The most recent change in the official styling points
up the strong ethnic divisions which continue to threaten
the national existence of this country. The new name is the
Federal Republic of the Czechs and Slovaks. The traditional
political position of the Slovaks is that they are oppressed
by the Czechs, and Slovakia has threatened secession since
the emergence of the nation after the first World War. The
Czech portion of the country is divided as well into Bohemia
and Moravia, both of which have been free nations at various
times in the past.
In the third and second millennium BC the land was
occupied by people of neolithic culture. Copper began to be
smelted and worked around the middle of the second
millennium, and bronze rings have been found in Moravia.
Iron working came to the region shortly after. Small iron
axes, hoes, and spadelike objects have been found similar in
form to the African items of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries which are so eagerly collected by the primitive
Starting no later than the fourth century BC the land
was occupied by Horse-and-Iron Celtic tribes invading from
the east. In the second century BC these people imitated
the coins of their southern cousins the Greeks, particularly
the coins of the Philip II of Makedon and his son Alexander
the Great, and somewhat later the Republican denarii of
Rome. Nicely made tetradrachmai of good silver are known
from Pannonia, which roughly corresponds to modern day
Hungary. In Noricum to the north and west (modern Austria)
the styles are cruder, but the intrinsic value holds up.
North of the Danube, however, was "the Wilderness," home of
the Quadi, the Marcomani, and the Boii, from whose name is
Coins of these people are quite crude. Weight
standards are less exact, designs become rather fanciful,
and debased alloys are the norm. Attributed to the Boii are
small cup shaped coins in base gold known collectively as
"Rainbow-cup" staters. These are found throughout Central
Europe in numerous designs. All are rare and get big bucks
when offered. Celtic coins are very popular in Europe.
There is also a small hoard making the rounds right now of
tiny billon coins with the horse type derived from Philip II
of Makedon. Prices for these are reasonable, but the coins
themselves are unimpressive.
The Romans did not get much of a hold on the
Trans-Danubian region, and the Celts maintained their
culture until the coming of the Huns in the fourth century
AD. The Huns of course made no coins. All they made was
mess. They more or less destroyed the Celtic civilization
and then disappeared, making room for the arrival of the
Slavs in the sixth century.
The first Slavic state was known as Samo, established
during the seventh century. No coins are known. Samo was
consolidated into the Carolingian Empire in the ninth
century, but Prince Mojmir broke away and founded Great
Moravia, which endured another eighty years or so until it
was destroyed by the invading Magyars early in the tenth
century. Again, there are no coins of Great Moravia.
The fall of the Moravian state allowed the ascent of
the Premysl Princes in Prague and a Bohemian principality
came into being. In the tenth century the rulers Bohemia
were recognized by the Emperor in Germany and the Pope in
Rome. The founder of the Bohemian Premyslid dynasty, Vaclav
(Wenceslaus) I, 921-29, struck no coins. His successor,
Boleslav I, 929-67, was the first to issue money. These
were denars of good silver, struck on the Carolingian
module, and meant for tax payments to the Empire and for
external trade. Records of the time state that bolts of
linen were used locally as currency. These first Bohemian
coins are extremely rare.
In the middle of his reign Boleslav changed the coin
types from the indigenous sword / church style to a mimic of
the Regensburg coins which were dominating circulation at
the time. His successor Boleslav II, 967-99, adopted types
echoing the "Hand of God" type of Ethelred II of England.
All of these coins are rare.
DEBASEMENTS AND REFORMS
From the late tenth century there began an ongoing
deterioration of the political situation which was mirrored
in the debasement of the coinage. Old coins were
continually being called in and replaced with lighter weight
pieces in cheaper alloy. Coinage began to be issued by
agencies other than the ruler in Prague. There are issues
in the names of Biagota and Emma, queens of the Boleslavs I
and II respectively, of the dynastic rival Sobeslav Slavnik,
981-95, and church issues are known as well, some
unattributed as to locale and others from Moravian mints at
Brno, Znojmo, and Olomouc (Olmutz). The coins of this time
are all scarce to extremely rare.
Advancing political decay continued through the reigns
of Boleslav III, 999-1002, Vladivoj, 1002-03, and Jaromir,
1003. After less than a year of power Jaromir was deposed
by Boleslav Chrobry ("the Mighty") of Poland, who was
attempting to forge a united Slavic kingdom to resist the
Germans. Boleslav was thrown out of Bohemia the following
year but remained in possession of Moravia for some two
decades. Jaromir restored, 1004-12, instituted a coinage
reform, striking coins of good silver with the portrait of
the Premyslid founder Vaclav, now become a saint. The type
was to become a standard until the end of the dynasty.
