Author Topic: Austrian Zwanziger coins travel far from home to California in 1848  (Read 487 times)

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Offline WillieBoyd2

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The zwanziger is an Austrian coin which circulated in California during the Gold Rush period of the 1840's and 1850's.

This coin's historic date of 1848 and it's California connection make this coin a most interesting one.

Austria 20 Kreuzer (Zwanziger) 1848
Silver, 26.0 mm, 6.65 gm, 0.583 fine, Vienna Mint
Catalog: Krause World Coins 1801-1900 number KM 2208, minted from 1837 to 1848

Austria had many monetary systems over the years and in the 1840's they used a gulden which was worth around 75 US cents. There were 60 kreuzer to the Gulden making a 20 kreuzer coin worth US 25 cents. A 20 kreuzer coin was called a zwanziger after zwanzig, the German word for "20".

The coin had a silver weight of 0.125 troy ounce which would make the silver worth US 16 cents at the time.

The book California Pioneer Fractional Gold (1983) by Breen and Gillio stated that Austrian zwanzigers (20 kreuzer) were valued at 25 cents. The book notes that a rich German man sent to his son in San Francisco a large cask full of them as a present.

The book Private Gold Coinage of California (1913) by Edgar Adams mentions three foreign coins in circulation in California: Spanish pesetas, Austrian zwanzigers, and French francs.

Although the Austrian coins circulated, the United States government never legalized them as it had done with Spanish and other foreign coins.

The book A Handbook for Travellers on The Continent published by John Murray of London in 1856, mentions the zwanziger where it is worth 8 British pence, about 16 US cents.

The name zwanziger properly applies to Austria alone, where this coin goes for 20 kreutzers, and bears upon it the figure 20, the 1/2 zwanziger or zehner passes for 10, and the 1/4 for 5 kreutzers; while in Bavaria and W├╝rtemberg the same coins pass respectively for 24, 12, and 6 kr.

And a final zwanziger mention, just in time for Christmas, from Alexandre Dumas' 1844 novel The Story of a Nutcracker, the basis for Tchaikovsky's ballet:

In Nuremberg (Bavaria), the inventor Drosselmayer's brother explains how he acquired a special "Crackatook" nut needed to remove an enchantment from the king's daughter:

He picked up his bag to find that all the nuts were indeed crushed, with one exception; this he presented to me with an unusual smile, inviting me to buy it for one new 1720 zwanziger coin, declaring that the day would come when I wouldn't regret my purchase, expensive as it might seem at the time. I fumbled in my pocket, and was astonished to discover a zwanziger coin corresponding exactly to the one the man had asked for. This struck me as such an unlikely coincidence that I gave him my zwanziger, in return for which he handed me the nut and disappeared.

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Re: Austrian Zwanziger coins travel far from home to California in 1848
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2019, 12:10:36 AM »
See this thread.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.