The Coin of the Month for August 2014 (Volume 3, Number 12) is an NGC MS-62, 1846 Bavarian 2 Thaler commemorating the completion of Ludwig’s Canal connecting the Main and Danube Rivers.
This coin (KM #822) with an unknown mintage is 38mm in diameter and weighs 37.12 grams. It has a silver fineness of .900 with an ASW of 1.0740 oz. The edge inscription signifies a monetary equivalency of 3 ½ Guldens (Drey-Einhalb Gulden) and a weight of 1/7 fine silver Cologne Mark (**VII E F M**). The Cologne Mark is a unit of weight equivalent to 233.856 grams or 3600 grains (480 grains/troy ounce). This coins engraver is Carl Friedrich Voight.
The first attempt to build a canal joining the Main and Danube Rivers dates back to 793 AD. The main objective of the canal was to create a navigable waterway between the North and Black Seas. Due to bad weather and unfavorable soil conditions, this work was never completed.
Under Ludwig I, King of Bavaria, construction of a new 172-kilometer canal between Kelheim and Bamberg began in 1836. After 10 years, work on the canal was finally complete and Ludwig's Canal opened to commercial traffic in 1846.
With the advent of the railroad, commercial traffic on the canal began to decline. Eventually, having suffered the effects of declining use, neglect, and war damage the canal closed in 1950. Today only 60-kilometers of the waterway remains and much of that has been converted into a scenic bike trail.
For a long time I have wanted to post this coin as the “Coin of the Month”. However, information on this coin is sparse and I have had trouble identifying the images on the coins reverse. At first, I thought the images might be that of Hercules and Bavaria. Then again, other imagery on the coin seems to suggest that they are representative images of the Main and Danube Rivers. Then I figured the female image holding the rudder represents the Main River and the male image holding the paddle, the Danube. Today I found out that I was wrong on all counts.
Since information on the coin itself is sparse, I decided to research the canal instead. Today, I located a picture of a monument using imagery similar to that of my coin. That monument commemorating Ludwig’s Canal is located north of Erlangen on Castle Hill. Additionally, this was the site of the canal’s dedication on July 15, 1846. Subsequently, after a few more Google searches I discovered the key to deciphering my coin’s imagery and my search was over!
The female image on the reverse is Danubia, the personification of the Danube River. The male image is Moenus the river god of the Main (Moenus is the Latin word for Main). Both images are wearing a laurel crown indicating successful completion of the canal. Danubia and Moenus are shaking each other’s hand signifying the completion of the canal by joining the Main and Danube Rivers. In their left hands, Danubia is holding a rudder and Moenus is holding a paddle suggesting that the newly completed canal is a navigable waterway.
Danubia and Moenus appear sitting on jars of pouring water. This imagery implies that they are representative figures of their respective rivers. The joining of the poured waters may symbolize the North Sea of the Main River connecting to the Black Sea of the Danube River and becoming one. The obverse of the coin features a right facing bust of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
PCGS has a total population of only four of these coins, one MS-65, one MS-62, one AU-58, and one AU-50. NGC has a total population of three coins, two MS-62’s and an AU-58. A NumisMaster value of $950 for this coin in MS-63 condition and low populations from both major third-party graders suggest that this coin is rare. Conservatively, my guess is that there are less than one hundred of these coins left today. This leads me to believe that these coins were handed out, and/or sold at the canal’s dedication and not minted for general circulation. This may also be the reason that there is no mintage information for this coin.
In the end, when you research your coins, leave no stone unturned. This may prove a little tedious but let me assure you that you will not regret it! Now until next month, happy collecting!