Though his reign produced a large variety of types, the
coins of Jaromir are all rare.
Jaromir was deposed and his place taken by Udalrich,
1012-33, on whose death Jaromir was once again enthroned,
only to die himself within the year. He was succeeded by
Bratislav I, 1034-55, who began issuing the well known small
module denars. Bratislav's successor was Spytihnev,
1055-61, then Vratislav, 1061-92, with Bratislav II,
1092-1100, closing out the century.
Save for the coins of Jaromir's reform progressive
debasement was the norm in the eleventh century. Coins of
the Bratislavs are more easily found than those of the
previous rulers. Those of the other rulers are scarce to
SMALL DENARS AND BRACTEATES
In the twelfth century the fortunes of Bohemia waxed
and Prague began to get a name as a center of culture. In
the reigns of Borivoj II, 1101-07, 1109-10, and 1118-20,
Svatopluk, 1107-09, and Sobeslav I, 1125-40, the little
Bohemian denars exhibited perhaps the finest die work in
Europe. Availability is reasonable for this period. The
denars of Vladislav II, 1140-72, are easier to find now due
to the distribution of a hoard of high grade pieces a few
years ago. Coins of his successors Friedrich, 1173 and
1179-89, and Konrad Otto, 1189-91, are scarcer. Those of
Premysl Ottokar I, 1192-93 and 1197-1230, Heinrich
Bratislav, 1193-97, and Vaclav I (as king), 1230-53 are
somewhat more common, but still scarce.
Vaclav I struck small bracteates on the then current
German model. They were tied up in rolls with wire and
circulated that way to the discomfort of the populace.
Bracteate issues continued in the reign of Premysl Ottokar
II. 1253-78. No bracteates are really common, but the
Bohemian issues are not particularly scarce as bracteates
Premysl II was fond of military adventure and occupied
Vienna at one point, issuing the little silver pfennigs
which were the normal coinage of the city. His Vienna
issues are very common, and can be found for less than
$10.00, but his Bohemian bracteates are relatively scarcer.
THE GROSCHEN PERIOD
With the death of Premysl II there was a five year
interregnum ended by the enthronement of Vaclav II,
1283-1305, who made a thoroughgoing coinage reform, doing
away with the bracteates and inaugurating set of graded
denominations. He started with a reformed denar, then a
tiny coin called "parvus" (= "poor"). In 1300 he issued the
first Prager groschen.
These large silver coins were issued prolifically
through the fourteenth century. They replaced a chaotic
circulation where debased pfennigs competed with wirebound
rolls of bracteates, clipped down foreign coins, and barter.
Virtually all of the groschen were struck at the new mint of
Kutna Hora (Kuttenberg). Most types are fairly common and
cheap, but well struck examples are hard to find and carry a
hefty premium. Vaclav's other denominations, the denar,
parvus, and the early bracteates, are nowhere near as common
as his groschen.
The death of Vaclav, and the assassination of his son,
Vaclav III, the following year brought an end to the
Premyslid dynasty. Rudolf Habsburg held Bohemia for a year,
then Heinrich of Carinthia had a go. Neither of these
foreigners seemed to have issued coins in Bohemia. It is
thought that the types of Vaclav were continued during this
period until the accession of John the Blind of Luxembourg,
Under the Luxembourgs Prague became a glittering center
of medieval culture, renowned for its wealth and taste. The
culture did not extend to the mint, and the execution of
John's groschens is, by and large, terrible. They're very
common though. His denars (pfennigs) and parvi are
moderately available, though again the quality is usually
rotten. He also struck very rare half groschens as well as
special thick presentation groschens, and gold ducats
modelled on Florentine prototypes which are very expensive,
John was followed by Karl IV, 1346-78. Karl's coins
are of the same types as John's, and are of similar
availability, but their execution is even sloppier than
John's, and many people won't buy them no matter how cheap
they are, preferring to wait for the mythical better
examples which never appear.
Then came Vaclav IV, 1378-1419, whose groschen are the
most common of the series. They are interesting because he
styled himself Wenceslaus Tertius, the assassinated son of
Vaclav II being excluded from the line of succession. In
this reign gold ceased to be issued. Vaclav's pfennigs and
parvi can be obtained. They are almost always found to be
miserable little pieces of crap, and people always grudge
the couple of bucks they have to pay for them.
