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Modern Age

From the Schilling to the Euro


Stabilization: The Schilling

In September 1922 the Austrian government succeeded in securing financial aid from the League of Nations. The Geneva Protocols of October 4, 1922, specify the conditions for the extension of a 650 million gold krone loan. Austria was obligated to shore up its budget and to stop the money printing press. In a partial waiver of sovereign rights, Austria had to submit to the control of a Commissioner of the League of Nations endowed with substantial financial authority. The announcement of the agreement of Geneva was enough in itself to stabilize the Austrian currency at 14,400 paper kronen to 1 gold krone. 

The initial step in the bailout and reconstruction program was the foundation of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank by the law of November 14, 1922, as the sucessor to the Austro-Hungarian Bank under Austrian management, which had gone into liquidation. Apart from the settlement of payment transactions, the first and foremost objective of the new Oesterreichische Nationalbank, which went into operation January 2, 1923, was to safeguard the stability of the currency. 

The transition to the schilling currency evidenced the new monetary policy course. In December 1923 the Nationalrat, the lower house of Parliament, authorized the government to issue silver coins at a denomination of 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 kronen with the designation half schilling, schilling and double schilling. A comprehensive monetary reform a year later established the schilling as the official currency with the Schilling Act (Schillingrechnungsgesetz) of December 20, 1924, and set a rate of 10,000 kronen to the schilling. 

The first actual schilling note was a banknote at a denomination of 100 schillings issued in 1925. More banknotes followed. In 1926 gold coins at a value of 100 and 25 schillings followed, and in 1928 a series of 2 schilling silver coins commemorating the 100th anniversary of composer Franz Schubert’s death was started.


  • Poster of the League of Nations bond, designed by Julius Klinger (Vienna City Library)

    Poster of the League of Nations bond, designed by Julius Klinger (Vienna City Library)

  • Stock of the new Oesterreichische Nationalbank

    Stock of the new Oesterreichische Nationalbank

  • 10,000 krone banknote, 1924 / 1 schilling banknote, issued May 11, 1925

    10,000 krone banknote, 1924 / 1 schilling banknote, issued May 11, 1925

  • 1 schilling coin, 1924

    1 schilling coin, 1924

  • 100 schilling banknote, issued March 26, 1925

    100 schilling banknote, issued March 26, 1925

  • 2 schilling coin, 1930

    2 schilling coin, 1930

  • 25 schilling gold coin, 1926

    25 schilling gold coin, 1926

  • 100 schilling gold coin, 1926

    100 schilling gold coin, 1926




Monetary Policy during the Great Depression

After Austria’s experience with hyperinflation and the breakdown of its monetary system, stability was defined as the key object of monetary policy. Fiscal prudence and a tight monetary policy were broadly endorsed by the general public as well. Even at the height of the Great Depression at the beginning of the 1930s, when the number of unemployed persons climbed to 600,000, the monetary policy course was not challenged. 

On the basis of a strict hard currency policy, the Austrian schilling emerged as one of Europe’s most stable currencies, which earned it the moniker “Alpendollar.” The repercussions of the Great Depression and capital flight in the wake of Austrian banks’ difficulties entailed a 28% devaluation of the schilling. Nevertheless, Austria continued to observe restrictive monetary and fiscal policies in the following years. 

After Austria had become an authoritarian corporative state under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in 1934, the central bank was authorized to issue new divisional coins at the end of February 1934. The silver coins issued up to then – the half schilling and the schilling – and the 5 schilling note were withdrawn from circulation and replaced by new coins. The 50 groschen coin (the schilling was subdivided into 100 groschen) and the 1 schilling coin were struck in nickel, the 5 schilling piece in silver. All coins bore the image of the new national coat of arms, the double eagle. The 50 groschen coin caused problems: It was the same size as the 1 schilling coin, so that people frequently mistook one for the other. Therefore, in 1935 the central bank decided to redesign the 50 groschen coin, which had come to be known as a “Nachtschilling” – because it could pass for a schilling at night.


