majority of pieces stem from Augsburg, which had both a lengthy tradition of fine metalwork and a concentration of Imperial wealth and power, together with a staunch Protestant tradition which fueled much of the iconography of religious items. The standard reference for the genre: Pressler, Ernst Schraubtaler und Steckmedaillen, 2000, lists a vast number of examples of this numismatic tradition which expressly served aristocratic taste and the whims of the wealthy.

Augsburger Schraubtaler

An Augsburg Schraubtaler of 1643, based upon a thaler of Emperor Ferdinand III [Holy Roman Emperor 1637-1657) (Davenport. 5039 , this type of thaler issued 1639-1645) Half-length portrait of the Emperor, armored, on recto. Legend: Imp: Caes: Ferd: III P.E. Ger: Hun:Boh: Rex. On verso: traditional pine cone symbol of Augsburg in front of Augsburg city view (Augusta Vindelicorum). Mint mark three hooves and winged angel above. Silver, 40mm (18grams), in box Within: an oil portrait of H[an]s Cas[par] Escher [vom Glas]. 1625-1696 (became Mayor of Zurich 1691). On verso of portrait, Escher's data and titles Schraubtaler in excellent condition, far better than usually seen.

Hans Caspar Escher was the ancestor of famed financier Alfred Escher, founder of Credit Suisse and ETH Zurich $1850.


Remshard, Abraham and Rogg, Gottfried Erster Bilder-zyklus zum Konfessionsjubilaeum Augsburg, 1730 (1735) Broadside engraving; roundels of Luther and the Reformation ( a common subject for Schraubtaler,) supplemented by portraits (of the Kurfurst von Sachsen and Langrave Phillip of Hesse) and views (of Augsburg and Pfalz) Entire piece is presented in a mise en page comprising elaborate engraved decoration and surmounted by angels On the verso: Ein Gedenkblatt zum Konfessions Jubilaeum 30 x 21.5 cm Roundels 3.5cm Marsch 69/119 Exceptional condition $1250.

_'schraubtaler' In June of 1530, the Emperor Charles V convened the Diet of Augsburg, with the intention of achieving a reconciliation of the conflicting religious positions which were then fragmenting the Empire. Elector John of Saxony directed Martin Luther, Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen, and Philipp Melanchthon to draft a comprehensive statement of the Protestant position, which document, issued in German and Latin, came to be known as the Augsburg Confession, and stands as the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran religion.

The text comprised twenty-one theses (positive statements of articles of Protestant faith) and seven antitheses (objections to Catholic doctrine and practice). Melanchthon edited and published the first edition of the Confession, which text was translated into English in 1536, becoming the basis for the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church.

The Augsburg Confession and its anniversaries provided grist for a rich graphic and numismatic tradition, which tradition endures to the present day. One need only cite the splendid engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar of 1630, in commemoration of the first centenary, the medals by Christian Muller and Daniel Dockler for the bicentennial together with the Lubeck thaler of the same date, and the work of Karl Goetz of 1930, the 400th Anniversary. [Passing mention might be given to the wonderful medal of 1730 by Peter Paul Weiner which depicts one of the great moments of oratory: Christian Beyer reading the German text of the Augsburg confession to Charles V, much to the profound annoyance of the Emperor—Beyer's recitation was so bold and loud that it could be heard distinctly by the huge crowd assembled outside!] An estimable monograph and guidebook for collectors is: Angelika Marsch Bilder zur Augsburger Konfession und ihren Jubilaen of 1980 and one may also usefully refer to the Medallic Collection of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

[For atmosphere to augment one's contemplation, one might listen to the Mendelsohn Fifth Symphony, the Reformation, originally composed to commemorate the 300 th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 1830.]

The piece at hand belongs to the extensive and varied work for the Bicentennial of the Augsburg Confession. Abraham Remshard (1680-1754) of Augsburg styled himself as Silberdrechsler, a maker of medallic boxes, and produced this series of roundels expressly for insertion in Schraubtaler. Marsch provides illustrations of how the roundels would be assembled and joined into an album. Gottfried Rogg, himself known as an artist of historical and memorial pieces, re-engraved the series for the splendid graphic here at hand, following closely the model set by Hollar a century before. Two other series by Remshard are known to exist: one of missionary interest and the other, of 1732, for which he is best known and avidly collected, memorializes the Expulsion of the Salzburg Protestants. This latter series, of 22 images, does not technically fit into a Scraubtaler, and is often termed a Box-thaler, although this term is no longer in common usage.

The original Schraubtaler series is virtually unobtainable, so many having perished. This dramatic and handsome broadside graphic is itself scarce, and has not appeared on the market for several years.

Some further books for reference:
Klaus-Peter Brozatus Reformatio in Nummis, Osnabruck: Kunkel, 2015
Hugo Schnell Martin Luther und die Reformation auf Munzen und Medaillen Munchen: Kinckhardt and Bierman, 1983 Also his Catalogue of the Robert B, Whiting Collection, 1983

Lyn Knight E-Sylum ad 2021-08 Sale

Wayne Homren, Editor

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