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Austrian 1 Ducat

Austria’s most distinguished historical gold coin, the Franz Joseph ducat, is an exquisite gold piece that is acclaimed throughout the world for its long-term uniformity and high purity. Also referred to as the “Austrian ducat”, or “1 ducat”, it embodies the history of the Austrian Empire, the second largest European nation and one of the world’s leading powers of the time.

Past events are immortalised in a gold purity of 98.6 %, which is among the highest gold finenesses among classic gold coins. Extremely rich in detail, the one ducat gold coin is embellished with the powerful coat of arms of the House of Habsburg, one of Europe’s oldest and most influential royal families, and with the effigy of one of the last great monarchs of Europe, Franz Joseph of Austria. The design of this coin was struck for the first time in 1872, and is today being applied by the renowned Austrian Mint to produce restrikes of the Franz Joseph ducat.

As a long-term partner of the Austrian Mint and a leading European dealer in this coin, Tavex is able to offer market leading quotes for this magnificent historical gold coin.

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  • The Franz Joseph 1 ducat is Austria’s most famous historical gold coin. Acclaimed for its long-term uniformity, high purity and artistic beauty, the Franz Joseph ducat is the best-known gold coin in Central Europe.

  • The Franz Joseph 1 ducat is well suited for coin collections. To own this coin literally means owning a piece of European history. It embodies the history of one of the world’s great powers, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and portrays one of the leading monarchs of that time, Emperor Franz Joseph.

  • Franz Joseph 1 ducat gold coins are money. Austrian ducats are exempt from Value Added Tax, and are exchangeable throughout Europe by bullion dealers and investors alike.

  • Franz Joseph 1 ducat gold coins are internationally recognised. Their history spanning more than a century, and currently being struck by the renowned Austrian Mint, coupled with their unique design and shape, makes them highly distinguished and accepted worldwide.

  • Franz Joseph 1 ducat gold coins are the equivalent of savings. Austrian ducats are an ideal choice for any long-term saver who appreciates the security and stability of owning physical gold coins.

  • Franz Joseph 1 ducat gold coins track the price of gold. The base value of the restruck 1 ducat coins is primarily determined by their fine gold content which is linked to the prevailing price of gold.

  • Franz Joseph 1 ducat gold coins are great gifts for your loved ones. Besides being a symbol of long-term endurance, the ducat gold coin is also a piece of precious history.

 

The history of the ducat coin

It is no exaggeration to claim that the ducat is the world’s number one gold coin with regards to uniformity, and one of the top three most important classical coins ever to have been produced in Europe. However, contrary to what one might think, the ducat does not originate in Austria, but instead draws its heritage from medieval Italy. The birthplace of the gold ducat, whose uniformity would facilitate trade for over 700 years, was the Italian city of Venice. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Venice was a trading powerhouse and the dominant city-state along the coastal areas of the Adriatic Sea. To further the city’s trade and prominence, the ruling duke at the time began to mint a gold coin whose weight was set at 3.5 grams with a determined gold purity of 98.6% (23.68 karat). Because “dukes” governed the city, the new coin was given the name “ducatus”, which is Latin for “dukedom”, hence the name of the present “ducat”.

 

The ducat’s gold content was a marketing campaign

From the start, the ducat became an immediate success. This outcome was partially attributed to Venice’s regional influence and far-reaching trade, but it was the coin’s high purity that was responsible for its recognition and acceptance. The mere undertaking to purify gold to such a high degree was an accomplishment in itself at that time, and, as a result, the ducat emitted such a lustrous gold colour that it made other coinage look bleak in comparison. Apart from the Florentine florin that shared a similar standard and competed for trade dominance alongside the ducat, the other circulating coinage of the time was mostly made of silver or gold of lower purity. The fascinating reason for making the ducat of such high purity was largely attributed to what we today would refer to as “marketing”. Pure gold, or 24 karat gold, is by nature extremely soft, and thus coins of such a high karat are not suitable as circulating coinage since they easily become worn down. On the other hand, a gold coin with a high fineness diffracts the beautiful and seductive colour of gold, an aspect that even to this day is treasured by many.

