Imperial city of Nordhausen
Nordhausen, located in the north of Thuringia, started as a royal castle in the ninth century. In 961, Mathilde, wife of King Henry I, founded a convent. In 1180, Duke Henry the Lion destroyed the town when he was toppled from power. Emperor Barbarossa reconstructed the town and appointed a royal bailiff. Nordhausen repeatedly paid ransom to be released from its bailiffs, for the last time in 1715, when the town paid 50 000 talers for liberty. In 1815, after the Vienna Congress, Nordhausen eventually fell to Prussia.
In the Middle Ages, both the convent and an imperial mint isued coins. Later, the dukes of Saxony as imperial bailiffs owned the mint right. Although no formal mint right seems to have been granted to the town, they started a mint in 1556, as Duke William had already permitted to mint pennies against payment of a royalty in 1448.
Thaler 1556, Nordhausen. Ø 40mm, ca. 28 g. Lej.1b; Schulten 2401; Dav.9598.
"New silver money from imperial city of Nordhausen" eagle in small arms, big helmet on top.
Rev.: D·G·CARLVS·V·ROM·IMP·SEM·AVGVSTVS (mm. clover)
"by the grace of God, Charles V, Roman emperor, ever august"
crowned emperor in nearly frontal view, in armour, with sceptre, orb and Order of the Golden Fleece
on the breast, effigy between the date numbers 5 - 6.
The coin was issued by a city, as shown on the obverse. The emperors effigy (only) decorates the revers.
Three dies in use
A second obvers, slightly variant, is known (Lej.1a). The obvers was engraved on the punch die, which wears out more quickly than the avil die. The strike on the punch die deforms the planchet and reduces the load on the avil die. Therefore, there it was quite common to have more punch dies than avil ones, as in this case.
Mintage of short duration
In 1556, the town commissioned mintmaster Valentin Sickel (mm. clover) to mint thalers and quarter thalers. However, the mintage had hardly begun when it had to be stopped again. The dies had not yet been paid so that the die cutter of Brunswick had to sue for his pay. The town's mintage was not continued until 1616.
Many mint right owners ignored the Imperial Mint Order of 1551 because of rising silver prices. As a result, the mint edict of 26 September 1555 refused mintage to all estates of the realm that did not own mines. Therefore, Nordhausen should not have begun with mintage. Besides, the revers with the Emperor's effigy contradicted the design rule for the revers (i.e. a double eagle with imperial orb).
Other cities without own mines, like Kempten, stopped coinage immediately as the mint edict of 1555 demanded. That's how the first thaler of Nordhausen came to be the last thaler with Charles' effigy that was issued during his lifetime. Only Besançon still used Charles's effigy on coins after his death.
Lejeune, E., Die neueren Münzen und Medaillen der Reichstadt Nordhausen. Blätter für Münzfreunde, 1910.