  • 1,000 schilling banknote, 1930, issued May 15, 1931

    1,000 schilling banknote, 1930, issued May 15, 1931

  • 10 schilling banknote, 1933, issued April 9, 1934

    10 schilling banknote, 1933, issued April 9, 1934

  • 1 schilling coin, 1934

    1 schilling coin, 1934

  • 5 schilling coin, 1934

    5 schilling coin, 1934

  • 50 groschen coin, 1934, so-called night schilling (Nachtschilling)

    50 groschen coin, 1934, so-called night schilling (Nachtschilling)

  • 50 groschen coin, 1936

    50 groschen coin, 1936




The Anschluss: The End of the Schilling
100 schillings, 1936. This banknote was not issued.

100 schillings, 1936. This banknote was not issued. 

20 reichsmarks, 1939, essai

20 reichsmarks, 1939, essai 

When German troops occupied Austria on March 12, 1938, Austria’s national sovereignty ended. Five days later, the German reichsmark was declared the official currency and the Reichsbank was entrusted with the liquidation of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank. The OeNB’s right to issue banknotes was suspended on April 23, and on April 25, schilling banknotes were stripped of their legal tender status. Schillings were exchanged for reichsmarks at a rate of 1.5 schillings to the reichsmark, a populistic step representing a revaluation of the schilling. This cunning measure helped enable the National Socialist regime to conceal the actual purpose of the occupation. 

For Germany, the Anschluss meant access to desperately needed economic and financial resources to keep the armaments industry running at top speed. Now that it had access to the Oesterreichische Nationalbank’s gold and currency reserves, the National Socialist state was able to replenish its severely depleted reserves. 78.2 tons of fine gold worth 467.7 million schillings at the lower Berlin exchange rate and foreign exchange and currency valued at 60.2 million schillings were transferred to the Reichsbank in Berlin.



Return to the Schilling

Reestablishing monetary order was one of the prime economic policy tasks after WWII was over and National Socialist control had ended in Austria. A first step in reintroducing the Austrian schilling was to restore Austrian monetary sovereignty. At the same time a huge liquidity overhang had to be neutralized. Apart from the reichsmark, the Allied military schilling, a type of transitional currency, was in circulation in 1945, which led to a destabilizing expansion of the money supply. The low volume of goods by comparison to 1938 contrasted with a money supply six times the pre-war level. 

On July 3, 1945, the statute of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank went into force. Simultaneously, a law limiting access to deposits, the Schaltergesetz, was passed. About five months later, on November 30, 1945, the Schilling Act decreed the exchange of reichsmarks and Allied military schillings for schillings at a rate of 1 to 1. After the Allied military schillings and reichsmarks had been withdrawn from circulation, the schilling was the sole legal tender. 

The restitution of monetary order was increasingly threatened by the specter of inflation, however. In 1946–47, the volume of banknotes in circulation expanded as a result of Austria’s precarious economic situation and the high cost of the Allied occupation. While inflation was kept in check by the first of five wage-price agreements concluded between the two sides of industry represented in Austria’s trademark social partnership, the schilling could not be stabilized until it had been devalued under the provisions of the Currency Protection Act of November 1947 and until a restrictive monetary course had been established in 1952. This stabilization was the prerequisite for a normalization of economic and monetary conditions.


  • 5 Allied military schilling banknotes, 1944 series

    5 Allied military schilling banknotes, 1944 series

  • 100 Allied military schilling banknotes, 1944 series

    100 Allied military schilling banknotes, 1944 series

  • 1 schilling coin, 1952 (designed by Michael Powolny)

    1 schilling coin, 1952 (designed by Michael Powolny)

  • 10 schilling banknote, 1945, interim banknote

    10 schilling banknote, 1945, interim banknote

  • 100 schilling banknote, 1945, interim banknote

    100 schilling banknote, 1945, interim banknote

  • People waiting in line to exchange money after the currency reform, December 1947.