Bohemia attained the zenith of its fortunes in the
reign of Karl IV, who, upon his election as Holy Roman
Emperor made Prague the capital of the Empire. Religious
and social life was stagnating, however, and in the time of
Vaclav IV the active movement for reform began whose
adherents came to be known as Hussites.
The intellectual leader of the movement was the
theologian Jan Hus. His execution for heresy in 1415
precipitated a major rebellion which lasted through
practically the entire reign of the next king, Sigismund,
1219-36. The coinage picture during this reign is very
murky and chaotic. There are small billon pfennigs with a
crown (Bohemia) and others with an eagle (Moravia). It is
not certain who was the issuing authority for these. They
are not rare. There are also some municipal issues, e.g.
those of Iglau, Znaym, and Egger. They're pretty hard to
A temporary settlement was patched up in 1436.
Sigismund died the following year, bringing the Luxembourg
dynasty to an end. Bohemia was administered for about a
year by Duke Albrecht of Austria, after which the region did
without a king for fourteen years. Local coinage of billon
small coins continued during the interregnum, and the old
Prager groschens continued to circulate. The groats, poorly
struck to begin with, suffered so much from their prolonged
use that numerous towns in eastern Germany took to
countermarking the good ones to validate them. Over a
hundred different countermarks are known, all scarce to
Vladislav was elected king in 1453. He issued nice
round anonymous pfennigs, not too hard to find, and rare
groschens. He was succeeded by George Podebrad, 1457-71.
Podebrad in 1469 made a coinage reform, issuing hellers,
pfennigs, and groats, all somewhat less debased than the
previous issues. His coins can be found. On his death the
Czech Diet brought in Prince Wladyslaw Jagiello of Poland to
be king Vladislav II, 1471-1516. Jagiello issued groschen
and uniface billon hellers, often called weisspfennigs,
evidently as a joke about their low silver content. They
are not rare.
Early in the sixteenth century the counts of Slik found
a wondrous new silver mine near their town of Jachymov
(Joachimsthal). From this silver they struck the famous
joachimsthaler gulden, first undated in the name of Louis I
of Bohemia and Hungary, 1516-26, and later, dated 1527 and
on for the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, who later
confiscated both mine and mint. The counts also struck a
groschen for Louis. All of these earliest Slik coins are
very popular and are hardly ever offered. Louis also issued
the regular run of debased groschen, pfennigs, and hellers
at Kutna Hora, and these can be found. His Hungarian issues
are fairly common.
With the death of Louis the Diet elected the
abovementioned Ferdinand to be their king. For almost four
hundred years thereafter the country remained in the hands
of the Habsburgs. The Czechs didn't like it but they were
stuck with it. (The Slovaks, being attached to Hungary,
liked their situation even less.)
Ferdinand continued striking the then current Bohemian
denominations, to whit: hellers and weisspfennigs at Kutna
Hora and Prager groschens at Kutna Hora and Jachymov. But
he also introduced the Habsburg monetary system. Thus
ducats, thalers, halves, and quarters were struck in Prague
and Kutna Hora, kreuzers at Prague and ducats, multiple
ducats, thalers and fractions at Jachymov. In 1547 he
suspended the minting of Prager groschen, though regular
Habsburg groschens continued in issue. From this time one
begins to see the Habsburg predilection for special coinage,
and klippes, off metal strikes, and odd weight pieces start
to show up from the Bohemian mints.
Ferdinand's successor Maximilian II, 1564-76, continued
the trend of Habsburgification. Ducats were issued in
Prague and Jachymov. Thalers and guldenthalers (roughly two
thirds to eight tenths of a thaler) with their fractions,
groschens, 2 kreuzers, 1 kreuzers, pfennigs, hellers, and
"rait" pfennigs were struck variously in Prague, Jachymov,
Kutna Hora, and a new mint at Budweiss. From Rudolf II,
1576-1612, there are the additional denominations of 2, 3,
4, 5, 6, and 10 ducats, 1½, 2, 3, and 4 thalers, "maley"
groschen, "klein" groschen, and "weiss" groschen. Matthias,
1612-19, added 15, 20, and 25 ducats, 5 thalers, and
All of these coins follow the normal curves of
availability for Habsburg coins of the period. Without
going into the details of date and mint scarcity, one can
say that all of the sixteenth century Habsburg Bohemian
issues are scarcer than those of the seventeenth century,
and that Kutna Hora coins are more common than Prague, which
are more common than Jachymov. Thalers are more common than
fractions, ducats are not too hard to find, multiples of
both thalers and ducats are all rare, and the little coins
are not particularly easy to find, especially in any kind of
By 1618 Bohemia had a sizeable population of
Protestants, and the arch-Catholic Habsburgs, egged on by
the Pope, were starting to seriously tighten the screws.
