Kurant coin

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Kurant ducat with the portrait of Frederik V from 1762

A Kurant coin (older spelling: Courantmün (t) ze , to French courant "running") is a fully-fledged, circulating, viable, circulating coin whose face value is (almost) completely covered by the metal it is made of. The opposite term is the divisional coin , whose nominal value is not covered by its metal value. Until the suspension of the gold and silver standards in the first third of the 20th century, the nominal value of the Kurant coins was officially defined as a coin base . H. directly through the amount of precious metal contained per coin. Kurant coins usually consist of silver or gold , exceptionally also platinum metals or copper . Smaller deviations from the prescribed amount of precious metal - for example due to wear and tear or a percentage low treasure in favor of the mint owner - were often accepted.

All Kurant coins are commodity money - in contrast to cutting coins, paper - and book money , which are all fiat money . Before 1915, the common term ` ` cash '' in Germany only referred to Kurant coins. Kurant coins as well as divisional coins are course coins .


The prerequisite for the issue of Kurant coins was that the material used had a long lasting value. In no case should it be as easily reproducible as paper, for example; were desired, a general acceptance , aesthetics , propaganda function divisibility in sub-nominal , mechanical strength and corrosion resistance as well as high value of density . Many alloys of the precious metals gold and silver have met these requirements as coins or bar money for centuries .

An officially used Kurant coin is an unlimited valid means of payment in its currency area . This means that it must be accepted by the creditor in any amount for the settlement of monetary debts ("for debt discharge") .

Usually, Kurant coins were “full value”, i.e. H. minted with a statutory content of precious metal. These regulations are historically referred to as the coin rate. The monetary standard of the Vienna Mint Treaty of 1857 stipulates that exactly 30 simple club thalers are minted from one pound of fine silver (500 g). A fully-fledged Kuranttaler contained almost 16.7 g of pure silver.

Some persons or institutions authorized to mint coins, the minters, did not adhere to the prescribed standard and brought out "inferior" coins with a lower content of precious metal. You could therefore produce a larger amount of coin with a smaller amount of precious metal. Either a gradual process of converting the corresponding denomination of the coin into a dividing coin began, or the coin base was officially adapted to the changed minting (see also: bank totes ).

Deviations in the precious metal content of a Kurant coin could also have reasons other than fraudulent intent on the part of the minters. The normal abrasion in circulation reduces the precious metal content of the coin. Occasionally, precious metal was filed off the edge of the coins or material was removed in some other way (see also weight ).

A complicated case is when the actual weight of the coin base changes over time or differs between different mints. This was the case, for example, for the Cölnish mark , which was the basis of the common denomination of several different currencies. The Cölnish mark had a mass of 233.8123 g in Cologne, 233.95 g in Bavaria and 233.8555 g in Prussia. This was a problem because the coin feet of the Reichstaler and the Gulden were uniform across the empire .

Such differences were found on "Approval Days" held for the area of ​​the old German Reich. Coins that show only small differences were mutually considered to be of full value. In business transactions, however, they were valued at a discount or premium compared to the nominal coin or the bill coin . These differences in the precious metal content ("fineness") of the various coins were recorded in valvation tables .

Kurant coins, like divisional coins, have a natural rate that results from their “inner” metal value. In addition, at the time of their validity in a certain currency area, they usually have a compulsory statutory rate: they had to be accepted as a means of payment at fixed rates in the respective currency area.

In literature from approximately 1920 and in the bank vernacular occasionally all "circulating" coins, including fractional coins , called "Kurantmünzen".

