Schinderling inflation in Austria

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The schinderling inflation was a severe inflation in Austria in the 15th century.

It had many features of a modern-day inflation. People refused the money, and no goods were to be had, unless one happened to have the good old money or the Bohemian groschen. The chronicles describe the great suffering in the lands of Austria and neighboring Bavaria, and there are reports of deaths of individuals as entire families, and the destruction of countless livelihoods. Life returned to normal with a return to good currency.[1]

The course of the inflation

The fall of the Roman Empire brought an economic decline in Europe's Middle Ages. Luckily, it was spared for the most part from major inflations.

The coinage in Western Europe was inspired by the Romans and later reformed by Charlemagne to a silver standard. The Pfennig remained a key coin, the privilege of coining it was given to many cities and high nobles, so by the 13th century many local pfennigs circulated in Austria and surrounding countries. Many local nobles recalled the coins every year, exchanging them for new coins, keeping a part of them; some did so even more often. Duke Rudolf IV made an end to this practice and instituted a tax instead. But the purity and value of the pfennigs kept sinking.

After the death of Albert II, a conflict inflamed between the brothers Frederick IV and Albert VI over the inheritance, Austria itself. Frederick, who was very capable with finances did not have the means to finance the war, which has broken out in 1457. He started to massively devalue the currency and gave the privilege to others; binding them to maintain the same quality as of his own coins. Albert followed suit, and the practice has spread further. Besides the white pfennigs appeared "black pfennigs", then grey pfennigs, and all the bad coins came soon to be called hebrenko or schinderlings. Finally, they turned into copper coins.

The continuing inflation of the pfennig could be seen in its exchange rate against the Hungarian gulden, a solid gold coin based on the ducat. (Note: 1 pound was 8 schillings and 240 pfennigs.) At the beginning of 1458 was the exchange rate 1 gulden = 7 schillings 12 pfennig (222 pfennigs). In April 1460 was 1 gulden exchanged for 15 pounds 2 schillings 26 pfennig (3686 pfennig - over 15 times the rate!). The price was going up daily by 20 to 30 pfennigs. By 1460 was the situation so bad, that people complained to the emperor, "that he may order a better coin to be made, for all wars, robberies and fires did not impoverish the land as the bad coins did". Frederick blamed others and promised a new coin to be made, but it failed completely and the prices continued to rise. Eventually was the minting of the bad coins stopped.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Die Zeit der Schilderlinge (The Time of the Schilderlings) p. 40-51. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-01-29.