Hungary releases coin in honor of Prime Minister Kálmán Széll

December 3, 2015 – Marking the 100th anniversary of the death of politician Kálmán Széll (1843-1915), the Magyar Nemzeti Bank issues a collector coin in two versions. It features a portrait of the Prime Minister of the period of Austro-Hungarian Dualism in Hungary as well as his motto “Law, order, justice”.

Hungary / 5,000 HUF / Silver .925 / 12.5 g / 30 mm / Design: Balazs Pelcz / Mintage: 5,000.Hungary / 5,000 HUF / Silver .925 / 12.5 g / 30 mm / Design: Balazs Pelcz / Mintage: 5,000.

Hungary / 5,000 HUF / Silver .925 / 12.5 g / 30 mm / Design: Balazs Pelcz / Mintage: 5,000.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the death of Kálmán Széll, the Magyar Nemzeti Bank is issuing a HUF 5,000 silver and a HUF 2,000 copper-alloy collector coin. The coin was designed by Balázs Pelcz. The front of the coin shows the original Elisabeth Bridge in Budapest which was constructed under Prime Minister Széll and featured a 290-m centre span without pillars; it was a technical wonder of its age and was later destroyed by the retreating German forces in 1945. A portrait of Széll is found on the back, with the inscription “Law, order, justice”, his motto as Prime Minister and indeed of his whole life.

Kálmán Széll (1843-1915), Hungarian Prime Minister.

Kálmán Széll (1843-1915), Hungarian Prime Minister.

As a politician, Széll (1843-1915) was the Dualism period’s most successful Minister of Finance and Prime Minister; he was also a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Born to a noble family in the summer of 1843, his father, vice-count József Széll, was a member of parliament and later count; his mother was Júlia Bertha de Felsöeör. He attended school in Sopron and Szombathely, and studied law in Budapest, receiving his PhD in 1866. One year later he served as an assistant judge in Vas county. He had a close friendship with Ferenc Deák, and began his financial studies at his suggestion, quickly becoming one of the best-known financial experts of the period. 

In 1868 Széll was a member of Deák’s party, which operated under the name Liberal Party after merging with the Left-Centre in 1875. In this party, he first served in the Wenckheim government and then became Finance Minister in the government of Kálmán Tisza. He was able to consolidate the chaotic situation in public finances. He lowered government debt by restructuring and tax increases, reorganised the financial administration, and paved the way for the later nationalisation of the railways with the purchase of the Tisza and Eastern Railways. 

Caricature of Széll by Jankó Borsszem, 1875. Source: Wikicommons.

Caricature of Széll by Jankó Borsszem, 1875. Source: Wikicommons.

One of Széll’s greatest achievements was the “6% gold annuity”, which laid the foundation for international borrowing by the Hungarian budget. Working efficiently and resolutely, he organised the country’s finances and played a key role in the foundation of the dual central bank, the Austro-Hungarian Bank.

After resigning in 1878, he returned to his estates in Rátót, which he developed into an exemplary farm. He made a name in cattle breeding and also headed the Trans-Danubian Cultural Association. Széll initiated the foundation of the Hungarian Mortgage Credit Bank and Discount Bank. He was chairman of the National Millennium Committee, the Representatives’ Finance Committee, the Interparliamentary Conference from 1896 and the National Quota Commission.
Emperor Franz Joseph selected Széll to resolve the political crisis of 1897. He was appointed Prime Minister on 26 February 1899, simultaneously acting as Minister of the Interior. 120 laws were passed during the four-year period. He settled the Fiume issue, and a new economic agreement was reached based on the Széll formula. He also passed new house rules and a conflict of interest law. In 1903, even though the government enjoyed broad support, disputes once again erupted with the opposition and within his own party over increasing the troop numbers in the joint army needed to develop fortress defences. Consequently, he submitted his resignation that year, quitting the post of Prime Minister and also leaving his party.

Until 1911 Széll was politically active in the Constitution Party, and then as an independent. He lived on his estates in Rátót until his death in 1915. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold in 1893 and the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Stephen in 1902 by Franz Joseph. He was a committed supporter of peaceful development and cooperation, as evidenced by his work.

Please find the site of the Magyar Nemzeti Bank here.

The 2011 National Reform Programme of Hungary based on the Széll Kálmán Plan can be downloaded here

In this article you can read whether or not the current Plan is working out.

And for learning more about the Elisabeth Bridge in Budapest, please click here

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