Kurant coin example 20 Goldmark Germany 1871 to 1915

According to the Law of 4 December 1871 "Law concerning the severity of Reichsgoldmünzen " were in several paragraphs of the monetary standard , the alloy and tolerances (Remendium) and the Passiergewicht for the 10- and 20-Mark gold coins - officially called " Kronen "and" Doppelkronen "designated - have been determined:

Coin base: 69 3/4 pieces made of 1 pound (500 g) fine gold (theoretically equivalent to 7.16845 g fine gold per 20 Mark coin)

Alloy: 900 parts of fine gold and 100 parts of copper

(Manufacturing) tolerances: 2/1000 parts of the fine weight and 2.5 / 1000 parts of the rough weight

Passing weight: 5/1000 parts of the rough weight

Kurant coins, which weighed below the passage weight, no longer needed to be converted by the German Reich treasuries into full-weight coins at the expense of the Reich. In practice, however, this was done as long as they showed no damage - that is, they were only slightly more worn from circulation.

At that time, many traders and merchants carried small, collapsible coin scales, often still equipped with a diameter gauge, to check the weight and diameter of 5, 10 and 20 mark gold coins. In some cases the silver 5-mark to 20-pfennig cutting coins and the taler coins, which were still valid until 1908, were checked for falsification with coin scales in daily trade.


At the time of the Kurantgeld coins, the metal value of which was usually much lower than their nominal value , were called Scheidemünzen ; other designations were also land or city coins, which was at least true for the small denominations that were not minted according to the prescribed imperial foot. The dividing coins included not only bronze and copper coins, but also many silver coins, the metal value of which was in some cases considerably reduced compared to their nominal value due to the alloy with copper. This silver-copper alloy with less than 50% silver was called billon . The time of the pure curant coin currency can be set to around 1570, when the small types of coins were still almost fully valued - apart from a small remendium of around 3 to 6%, which served to cover the relatively increased minting effort.

From antiquity to the First World War , Kurant coins were of great importance. They were practically always made of gold ( gold coin ) or silver ( silver coin ). In Russia at the beginning of the 19th century there were also ducat coins of 3, 6 and 12 rubles made of platinum in circulation. Later platinum coins were mostly reductions from (gold) coins in circulation or gold-plated forgeries at a time when platinum was still less valuable than gold. In 18th century Sweden there were copper plate coins with a considerable weight from one to multiple taler denominations, since here the much cheaper copper had to cover the coin value and coin silver was scarce. The large and heavy copper Russian 1/4 to 5 kopecks (pjataks) and the English 1 and 2 penny coins ( cartwheel pennies ) of the late 18th century could almost also be viewed as "small copper coins " since they replaced the previously much smaller silver denominations and were initially not intended to be coins.

Until 1872, German silver coins almost always had an additional indication of their weight in addition to the nominal currency. B. 1 thaler, 30 ( piece = counting measure ) a pound fine (silver). Gold (current) coins usually had no weight information.

Before 1871, larger payments were always agreed in the contracts with the exact currency of the currency, e.g. B. " Prussian Courant " or " Friedrich d'or ". If an attempt was made to redeem a Kurant's debt with a dividing coin, a premium was usually due. This was especially true for repayments in foreign coins, but also often for banknotes.

If silver was the main currency metal, one speaks of a silver standard currency and the gold coins circulating in parallel were mostly trading coins with a fluctuating rate, which was mostly a premium. However, if gold was the currency metal, silver was almost always a divisional coin. In a relatively short period around 1865 to 1875 there was bimetallism in Germany and the Latin Monetary Union . H. Gold and silver were almost stable in value relative to one another at a ratio of 1: 15.5, so that gold and silver were simultaneously currency coins with equal status for a number of years; then, however, the price of silver fell .

In Germany, until the introduction of the gold mark in 1871, all large (coarse) silver coins were Kurant coins, mostly down to 1/6 thaler . The last German Kurantgroschen was the Saxon Groschen in the 13-1 / 3-Talerfuß from 1827 with the stamp "24 one thaler, 320 one fine mark".

The German gold standard currency from 1871 to 1907 is sometimes referred to as the “limping gold currency” because of the circulation of thalers in parallel with the 10 and 20 mark gold coins.

Simple club thalers kept their curant money property until they were suspended in 1907 de jure. The silver coins in mark currency of the empire, on the other hand, were divisional coins from the beginning and only had to be accepted up to a value of 20 marks; only one mark was a limited acceptance requirement for penny coins.