    People waiting in line to exchange money after the currency reform, December 1947.




The Schilling in the Second Republic

Austria’s successful monetary reorganization and currency stabilization in the years after WWII made it possible to fix the schilling’s dual exchange rate at 26 schillings to the U.S. dollar in 1953. While the schilling was clearly devalued at this rate, the exchange rate link to the dollar paved the way for Austria’s membership in the IMF. When the countries of Western Europe declared their currencies convertible in December 1958, Austria had no problems following precedent in 1959. 

In September 1955 a new National Bank Act was promulgated. It stated that the legal continuity of the OeNB had been unbroken since 1922 and contained provisions to ensure a high degree of central bank independence from the state. Moreover, the law enabled the Oesterreichische Nationalbank to play a central role as an economic policymaker by providing it with the legal basis for new policy instruments, namely minimum reserves and open market operations. The coordination of fiscal and monetary policy created the prerequisites for economic growth while preserving the stability of the currency. 

After the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, when the gold convertibility of the U.S. dollar was suspended, Austria adjusted its monetary policy accordingly. The central bank kept the value of the schilling stable by opting for a hard currency policy, which in a first stage consisted in tying the schilling’s exchange rate to a basket of currencies, and from 1976 to the Deutsche mark. By constantly adjusting its monetary policy instruments to take into account changing market conditions, Austria had achieved a high degree of monetary integration with the international economic community by the beginning of the 1990s.


  • 10 schilling banknote, 1950, issued September 24, 1954 (first issued May 26, 1951)

    10 schilling banknote, 1950, issued September 24, 1954 (first issued May 26, 1951)

  • 20 schilling banknote, 1950, issued September 25, 1950

    20 schilling banknote, 1950, issued September 25, 1950

  • 50 schilling banknote, 1951, issued October 25, 1952

    50 schilling banknote, 1951, issued October 25, 1952

  • 100 schilling banknote, 1954, issued October 14, 1955

    100 schilling banknote, 1954, issued October 14, 1955

  • 500 schilling banknote, 1953, issued December 2, 1953

    500 schilling banknote, 1953, issued December 2, 1953

  • 1,000 schilling banknote, 1954, issued January 23, 1956

    1,000 schilling banknote, 1954, issued January 23, 1956

  • 100 schilling banknote, issued June 1, 1981 (first issued October 19, 1970)

    100 schilling banknote, issued June 1, 1981 (first issued October 19, 1970)

  • 500 schilling banknote, issued October 24, 1966

    500 schilling banknote, issued October 24, 1966

  • 1000 schilling banknote, 1966, issued September 21, 1970

    1000 schilling banknote, 1966, issued September 21, 1970




The Last Schilling Banknotes – Schilling banknotes issued for circulation:
20 schilling banknote

20 schilling banknote 

20 schilling banknote, dated October 1, 1986, issued October 19, 1988 

front: 
Moritz Michael Daffinger, b. Vienna, January 24, 1790, d. Vienna, August 21, 1849. One of the premier watercolor painters of the Biedermeier period.

back:
The Albertina in Vienna, which houses one of the largest collections of graphic art in the world, including an unparalleled collection of graphic art by Albrecht Dürer. The building, constructed from 1742 to 1745 and originally known as the Palais Taroucca, was later expanded with additions of a Reading Room and the Minerva Hall designed by Josef Georg Kornhäusel. 



50 schilling banknote

50 schilling banknote 

50 schilling banknote, dated January 2, 1986, issued October 19, 1987 

front: 
Sigmund Freud, b. Freiberg (Prìbor), Moravia, May 6, 1856, d. London, September 23, 1939. Known as the father of psychoanalysis and for having developed the theory of the unconscious.

back: 
Josephinum Wien, designed by Isidore Canevale during the reign of Joseph II from 1782 to 1785. Since 1920 it has housed the Institute of Medical History with its impressive collection of life-sized anatomical wax models. 