 

The gold ducat becomes the universal coin par excellence

The main purpose of the ducat was to spread Venice’s influence and that is exactly what it did. Ducats fostered trade and facilitated the payment of goods throughout the Mediterranean Sea, reaching even remote trading outposts in India, Africa and the Middle East. By the 15th century, the Venetian ducat had established itself as the international currency of choice. Its popularity became so pronounced that other nations and city-states began mimicking the Venetian ducat by striking their own versions, albeit sometimes with a different design and shape, but adhering to the standard uniformity of 3.5 grams and a gold fineness of 98.6 percent.  Italian well-known city-states such as Rome, Genoa and Florence, other foreign cities such as Constantinople and Acre, as well as most European nations, including Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and Russia, just to name a few, minted ducats at some time during their history. In fact, since its inception, the ducat has been minted by more than 250 different entities, including both public and private mints.

What is most intriguing is that the term “ducat” became associated with a unit of account, a direct result of the integrity of the Venetians, but also other entities, in keeping the weight and the purity of the ducat uniform throughout the ages. The City of Venice issued ducats with a similar design for five centuries until conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797.

 

The ducat depicts the coat of arms of the House of Habsburg

The Habsburg royal family, in some respects similar to the ducat gold coin, was powerful in its reach and endurance through the centuries. The family arose around the 10th century in connection with the construction of Habsburg castle in Aargau, Switzerland.  By the late thirteen century, the family obtained command of the Duchy of Austria, which they ruled for over 600 years until Austria became a republic in 1919. The Habsburgs were one of Europe’s most powerful royal houses, and, gaining influence through marriages and political alliances, they regularly ruled the Holy Roman Empire (a political entity that stretched from Rome in Italy to northern parts of Germany) between the fifteen and eighteenth centuries. At the zenith of the family’s power, in addition to ruling the heartland of Central Europe, territories belonging to the Habsburgs included Spain, parts of Italy, most of the Netherlands and possessions in the Americas.  

Following the fall of the Holy Roman Empire at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Army in the early 19th century, the Habsburgs, shrewd as they were, made a deal with Napoleon, pledging their alliance and in return were given the right to pull back to their long-term stronghold in Austria. The Habsburg’s patiently consolidated their lands and power by founding the Austrian Empire comprised of Austria and several vassal states south and east of the country. Once Napoleon suffered his first major loss with his disastrous campaign in Russia, the Habsburgs with other allies swiftly turned against him and crushed the French former Grand Army in 1815. As one of the victors, the Habsburgs laid claim to additional territories that included Croatia, northern parts of Italy (Lombardy-Venetia), and the region of what would today be considered West Austria. The enlarged Austrian Empire became the second largest geographical nation in Europe, over which the Habsburgs would rule for the next century.

 

The ducat facilitated trade in the Austrian Empire

The first Austrian ducat was issued sometime in the early 16th century. Its prominence as a trade coin would become apparent with the enlargement of the Austrian Empire in 1816. Comprised of twelve different countries, the Austrian Empire was a multinational realm that contained Europe’s third largest population. It was a dynamic economy that heavily depended on trade, a function that the Austrian gold ducat helped to facilitate. However, the ducat was not the sole gold coin used in the Austrian Empire at that time. Decimal coinage that contained a lower gold fineness, which made it more suitable for handling, was preferred for day-to-day affairs. These coins circulated side by side with the ducat and included the Austrian gold gulden and crown, and the Hungarian gold forint. Nevertheless, Austrian ducats were still the favoured gold coins for settling commerce transactions throughout the Austrian Empire and beyond.

