Austria was established before the year 1000. Like many countries in Europe, it was involved in many regional conflicts and changes in leadership throughout the Middle Ages. Austria became more stable and powerful when the Hapsburg Monarchy was established in the 16th century. Banknotes – known as “Bancozettel” at the time – were first issued in 1762 by an institution that enjoyed the confidence of the business community precisely because it was not government-controlled. The central bank – Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeBN) dates to 1816 and 1818. Its role is to bring order to the economy during a war with Napoleon.
Early Austrian Banknotes
Like many banknotes of the era, they were simple documents the only real security feature being the signature. There are some elegant-looking notes from the period such as the 1825 25 Gulden (P-A63A). It has nice script text and contains all of the important information about the bank. The dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary dates to 1867. By then the banknotes included images of cherubs, goddesses, and then in 1880 the banknotes adopted a design concept it would retain through World War I.
The 1880 1,000 Gulden shows the new style focused on grayish paper, dark blue ink symmetrical portraits and large denominations printed in the corners. In 1892, the empire replaced all local currencies with the Krone, but the design remained dark. Interestingly 2 versions of each note are in existence one in German and one in Hungarian. The Krone remained the empire’s currency until after WWI. When the Austrian Republic took a loan from the League of Nations it was forced to change its currency to the Shilling. While the paper and ink color remained the same as the Krone, the designs became less cluttered. The 1925 10 Shilling (P-25) represents a good example of that cleaner look.
End of an Era
Post WWII, the Schilling returned and the designs began to become less ‘German’ and more Austrian. A banknote I like is the 1960 100 Schilling (P-138a). It has a portrait of Johan Strauss on the front. Another very nice example is the 1988 5,000 Schilling (P-153). This has a large and detailed portrait of Mozart on the front. Austria continued to issue Schilling banknotes until it adopted the Euro in 2002. OeBN would continue to print Euro notes but the Schilling would become just a collectors item like the Krone and Guilden.