World of Coins

Other tokens and medals => Not used for payments => Famous people, places and events, souvenirs => Topic started by: chrisild on October 12, 2019, 07:51:12 PM

Title: Dürer, the emperor, and the plague
Post by: chrisild on October 12, 2019, 07:51:12 PM
In 1520 Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was crowned in Aachen, and the next year he was supposed to preside his first Reichstag in Nuremberg. In order to prepare for that major event, the city had several prestigious silver medals made. However, Charles did not come because of the plague. :-\ One of those medals has just been sold at a Künker auction - at a price of €260,000.

In those days it was common that the city would have a gift for the visiting emperor. After all, the election campaign had been costly: Charles had paid a lot to the electors to win their votes. So the city of Nuremberg decided he should get 100 heavy silver medals at the 1521 Reichstag, total weight about 20 kilos.

The designer of those medals was the famous local artist Albrecht Dürer (ürer), and Hans Krafft ( made the dies. Not sure how much Dürer got for his work, but Krafft received 150 Gulden for the dies, instead of the usual two to five ...

The city council decided to have 167 pieces made - 100 for the emperor, the others for various Reichstag related presents. Then however Nuremberg was haunted by the plague, and the Reichstag was in Worms instead. Bummer.

A few years later, in 1537, most of the Dürer-Krafft medals were melted down. In the early 19th century, the city wanted to make new medals with the old tools, except that the dies broke. Today only 13 medals are known to still exist. Nine of them are in public collections (coin cabinets, museums), four are in private hands. Ten years ago, at an auction in London, one fetched about £258,000 - even more than this one. Who bought this coin at the Künker auction is not known.


(Embedded image; here is an enlarged view ( Both are from the Künker website.

Title: Re: Dürer, the emperor, and the plague
Post by: chrisild on October 13, 2019, 11:41:29 AM
Just a brief note about how much the two main rivals (önigswahl_im_Reich), Karl/Charles and Franz/François were willing to pay to the seven prince-electors: Franz had offered them 300,000 Gulden; Karl managed to collect more than 850,000 Gulden, mostly from the Fuggers and Welsers. Quite a lot - back then (16th century), 30 Gulden ( was a "sufficient" annual income for a craftsman.

Bribery? Well, election campaigns can, at least in some countries, get quite costly even these days. ;) Such payments to the electors were quite common then, sometimes (or usually? not sure) even part of elaborate contracts. But the amount that Karl was able to give them was enormous. So he was elected in Frankfurt (1519) and crowned king in Aachen (1520); for about ten years he then was king of the HRR and "Elected Roman Emperor". In 1530 he was crowned emperor by the pope in Rome. But that act had already become less relevant, and this was the last case where that was done.

Title: Re: Dürer, the emperor, and the plague
Post by: chrisild on October 13, 2019, 01:45:29 PM
Medieval or modern? Obviously there is no clear dividing line that everybody could agree on. ;)

Here is a link to the item page ( In case that does not work (had temporary problems with that here), enter the lot number 3904, and it will show up. Changing the language from German to English will not automatically translate the description though.


Title: Re: Dürer, the emperor, and the plague
Post by: Figleaf on October 13, 2019, 02:27:33 PM
The relief is quite astonishing and so is the portrait. Both point at the renaissance, rather than the middle ages. In addition, the font is not medieval. Dürer is a pioneer renaissance man. Of course nobody threw a switch one day to change from medieval to renaissance times. However, on the central government coins of Charles V for the Southern Netherlands, the change is abrupt. It happened in 1521. Until 1521, Charles' coins were close copies of those of his father. See attachments. I 15 is a groot struck Antwerp  1507-1520. I 30 is a gulden struck in Antwerp in the period 1542-1548.

But indeed, the above medal is not a coin. It would even be impractical as a coin.