Maria Thersa Thaler – A currency of choice in Ethiopia

The Maria Theresa thaler (MTT) is a silver bullion-coin that has been used in world trade continuously since it was first minted in 1741. It was named after Empress Maria Theresa, who ruled Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia from 1740 to 1780.

Since 1780, the coin has always been dated 1780. On September 19, 1857, Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria declared the Maria Theresa Taler to be an official trade coinage. A little over a year later, on October 31, 1858, the Maria Theresa Taler lost its status as currency in Austria.

The MTT is first recorded as circulated in Ethiopia from the reign of Emperor Iyasu II of Ethiopia (1730–1755).[3] According to traveller James Bruce the coin, not debased as other currencies, dominated the areas he visited in 1768. Joseph Kalmer and Ludwig Hyun in the book Abessinien estimate that over 20% of 245 million coins minted until 1931 ended up in Ethiopia.[4] In 1868, the British military expedition to Magdala, the capital of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia, under Field Marshal Robert Napier, took MTTs with them to pay local expenses. In 1890 the Italians introduced the Tallero Eritreo, styled after the MTT, in their new colony Eritrea, also hoping to impose it on the commerce with Ethiopia. They remained, however, largely unsuccessful. In the early 1900s Menelik II unsuccessfully attempted to mint Menilek thalers locally, with his effigy, but styled following the model of the MTT, and force their use. The newly established Bank of Abyssinia also issued banknotes denominated in thalers. Starting in 1935 the Italians minted the MTT at the mint in Rome for use in their conquest of Ethiopia. Then during World War II, the British minted some 18 million MTTs in Bombay to use in their campaign to drive the Italians out of Ethiopia.[5]

The Maria Theresa thaler was also formerly the currency of Muscat and Oman. The coin remains popular in North Africa and the Middle East to this day in its original form: a silver coin with a portrait of the buxom Empress on the front and the Habsburg Double Eagle on the back.


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