Modern gold and silver Shooting Thalers have been issued annually since 1984 and consistently have low mintages. Traditionally, silver coins weigh 25.00 g and are .900 pure weights while their gold counterparts weigh 15.567 g and are .999 fine. In addition to those standard issues, the 2018 editions also include a 5 oz. silver coin, the first coin of that weight in the history of the series and an exclusive at MCM!
The fascinating history of the Shooting Thaler makes them particularly appealing choices for students of monetary history. The earliest Shooting Thalers were issued in 1842 as legal tender. Because they were minted to legal fineness, it was permitted for them to be denominated in Francs. This changed in 1865 when Switzerland joined the Latin Monetary Union, which did not include them among their authorized mintages. Coins issued during Switzerland’s membership in the Union are thus considered semi-metallic even though they could still be used in circulation because of their size and weight matching those of the Franc.
The Monetary Union ceased to exist in 1927, and a new series began in 1934 to commemorate the shooting festival in Fribourg. That was the final issue to match a circulating coin in weight and diameter. Five years later, another coin was issued for the festival in Lucerne. With the outbreak of World War II, production of the coins was cut short. Due in large part to the efforts of Richard Nelson, a coin dealer from California, a new series began in 1984 and continues to be issued annually.
The reverse of each of these coins is centered on the face value, which is inscribed in large lettering. For the standard issues, the gold coin, that is “500 FR.,” while the silver issue is “50 FR.” A traditional wreath, which is a combination of oak leaves on the left and laurel on the right, encircles the face value. At the bottom are a pair crossed rifles, as well as a powder horn and bandolier, which hang from the rifles. The purity of the coin is provided at the bottom. Two inscriptions, one in French and one in German, indicate that the coin can be redeemed at the festival. The French inscription reads, “CONVERTIBLE A LA FETE DE TIR,” while its German counterpart is, “EINLOSBAR AM SCHUTZENFEST.”
The coins share a common obverse design, which is unique to each new Thaler issue. Helvetica, the allegorical figure who embodies Switzerland, faces to the right side of the coin. She extends a wreath of laurel in her left hand, a symbol of the honors that are bestowed upon the winners at the festival. In her right hand, she holds a rifle, fitting for the event. Her garment is falling away, leaving her bare-breasted. She stands powerfully in the foreground in front of some of Switzerland’s stunning natural beauty. Beyond her is one of Switzerland’s quaint mountain towns that are scattered throughout the country. In the distance are the Alps, which rise high above as imposing as they are stunning. Arching over the entire scene is the inscription “WINKELRIED-SCHIESSEN STANS 2018.”