My encyclopedia tells me that the prince of
Liechtenstein is a sovereign ruler who "answers to no one."
The past two centuries seem to have amply demonstrated its
independence. The prince disbanded the army in 1868 and
since then the nation has managed to avoid involvement in
the Franco-Prussian war and World Wars I and II. The Nazis,
who respected nothing else, honored the rights granted the
prince by the old Holy Roman Empire.
Tucked in between Switzerland and Austria,
Liechtenstein is about the size of Washington, D.C., but
packs only 30,000 people into its mountains. They do a
little manufacturing, sell a lot of postage stamps, and
maintain a business-friendly tax system that makes it useful
to locate your head office there. The standard of living is
high. They use Swiss money in everyday life.
Liechtensteiner pre-history would seem to begin in step
with the neolithic people of Switzerland some 5000 years ago
or so. These people started working with copper at some
point, and were overrun by warlike, iron using Celts during
the second millennium BCE. The Romans conquered the region
durin the 2nd century BCE, and administered it until the
fall of the Western Empire. A St. Lucius evangelized and
converted the inhabitants in 300 CE.
The region was overrun by the Franks during the 6th
century. Charlemagne took a personal interest in the
region, deposing the Bishop of Cheve as governor and
appointing his own man. Two secular rulers emerged: the
lords of Schellenberg and Vaduz (pronounced "Fatoots"), and
these realms survived the demise of the Carolingians to
become constituents of the Holy Roman Empire.
Emperor Maximilian granted extraordinary rights to
Vaduz in 1507, most notably sovereignty and the collection
of taxes, and these rights came to rest with the
Liechtenstein family. Schellenberg merged with Vaduz in
1719, and the duke of Vaduz became a prince. The
Liechtensteins became hereditary members of the Austrian
House of Lords in 1860, and in 1860 the principality became
Liechtenstein's loyalty lay not in the country of
Austria but rather with the family Hapsburg. On the demise
of that dynasty the prince felt no desire to associate with
the incompetent Republican rabble that succeeded it, casting
his lot instead with stable Switzerland. In no time there
was a customs union.
I looked in Saurma's catalog of late medieval German
coins to see if that great collector had acquired any early
coins of Vaduz or Schellenberg. No, he hadn't. Then I
looked in Davenport. Nope, not a thing. Finally, I found
some listings in an obscure book, Standard Catalog of World
Coins, 1601-1700. The mentioned coins are all gold, ducats
and multiples, showing on obverse a portrait of Duke Carl
and on reverse the conjoined arms of Schellenberg and Vaduz.
I don't think I've ever seen any of these coins,
certainly not as originals. The book says restrikes exist,
and I bet they do, but I have no clear memory of ever
In the 17th century there was plenty of Austrian money
in circulation. These Liechtensteiner coins, ranging in
size up to 10 ducats, could only have been issued for
political purposes, and any actual circulation any of them
might have seen had to have been accidental.
A few more coins were issued during the course of the
18th century, including large silvers. These coins too
served commemorative and political purposes rather than
those of trade, and the dies of at least some of them were
kept, for restrikes of most of the gold coins are known.
During the 19th century there was struck an extremely
rare thaler, the silver restrike of which is given a low
price in the SCWC, but which is quite hard to find.
A series of krone denominated coins was struck (and
actually circulated!) between 1898 and 1915, and some of
these, notably the silver 1 and 2 kronen, are not too hard
to obtain. The 5 kronen crown is rare, expensive, and
extremely popular, while the gold pretty much never shows
A franc denominated silver set was issued in 1924, and
these are seldom seen. 1930 dated gold coins are very rare,
but I've seen the 1946 issues from time to time, usually in
European auctions. Gold coins of 1952, '56, and '61, and
medallic items of 1966 and '67, just like coins but with no
indication of value, are all equally hard to find.
It was really rather difficult, about 10 years ago, to
get a Liechtenstein coin for your "one coin of every country
in the catalog" collection. After all, there weren't that
many made to begin with, some were lost or melted, and there
was competition. Then, in 1988 and again in 1990 the
government issued some new coins, happily in silver and
reasonably priced. So the heat was off for about a year.
Then all those coins sold out and now you can't find them.
And I thought there was a copper-nickel coin issued
just last year, but hasn't made it into the SCWC yet. Maybe
next year. That coin is not to be found either.
They could probably sell out an issue of a million.
Popular little country, Liechtenstein is.