The Habsburgs and their Vast, Unending Empire

​The Habsburgs came to dominate European affairs for nearly four centuries, with the family name eventually becoming synonymous with that of the Holy Roman Empire. This exalted status wasn’t always the case, however, as the family started with a small holding along the Rhine. The familial name definitively came into use in the early 11th century as a castle appellation, and was first applied to the dynasty itself in 1108. From there, descendants would accumulate further holdings and gain more powerful standing and importance in the area that corresponds to modern day Austria. By the mid-15th century, the family achieved the pinnacle position in Europe, with Frederick III becoming the first Habsburg to be elected as Holy Roman Emperor. Until the Napoleonic Wars caused the empire’s dissolution in 1806, the Habsburg’s power continued to grow throughout Europe.

The major catalyst for this expansion occurred with Frederick himself, as he oversaw the marriage of his son, the future emperor Maximilian, to Mary ‘the Rich,’ the daughter of the important and influential Duke of Burgundy. This alliance brought together the Austrian realms of the Habsburgs and the Burgundian holdings corresponding to parts of modern day France and Belgium. In turn, Philip (their son) would marry Johanna of Castile (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella), creating a link to the future Spanish throne. During the early 16th century,  Charles—the son of Philip and Johanna—served as king in Spain as well as emperor to a realm now seeking New World possessions. North and South America were being explored and colonized as were parts of the Far East.. At this point, it could be said that the Habsburgs had built an empire upon which the sun never set. Descendants would continue occupying this most important position in European affairs, with borders always in flux due to omnipresent wars and succession disputes. Only the chaos unleashed by Napoleon and his own desire for conquest would bring about the empire’s demise. Following Napoleon’s final defeat and definitive exile, the Habsburgs would attempt to rebuild their power in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but it would be a shadow of its former glory, falling a century later following World War I.

This August, Stack’s Bowers is pleased to present the Habsburg Collection, a series of talers and double talers mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries. These outstanding specimens present highly intricate features like embellished wigs and ornate armor, as well as the “Habsburg jaw” seen on some of the emperors. For Leopold I, it is quite pronounced on this elegantly toned double taler, graded NGC MS-62. Such a characteristic was the product of Habsburgs’ practice of inbreeding—at the time believed to keep their line “pure,” but in reality accounting for physical and cognitive abnormalities and ultimately, pedigree collapse. This jaw can even be discerned on some issues of Charles—the aforementioned son of Philip and Johanna—like this Ecu (an NGC EF-45) from possessions in the Netherlands. With various mints around the empire represented, this collection has something to offer everyone and is available for viewing and bidding on our site now!
To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit our website where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction, the consignment deadline of which is September 8th. We are also preparing for  our official auction of the 2021 N.Y.I.N.C. in January. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.​

Join our mailing list

Don't miss an auction!

Subscribe to our newsletter.


Contact Us

West Coast Office • (800) 458-4646

Midwest Office • (800) 817-2646

East Coast Office • (800) 566-2580

[email protected]

Hong Kong Office • +852 2117 1191

[email protected]

Global locations

Additional representatives
available worldwide.

* Walk-ins welcome

Follow Us

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter

There was an error signing you up to our newsletter.
Please enter a valid email address

I'm Interested In...

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Stack's Bowers Galleries e-newsletter.