The Coins of Hungary

Table of Contents:

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Preface - History of Hungary

This article discusses Hungary has an interesting history and we would like to start in the year 1848. On March 15, 1848 mass demonstrations took place in Pest and Buda, which enabled Hungarian reformists to push through a list of 12 demands regarding human rights. The Hungarian Parliament enacted some civil and human rights reforms. Now Hungary was apart of the Austria Empire and the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I was forced to accept the Hungarian demands because of a revolution in Austria. The Austrian revolution was put down and his nephew Franz Joseph replaced Ferdinand as emperor.

Franz Joseph promptly rejected all of the Hungarian reforms and started to raise an army against Hungary.

A year later, in 1849, the independent government of Hungary was established which then seceded from the Austrian Empire which led to the first Republic of Hungary being founded. Emperor Franz Joseph then attacked Hungary and despite some initial defeats eventually defeated the Hungarians with the aid of the Russian army. The Hungarians surrendered in August of 1849.

The Hungarians then participated in passive resistance until 1867 when the Habsburg Empire (Austria) was experiencing many problems, which then led to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 to appease Hungarian separatism. The dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary then came into existence. The two realms were governed separately by two parliaments from two capitals, with a common monarch and common external and military policies. Economically, the empire was a customs union. (The first Prime Minister of Hungary after the Compromise was Count Gyula Andrassy and Franz Joseph was crowned as King of Hungary.) This union resulted in the 2nd largest country in Europe after Russia and the 3rd most populous after Russia and Germany.

In Hungary in 1873, the old capital of Buda and Obuda (Ancient Buda) were officially merged with the a city, Pest, thus creating the new metropolis of Budapest which became the capital city. The era witnessed economic development and the Hungarian economy became relatively modern and industrialized by the turn of the 20th century even though agriculture still played a dominant role.

Budapest has a river running through it. This river is the Danube and it splits the city into east and west sides. Buda and Obuda are on the west side of the Danube with Obuda to the north. Pest is on the east side of the Danube.

WWI started with the Austro-Hungarian Empire fighting on the side of Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey. By 1918 the economic situation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was not doing very well and in October 1918 the union with Austria was dissolved.

On 31 October 1918 the success of the Aster Revolution in Budapest brought the leftist liberal Count Mihaly Karolyi to power as Prime Minister. The First Republic was proclaimed on 16 November 1918 with Karolyi named as president. But there were big problems as the Serbian army attacked from the south, the Czech army from the north and the Romanian army from the east. Karolyi having adopted Woodrow Wilson's idea of pacifism resulting in the disarming the Hungarian army compounded these problems. Karolyi tried to defend Hungary but failed and slices of Hungary's traditional territory went to Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. However, by February 1919 the government had lost all support and on 21 March Karolyi signed all concessions and resigned.

The Communist Party of Hungary, led by Bela Kun, with the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, took power and proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The Communists came to power because they were the only group with an organized fighting force, and they promised that Hungary would defend its territory without conscription. However, support for the Communists was short-lived despite having ousted the Czechs from the north. Kun and his comrades fled to Austria with art treasures and gold from the National bank as Romanian troops moved west and occupied Budapest on Aug. 6, 1919. The Hungarians blamed the Jews for this defeat, as many in the Kun government were Jews.

Despite this depressing situation there was a new fighting force organizing in Vienna called the Conservative Royalists that eventually established and elected Admiral Miklos Horthy as regent of Hungary. The Conservative Royalists were also known as "the Whites" or the racial whites and in taking power there were a number of "accidents" that occurred to members and former members of other political parties, including the Jews.

(Admiral Horthy was an Admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Now both Austria and Hungary are landlocked so was Admiral Horthy fighting pirates on the Danube river just like we have to fight pirates on the mighty Saskatchewan. However back in 1920 the Austro-Hungarian empire had coastal area along the Adriatic Sea which goes up the east coast of Italy and enters the Mediterranean Sea between Greece and the boot of Italy.)

Admiral Horthy gained the right to appoint Hungary's prime minister and he used this power to then appoint prime ministers over the course of the next 20 years. He also used this power to quell dissidents by giving them high ranking jobs in the government. He also brought Hungary out of the depression by tying their economy to that of Germany. Despite closer ties to Germany the Hungarian government resisted enacting any anti-Jewish legislation until 1938. Admiral Horthy was never completely under Hitler's spell and even sparred with him several times including removing a prime minister appointed by Hitler and replacing him with one who was an anti-Nazi and tried to prevent the deportation of Hungarians to Auschwitz.

Hungarian currency has undergone 3 name changes as described below.

Part 1 - The Korona

Prior to WWI the the Austro-Hungarian Krone was used but after WWI, according to the Treaty of Saint-Germain, the Austro-Hungarian Bank had to be liquidated and the Krone had to be replaced with a different currency, which was the Hungarian Korona.

The crown that is pictured on the reverse of the coins is the Holy Crown of Hungary. The crown has a long and storied history and the exact origins are not known other than to say St. Stephen, the 1st king of Hungary, was crowned with it. The crown is said to be holy because St. Stephen held it up during the coronation and made a contract between the Virgin Mary and the crown so that not only is the Virgin Mary seen as the patron saint of Hungary but also as the queen. This also leads to the odd situation where the crown is seen as more important than the person wearing it because the contract is between the Virgin Mary and the crown not the person wearing it. The crown itself is made from gold, silver, semi precious stones and 19 enameled pictures. There are 3 parts to the crown, the lower diadem, the upper intersecting bands and the cross on top that is today bent.

On the reverse below the Holy Crown you will find the denomination of the coin.

At this time there you could find coins with the denominations of 1, 2, 10 and 20 filler; 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 100 korona.

On the obverse of the coin you will find a bust of Franz Joseph along with a very long abbreviated statement. The English translation (Ferencz Jozsef I.K.A CS.ES M.H.S.D.O.A.P.K.I.R) is "Franz Joseph by the Grace of God Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia".

Before WWI the higher value 1, and 2 Korona coins are made of 83% silver while the 5 Korona coin is 90% silver. The expression "BIZALMAM AZ ?SI ERENYBEN is found on the reverse which means "My trust in the ancient virtue".

Hungarian currency it is very similar to our currency in relation to cents and dollars. The Korona is equivalent to our dollar and the filler is equivalent to our cent. So 100 filler makes 1 Korona.
5 Korona (1900):

2 Korona (1912):

Part 2 - The Pengo

The Korona suffered from a high rate of inflation during the early 1920s and a stabilization program, covered by a League of Nations loan, helped to bring down inflation. One part of the plan was to also replace the Korona. 1 January 1927, the Korona was replaced by the Pengo (1 Pengo was valued at 12,500 korona). After WWI the 1, 2, and 5 Pengo coins are made of 64% silver and the expression on the reverse also reads Kingdom of Hungary.

1 Pengo (1941):

2 Pengo (1941):

2 Pengo Commemorative(1936):

This is a 1936 2 Pengo coin which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Franz Liszt in 1886.

Part 3 - The Forint

The Hungarian forint came into existence after on August 1, 1946 to help stabilize the Hungarian economy which was experiencing the highest inflation rates ever recorded.
10 Forint (1948):

20 Forint (1948):

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