That year two Habsburg flunkies were thrown out of a window
by a mob in Prague. The incident traditionally marks the
beginning of the Thirty Years' War, which helped to thin out
the population of Europe for a while. The Habsburgs
triumphed early in Bohemia. In the wake of their victory
they determined to "Austrianize" the region. They
eliminated all local powers, stripped the land holdings of
most of the nobility, and made Bohemia into a personal
Habsburg possession. A new set of German nobles was brought
in to run the place, Czech Protestants were forcibly
converted or expelled. The Emperor at the time was
Ferdinand II, 1618-37.
Before I discuss Ferdinand's coinage I must mention
that of Friedrich von der Pfalz, who was named King of
Bohemia from 1619-21. He issued a set of coins ranging from
10 ducats down to 4 pfennig. All are rare. There are also
anonymous Imperial issues of the period from Prague, Kutna
Hora, Jachymov, and Olomouc from 25 ducats to weisspfennig.
They're rare too.
Ferdinand's Bohemian coinage consists for the most part
of the standard Habsburg denominations. There are some
anonymous minor coins of the rebellion period 1619-20, not
at all common, and inflation coins of 1621 (thaler = 150
kreuzer rather than 68-72), with accompanying fractions and
multiples, which are mostly rare. The coinage settled down
in the late 1620s, normal denominations being the ducat,
thaler, half, quarter, groschen (3 kreuzer), kreuzer, half
kreuzer, and quarter kreuzers, with a few other odd
denominations here and there. Ferdinand also struck coins
at the Moravian mints of Olmutz, Brunn, and Nikolsburg. (We
might use the German names for the towns, Czech language
being proscribed at the time). Thalers and groschens of
Prague and Kuttenburg are relatively common, followed by
half and quarter thalers and ducats. The little stuff, as
usual, is kind of hard to find. Coins from the Moravian
mints are pretty scarce.
Coinage of Ferdinand III, 1637-57, followed the model
of Ferdinand II. The same mints operated, same basic
denominations were issued, availabilities are similar. You
are about thirty times more likely to run into a groschen or
a thaler as any other denomination, and it's more likely to
be from Prague or Kuttenburg than any other mint. The
Moravian mints were closed after 1648.
In the reign of Leopold I, 1657-1705, gold fractional
ducats were struck at Prague. They are about ten times
rarer than the full ducats. Thalers, halves, and quarters
were struck of course, and to the usual run of minors were
added coins of 15 and 6 kreuzers. Commonest denominations
are the groschen and thaler as usual, and these new items.
Availability by mint is same as before, though by this time
the Joachimsthal mines were almost exhausted and coins from
that mint are pretty hard to come by. It's last issue was
in 1691. Leopold's Bohemian coins are notably scarcer than
his Austrian and Hungarian issues.
In the eighteenth century coins were struck for Bohemia
at Prague, Vienna, and Schmollnitz. Some of these coins
have low prices in the catalogs, but in practice they are
ridiculously hard to find. What's the point of listing a
coin like the 1760 copper groeschel at $5.00 or so when no
one ever has one to sell? My personal opinion: compared
with Hungary and Austria the eighteenth century coins of
Bohemia are all rare.
The last Imperial Bohemian coins were struck in 1792.
Thereafter they made do with Austrian coins until the fall
of the dynasty in 1918.
Olomouc issued coins on its own account from the
eleventh century. Occasional coins were struck until the
seventeenth century, when a fairly regular series was
inaugurated by the princes which continued through the end
of the eighteenth. Coins of the Olomouc princes are the
most common of the "mint right" coins of the region. But
that's not saying much. The counts of Schlick (Slik) struck
their well known issues of the early sixteenth century
before they were expropriated by the Habsburgs. They coined
again in the eighteenth, but the later coins were just for
show and are very rare. What else is there? Lobkowitz -
few "mint right" coins 1677 to 1794, Paar in 1771 and '94,
all pretty scarce, and the "1793" coin of the
Orsini-Rosenbergs which they didn't get around to issuing
until the guy was fifty years dead, and which no one ever
offers for sale.
FIRST and SECOND REPUBLICS
Independence was declared in Prague on October 28,
1918. Slovakia joined the new Republic two days later.
new government didn't get around to making coins until 1922.