In the Latin Monetary Union, in addition to gold coins, only the silver 5-franc pieces were practical and de jure curant coins around 1870. Here you can see a parallel to the German thaler. The other silver coins from 2 francs down had a relatively lower fineness - similar to the silver mark pieces, which had a relatively 10% lower fineness than the (Kurant) thalers.

The terms “Kurant and Scheidemünze” have been avoided in official linguistic usage since around 1871, but are still in use today in Austrian law.

The last German curant money were the 20 and 10 mark pieces, which were still in circulation until around August 1914. The golden Prussian 20-mark piece, which was still minted in 1915, no longer came into circulation.

Bank money is to be distinguished from Kurantgeld, which existed in various German territories parallel to the Kurantgeld in circulation and which had a different value. From 1725 until 1871/74, for example, in Hamburg, in addition to the Hamburg Mark Kurant (or Mark Courant), there was also the Mark Banco , which was reserved for business transactions and had a value that was around a quarter higher with the same nominal value. The two currencies did not have a fixed exchange rate to one another despite the same area of ​​validity.

It was not until January 1, 1910, that banknotes were considered a means of payment in the German Reich with an unlimited debt-discharging effect. This also applies to today's euro banknotes. As early as the 19th century in Prussia, a certain percentage of government paper money was required for tax payments with cash to the state. Otherwise, a fine was due. This circumstance forced the citizens to accept banknotes, although Kurantgeld normally discharged their debts indefinitely. This state compulsion was supposed to bring about the introduction of (hidden) money substitute symbols for the citizen, which was ultimately caused by the national debt . However, paper money also had and still has advantages, e.g. B. in terms of weight. For example, to pay an amount of 1000 thalers in cash, around 18 kg of silver had to be transported.

Today's development

Today, the value of currency coins - and even more banknotes - that are used as an official means of payment is usually no longer covered by their material value. Also, the means of payment can no longer be exchanged for precious metal at a fixed rate on request. It is credit and no longer curant money (see also fiat money ). Production costs and the material value of coins are not the same. A good example was the last German 1- pfennig coin, which cost around 2 pfennigs to produce, but was significantly less than one pfennig in material value. In the case of Kurant coins, on the other hand, the relatively low production and alloy costs were previously neglected compared to the high face value of the Kurant coin; for gold coins they were well below 1% and for thalers a maximum of 3%. See also Seigniorage or Schlagschatz.

Modern precious metal coins that are offered at bank counters are not Kurant coins, as they are not minted for payment transactions but for investors ( bullion coins ) or collectors . Most of the time they have a denomination of a currency, which is, however, significantly below their (gold, platinum) material value. As a result of inflation and / or metal price increases, a deciduous coin can slowly develop into a "curant coin" over the years, which various countries then encountered with the elimination of the smallest coin denominations, cheaper coin material (aluminum instead of the previous copper alloy), fineness reductions or smaller coin dimensions. Examples: discontinuation of British farthings (1/4 d) from 1957, discontinuation of the 1 and 2 centimes coins in Switzerland, conversion of the 5 shilling coins from silver to copper-nickel in Austria from 1968, conversion of the 5 -DM course coins of silver on a nickel core with copper-nickel plated 1975. The 5 US cent piece (nickel) is an example of a contemporary coin in circulation, the metal value of which is almost equal to the face value, which can therefore be regarded as a "modern currency coin" . It weighs 5 grams and is made from cupronickel (Cu75Ni25). The metal value is 4.3 US cents (as of October 24, 2014).


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  • Association of scholars and practical merchants: trade lexicon or encyclopedia of all trade sciences for merchants and manufacturers . Ernst Schäfer Publishing House, Leipzig 1847.
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  • Carl Schaeffer, Heinrich Brode: General economics. Verlag CL Hirschfeld, Leipzig 1927.
  • Hans Schwenke: German money marks 1871-1914 . Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1980, p. 45ff