The Freiburger Rappen was the eponym for the Rappenmünzbund, a coinage association of the southern Upper Rhine region that lasted for over 180 years. It followed several failed attempts from 1377 onwards to create a larger coinage area. In 1403, the Duke of Austria (for Breisgau, southern Alsace and Sundgau), and the cities of Basel, Colmar, Freiburg and Breisach, concluded a coinage treaty in which they agreed on the value of the coins depending on their weight and the proportion of silver (fineness), the coin design, the quantity of coins (mintage) and the technical design. The coins show the emblems of the respective mint owner (sovereign or city) on their obverse. The coinage treaties overcame the limited, small-scale scope of the erstwhile Pfennige or pennies and created a coherent monetary and economic area.
Initially, only two types of coin were struck, Rappen in accordance with the Freiburg model and Stäbler at half of the value according to the Basel model, as uniface mintages, so-called bracteates. In accordance with the 1425 Coinage Treaty, they bear the emblem of the mint or sovereign: eagle's head (Freiburg), six mountains (Breisach), Basel staff (Basel), eagle (Colmar), coat of arms of Catherine of Burgundy, Landgravine in Alsace (Thann).
In accordance with the increase in monetary transactions, larger silver coins were added from 1425 onwards, initially so-called Plapparte to the value of 6 Rappen, followed by other types of coins in 1462, 1480 and 1498 respectively. These were now minted on both sides, with the emblem of the city on the obverse, a cross on the reverse (in the case of quadruple and double-quadruple coins) or the representation of the patron saint of the respective city's main church: Our Lady with child in Freiburg and Basel, St. Stephen in Breisach, St. Martin in Colmar, St. Theobald in Thann (in the case of Plapparte, Groschen and Dicken).
In 1542, King Ferdinand I allowed the Rappen Coinage League to mint whole and half thalers. They display the emblem of the city on the obverse and the royal eagle on the reverse. By weight (29.29 g), their equivalent was only 77 Rappen, but because of their high proportion of silver (891/1000 as opposed to 406/1000), they were worth 170 Rappen.
After 1564, the higher denominations were minted in accordance with the Imperial Coinage Regulations initiated by Ferdinand in his role as Emperor in 1559, with the imperial guilder valued at 60 kreuzer. The new coinage of the Anterior Austrian cities of Freiburg and Breisach depict a bust of the Emperor, in Basel and Colmar the double-headed imperial eagle. Only the small denominations were allowed to be minted as before, whereby 2½ Rappen corresponded to the value of a kreuzer and an imperial guilder to the value of to 150 Rappen. With the unification of the coinage system at the imperial level, the main concern of the regional mint had become obsolete. It was dissolved in 1584.
The minting of coins in Freiburg was discontinued in 1589, but in 1602 a municipal mintmaster was appointed again. In the 1620s, gold guilders were issued in addition to kreuzer and thalers. The final period of the Freiburg mint began after 1704 and ended in 1739. The thalers from this period are characterised by their elaborate designs. They were produced less with monetary circulation in mind and more for representational purposes or as gifts.
Written by Erik Roth (January 2021)