100 schilling banknote, dated January 2, 1984, issued October 14, 1985

100 schilling banknote, dated January 2, 1984, issued October 14, 1985 

100 schilling banknote, dated January 2, 1984, issued October 14, 1985

front: 
Eugen Böhm von Bawerk, b. Brno (Czech Republic), February 12, 1851, d. Kramsach (Tyrol), August 28, 1914. Important economist, president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences from 1911. Founded the Austrian school of political economy (marginal utility theory) along with Karl Menger and Friedrich Wieser.

back: 
Austrian Academy of Sciences, built from 1735 to 1755 by Jean Nicolas Jadot de Ville-Issey as the assembly hall of the old university; has housed the Austrian Academy of Sciences since 1857. 



500 schilling banknote

500 schilling banknote 

500 schilling banknote, dated January 1, 1997, issued October 20, 1997 

front: 
Rosa Mayreder, b. Vienna, November 30, 1858, d. Vienna, January 19, 1938. Leading women’s rights advocate, painter, writer. Founded the “Allgemeiner Österreichischer Frauenverein” (General Austrian Women’s Association) in 1893.

back: 
Group picture of the meeting of Austrian Womens’ Associations in Vienna in 1911. Portraits of Rosa und Karl Mayreder. 



1000 schilling banknote

1000 schilling banknote 

1,000 schilling banknote, dated January 1, 1997, issued October 20, 1997

front: 
Karl Landsteiner, b. Baden (south of Vienna), June 14, 1868, d. New York, June 26, 1943. Medical scientist of high renown who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1930 for his discovery of human blood groups. In 1940, he discovered the rhesus factor.

back: 
Karl Landsteiner in his laboratory at the Pathological Anatomy Institute of the University of Vienna. Model of a polio virus and stylized process of blood group determination. 



5,000 schilling banknote, dated January 4, 1988, issued October 17, 1989

5,000 schilling banknote, dated January 4, 1988, issued October 17, 1989 

5,000 schilling banknote, dated January 4, 1988, issued October 17, 1989

front: 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, b. Salzburg, January 27, 1756, d. Vienna, December 5, 1791. Composer, main representative of Vienna Classicism.

back:
Vienna State Opera, important example of Ringstraße period building. Built 1861 to 1869 by architects Eduard van der Nüll and August Sicard von Sicardsburg and inaugurated with a performance of Mozart’s opera Don Juan on May 25, 1869.



The Euro: European Monetary Union
European Central Bank, Frankfurt

European Central Bank, Frankfurt 

Governing Council of the European Central Bank

Governing Council of the European Central Bank 

Since joining the European Union in 1995, Austria has actively participated in the development of the framework conditions for Europe’s economic and monetary policy. The pinnacle of European integration since the foundation of the Common Market has been the introduction of the single currency, the euro, which will replace the national currencies of the Member States in the euro area by mid-2002 in a step-by-step process. On January 1, 1999, the 11 euro area Member States agreed on a fixed conversion rate between the euro and the national currencies and on a single monetary policy. 

The new currency is solidly based on the stability culture carefully developed in Europe in the past years, a process to which the Oesterreichische Nationalbank and Austrian economic policymakers have contributed. The Oesterreichische Nationalbank is an integral part of the European System of Central Banks, the ESCB (comprising the European Central Bank, ECB, and the national central banks, NCBs, of the 15 EU Member States), which now bears responsibility for the monetary policy of the euro area. Within the ESCB, the Oesterreichische Nationalbank continues to ensure with all means at its disposal the stability of the currency, as stipulated by the Nationalbank Act. The Austrian stability approach is now fully represented in the Stability and Growth Pact, guaranteeing a smooth and continuous development from the schilling to the euro.