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Lichtenstein marks 300th anniversary

 Lichtenstein’s gold 100-franken (above) and silver 5-franken (lower left) commemoratives struck to mark the 300th anniversary of the creation on the Principality of Lichtenstein. (Images courtesy and © Coin Invest Trust.)

Lichtenstein’s gold 100-franken (above) and silver 5-franken (lower left) commemoratives struck to mark the 300th anniversary of the creation on the Principality of Lichtenstein. (Images courtesy and © Coin Invest Trust.)

On Jan. 23, 1719, The Holy Roman Emperor decreed a new principality within his domain. It was to be called “Lichtenstein” after his “true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein.” This year, the country celebrates the 300th anniversary of the Principality’s creation.

To mark the tercentenary, five commemorative coins have been produced by Lichtenstein’s very own Coin Invest Trust. For numismatists, this is a remarkable event.

The official currency of the Principality is the Swiss franc. Commemorative coins are issued only occasionally and only with the consent of the Swiss Department of Finance. The last to be struck was in 2006.

Lichtenstein’s origins date back well before 1719. The family originally came from Liechtenstein Castle in Lower Austria. Although they had possessed the castle from at least 1140, they were never in a position to qualify for a seat in the diet of the Holy Roman Empire. All their property was held in tenure from other more senior feudal lords. To qualify for senior ranking, they needed lands held directly from the Holy Roman Emperor.

In 1699, Prince Florian of Castle Lichtenstein was allowed to purchase the minuscule Herrschaft [Lordship] of Schellenberg. In 1712, he acquired the similarly insignificant adjacent county of Vaduz. Both properties owed allegiance to the Emperor alone. Size didn’t matter. And in due course the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI, issued his decree to unite Vaduz and Schellenberg as the Principality of Liechtenstein, and Florian got his seat in the diet.

Since then, the country has had its ups and downs. In the 19th century, it was overrun by Napoleon along with the rest of Europe. When Emperor Francis II abdicated, Lichtenstein lost its feudal lord. It became a sovereign state. However, in 1806, when Napoleon reorganized the old Holy Roman Empire into the Confederation of the Rhine, the Prince of Lichtenstein now became a vassal of the new emperor. That lasted until 1813.

 (Images courtesy and © Coin Invest Trust.)

(Images courtesy and © Coin Invest Trust.)

In 1815, Lichtenstein joined the German Confederation, and three years later its Prince granted the country a limited constitution. That same year, Prince Aloys became the first member of the Liechtenstein family to set foot in the family’s Principality. The next princely visit would not occur until 1842.

The country remained closely tied to Austria until the end of WWI. In 1924, it concluded a customs and monetary union with its other neighbor, Switzerland; hence, today’s Swiss franc currency.

During WWII, Liechtenstein followed Switzerland’s lead and remained officially neutral. However, at the end of the war, it was in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, the family sold many artistic treasures, including a da Vinci, to the USA’s National Gallery of Art in 1967 for $5 million.

Despite the confiscation of numerous estates in surrounding countries, matters were soon turned around. Liechtenstein simply established very low corporate tax rates and, by the 1970s, many companies had relocated head offices to Lichtenstein, making it one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Today, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein is listed as the eighth richest monarch in the world with a net worth of at least $4 billion. The country’s population enjoys one of the world’s highest standards of living.

Significantly, Lichtenstein is the only monarchy of the Holy Roman Empire to still exist.

The five commemorative proof coins consist of a 38.61 mm, 1 oz, .999 fine silver 5 franken; a 38.61 mm, 2 oz, .999 fine silver 10 franken; an 11mm, 0.5 g, .9999 fine gold 10 franken; a 22.5 mm, 1/4 oz, .9999 fine gold 25 franken; and a 33 mm, 1oz, .9999 fine gold 100 franken. Mintages are 7,500, 1,719, 15,000, 999, and 300, respectively.

All coins are struck in high-relief smartminting. All have a common obverse and reverse. The obverse shows a full-length bust of Prince Anton Florian, the first Imperial Prince to rule over Liechtenstein. The reverse shows the country’s coat-of-arms.

All were expected to be available in April.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.

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