 

The Franz Joseph ducat is the most treasured gold coin in Central Europe

Ducats carrying the design of Franz Joseph are the most famous version of the Austrian gold ducats. Its popularity stems from the fact that Franz Joseph was looked upon as a patriarchal authority that held the Empire together, drawing respect from his subjects. Franz Joseph ascended to the throne in 1848, but his first two decades of reign would prove to be tumultuous, contradicting his reputation of being able to reign over the region with a firm grip. At the Battle of Solferino in Italy in 1859, inexperienced in militarism, Franz Joseph allowed himself to command the troops and he lost the battle against the French and Italian armies, forcing him as a result to give up Lombardy (the Milan region) to the allies. In 1866, he lost the Austro-Prussian war, which meant he had to cede Austrian control of the Venetian region to Prussia’s ally, the Italian King Vittorio Emanuele. One short year later, nationalist sentiment in Hungary forced Franz Joseph to grant the country greater autonomy, creating the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the process. In spite of these missteps, beginning with 1867 and onwards, he would rule peacefully and successfully until his death in 1916.

During this period of concord, the Austro-Hungarian Empire prospered. Industry expanded, artistic and scientific segments of society were thriving, especially in Austria, the infrastructure was being modernised, railroad networks, river channels and ports were being constructed throughout the dual monarchy, Hungary became a leading source of food for the rest of Europe, and the Empire as a whole became the world’s fourth largest machine manufacturer. With incomes rising and trade flourishing, Franz Joseph’s reign became naturally associated with a time of “plenty”, boosting his popularity as a consequence. He was particularly popular among the more conservative layers of Austrian society, and he likewise drew a strong loyal following in Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and in the Czech Republic. The act of handing out Franz Joseph ducats to the parents of a newborn child, to newlyweds, or as a memorable gift in general became a tradition which is still being practised in the former countries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

 

Franz Joseph ducats are produced as official restrikes by the Austrian Mint   

The Austrian Mint, a subsidiary of Austria’s Central Bank, is a world renowned mint which dates back to the 12th century. The story of the Austrian Mint begins in 1194, when Richard the Lionheart paid 12 tonnes of silver to secure his freedom from imprisonment by the Austrian Duke Leopold V. The Austrian Duke would later use the silver to strike silver coins, thus laying the foundation for the Austrian Mint. In its rich and long history, the Austrian Mint has produced many of Europe’s most famous and widely used coins, including gold crowns, guilders, ducats and silver coins such as the Maria Theresa thaler. Many of the gold coins issued by the Austrian Mint were extensively used in trade during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while the silver thaler proved to be one of the most minted and widely used silver coins in global commerce between 1750 and the 1950s. Today, the mint is best recognised for producing Europe’s most desired investment bullion coins, the Austrian Philharmonics, sometimes called Vienna Philharmonic gold and silver bullion coins.


Nominal value Dimensions Fineness Product weight in grams Gold weight in grams Gold weight in Troy ounces
1 ducat 20.00 mm 986 3.49090 g 3.44203g 0.11

The majority of gold ducats depicting Franz Joseph were issued from the early 1900s onwards. The 1 ducat coins dated 1915 are today being produced by the Austrian Mint as official restrikes.

Obverse: The obverse portrays the effigy of Emperor Franz Joseph crowned with a laurel. The title “FRANC IOS I D G AUSTRIAE IMPERATOR”, which translates as “Franz Joseph 1, by the grace of God, Emperor of Austria”, surrounds his portrait.

Reverse: The reverse displays the coat of arms of the House of Habsburg, surrounded by the text “HVNGAR BOHEM GAL LOD ILL REX AA 1915”, which translates as “Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria, King and Archduke of Austria 1915”.

Purity: The Austrian Franz Joseph one ducat is a 23.68 karat gold coin which means it is composed of 23.68/24 = 98.6% gold and the rest of the coin contains traces of copper and silver. The coin conta Compared to the majority of historical and modern gold coins, the ducat is considerable thinner, at just 0.8 mm thick.

Packaging: Each coin is individually packaged in a hard plastic capsule. 

When placing an order through our online shop, you can choose to have the products delivered to your local post office or to collect them in person at one of our offices in Stockholm.

Delivery by PostNord: all orders are fully insured and trackable. The package is shipped the same day after we receive your payment and will arrive to your local post office within 1-3 working days.

Self pick-up: you are welcome to come and collect your products at one of our offices in Stockholm the same day we notify you that we have received your payment.

 

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