The Schmalkaldic War ended on April 24, 1547, when elector John Frederic I the Magnanimous lost the battle of Mühlberg. He was made the emperor's prisoner, was first sentenced to death, later to life-long imprisonment. Officially, he charged his three sons with the administration of his remaining territories. In fact, he managed the most important affairs himself, from inside the prison, and this included minting matters.
The three sons of John Frederic the Magnanimous during his imprisonment, 1547-1552
John Frederic had not only lost the electorship but also his share of the mines of Schneeberg and Buchholz and their mints. He chose Saalfeld in Thuringia as his new mint town. John Frederic approved of the first thalers minted there in 1551, and 1146 pieces were delivered in March of that year.
In a report of February 28, 1550, an advisory board had suggested that the elector's sons should keep to the traditional Saxonian standard of coinage. It was also suggested they show their submission by imprinting the emperor's effigy on one side and the Saxonian arms on the other side. John Frederic and his sons followed this advice.
1/2 Thaler 1551, Saalfeld. Ø 33 mm, 13,99 g. Schulten 3165 (erroneously as 1/4 Thaler)
"Money of the Sons of Johann Friedrich senior, Duke of Saxony"
quartered arms (Thuringia and Meissen; below: Palatinate Saxony and Landsberg; center: Saxony),
on top the date
crowned and armoured effigy of Charles V with sceptre and sword grip.
Thaler 1551, Saalfeld. Ø 40mm Schnee 141 ; Dav.9742
Obv.: MONE·FILIOR·IOH·FRID·SENIORIS·DV·SAX (mm.)
"Money of the Sons of Johann Friedrich senior, Duke of Saxony" (mintmark) - coat of arms
"By the grace of God Charles V, Roman Emperor, ever august"
It is unique in German history that a secular principality minted thalers with the emperor's effigy.
Apart from showing submission, the emperor's effigy on the Saxonian thalers was also meant to prevent them from being banned on the grounds that they did not correspond to the imperial coinage standard of 1524, which - though generally ignored - was still in force. And indeed, in a certifying booklet of 1571 ("Münzvalvationsbüchlein"), the above thalers of Saxonian standard of coinage were identified as fully valid thalers.
Until 1547, i.e. until the battle of Mühlberg, Albertinians and Ernestinians had jointly minted according to the same standard and in the same mints. The loss of the Ernestinian share of mines and mints followed the edition of the first Ernestinian thalers in 1551 puting a definitive end to this mint unity.
Maurice of Saxony
, who had been instrumental in defeating Johann Friedrich in the Battle of Mühlberg, provoked the "Princes' rebellion" against the emperor in 1551/2. This induced the emperor to release Johann Friedrich from imprisonment and allow his second government
• Lothar Koppe: Die Münzprägung der Ernestiner nach 1547 durch Johann Friedrich und seine Söhne
in: Jahrbuch Thüringer Münz- und Medaillenkunde 7 (1995/96) 106-119.
• Wieland Jung: Der Schmalkaldische Bund - Numismatische Zeugnise zur Geschichte. Teil I
in: Beiträge zur Münzkunde in Hessen-Kassel, Heft Nr.16 (1989)