Most of the minors are rather hard to find in perfect
uncirculated. The zinc 2 halere of 1923-25 are scarce in
any grade, and I've never seen them in BU. The silver coins
are more likely to be found as slidewrs than as gems. The
two notable rarities among the circulation coins are the
1937 5 korun and the 1933 10 korun. Both have remained on
some of my clients' want lists for years. Once I asked one
of my trading partners in Czechoslovakia about the 1933 10
kcs. He replied that it would cost him two years' salary.
So much for $125.00 in Unc!
The Republic issued a bunch of ducats and multiples in
the "show" tradition. A few silver strikes were made of
some of the types, and a couple were struck off the ducat
standard and shade over into medals. Many of these coins,
particularly the "regular" types, show up frequently in
A new Constitution adopted in 1938 gave rise to the
Second Republic. The issues of 1938 continued the previous
WORLD WAR II
The Republic was torn in little pieces in 1938-39 by
agreement of the soon-to-be belligerent "major" powers.
Various National Socialist parties created chaos in what
remained of the country after the Munich agreement, and
Hitler threatened to bomb Prague to "protect" ethnic
Germans. The then President submitted to a German
"Protectorate." We have seen that word before, always in
suspicious circumstances. Under the Protectorate German
troops occupied the country. Slovakia seceded. Armed
resistance started almost immediately and continued until
the end of the war.
Most of the coins of the two states are easily
available. The issues of Bohemia & Moravia, all in zinc,
would seem to be pretty common. The koruna is the most
common denomination, followed by the 10 haleru. As is true
for zinc coins in general lustrous uncirculated coins are
rare. The coins of Slovakia are also available. Most
common coins on the market are the 1941 20 korun (about
thirty "single bar" cross coins to one "double bar") and the
10 and 50 korun of 1944. 50 halierov and 1 and 5 korun
coins are all available, including the scarce 1940 50 h. I
know because I have one. The small coins are scarcer, but
they do occasionally show up in uncirculated. My guess is
that the little zinc 5 halierov in uncirculated is probably
the toughest coin.
This entity was in power from 1945 to 1948. There are
no coins of 1945. and one only, the common koruna, for '46.
Of the 1947 issues the 20 haleru is never offered, nor the
aluminum koruna. (Note the photos of the 50 h and the 1 kc
are transposed in SCWC.) The 2 koruny, while not rare, is
not particularly easy to find, and the silver commemorative
50 kcs is common. All of the 1948 coins are common too.
This political entity came about as a result of the
seizure of power by the Communists in 1948. The name of the
country remained the same and the coinage went on as before.
Minors of the '50s are of spotty availability. They should
be common coins, but I know of no large dealer stocks of
them. I also know of no dealer who has counted the edge
notches of the 10 and 25 haleru of 1953 to see which mint
they come from. No incentive.
The series of silver commemoratives begun in 1947
continued, including for topical interest the only two coins
in the world with Stalin's portrait. All of these '50s
dated commemoratives are readily available in uncirculated
or, where applicable, in proof.
The name was changed in 1961. All of the minor types
are available in uncirculated, but no one has stocked the
coins by date. There are probably rare dates other than
those listed in SCWC, but I don't know who knows. I would
think the worthless 1 haler of 1986 would be a good
candidate, except I have a few. Though the Communists were
kicked out in 1989, minor coins with the CSSR designation
were struck dated 1990. The silver commemoratives
continued, with denominations and silver content adjusted
for inflation and bullion values. Generally speaking, the
later the date the harder it is to find these things, and
some of the proofs are difficult indeed. In 1978 they
struck gold coins on the old ducat system on the 500th
anniversary of Charles University, and those coins are
pretty hard to find as well.
Mint sets of the circulation coins only were issued
every year from 1980 through 1990. They are cheap, but
hardly anybody has them for sale. I've never seen the 1966
and 1981 proof sets.
It has been a bit difficult to get coins out of
Czechoslovakia for the past thiry years. The reason for
this is that currency exports have been (and still are)
prohibited. One has to finagle to get things out. Letters
weighing over 20 grams used to be subject to inspection,
which meant you could sneak out a Habsburg groschen or a
couple of worthless aluminum coins, but you couldn't get out
a quarter thaler or one of the silver commemoratives.
Though the CSSR is no more, the old customs regulations are
still in place, if perhaps not so rigorously enforced. So
it has been hard to get the CSSR coins, and to many dealers,
not worth the trouble.
The new open government has been busy issuing coins
with its new name. These coins are on the market and trying
to find their proper price level. The government is still
issuing minor coins which cost more to produce than their
face value, and we can look forward to their appearance in
the poundage and introductory coin packets of the future.