Münzmeister

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In medieval and early modern Germany, the Münzmeister ("mint master", the Latin term is monetarius) was the director or administrator of a mint, a moneyer with responsibility for the minting of coins, or specie. His duties were defined differently at different locations and ages.

Middle ages[edit]

The need for currency was relatively low during Merovingian times. The Münzmeister produced coins in small workshops, working alone or with the aid of a few assistants, and handled the precious metals required. During Carolingian times, minting of specie became the task of royally appointed officials.

During the High Middle Ages they were replaced by the Münzerhausgenossenschaft, or minting house cooperative. Its members came from the ranks of rich burghers: usually merchants, precious-metal traders, moneychangers, goldsmiths, who in turn appointed one out of their ranks as Münzmeister. For their labor, the members of the cooperative were due a share of the minting profits. They also enjoyed certain rights and privileges, including a monopoly on the purchase of gold and silver, exemption from customs duties and taxes, and independent jurisdiction in minting matters. The house cooperatives saw their heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries.

In the late Middle Ages, the minting house cooperatives vanished when minting was taken over by sovereigns or cities. The Münzmeister was now an entrepreneur who determined weight, precious-metal content, seignorage and their own share, by way of free negotiations with the principals. Next to mines and shipyards, mints had become the largest enterprises of the age.

Modern era[edit]

In modernity, local entrepreneurs and their mints gained in importance. The era saw the rise of Münzmeister dynasties, with leases that were extended over several generations. Frequently the coins bear symbols engraved by the Münzmeister, often as tiny rosettae, tools, monographs or initials. In the 17th and 18th century the number of Jewish leaseholders in minting increased, not least because access of Jews to other occupations became more restricted on religious grounds.

During the Habsburg era in Austria and Germany, the government soon began to establish a minting system. Austria created the office of a supreme heritable Münzmeister that provided for a sinecure without a share in profits. In Bohemia, too, the supreme office of Münzmeister was held by dukes and noblemen who at the same time supervised all the kingdom's mining facilities.

Besides the Münzmeister, there were other minting officials, such as the master smith, the dye-cutter, and the minter. The Münzwardein (in Latin, wardinus) was tasked with making sure that minting was done properly from the right alloy. He also had to take samples that were presented to the Probationstag (= sampling commission) in line with official regulations. The sampling commission was constituted from the royal court or local gentry or their repreesentatives.

External links[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

See also[edit]