World Business: The Fat Lady

Though the business of Africa and the Mideast is now largely conducted in a bewildering variety of new national currencies, many back-country people in both areas still prefer to make their deals in a coin that their ancestors have bartered with for nearly two centuries. It is the old

Austrian Empire's Maria Theresa thaler—known to Arabs simply as "the Fat Lady." First minted in 1751, Maria Theresa thalers (pronounced tah-ler) were carried to the Middle East by Austrian traders.

The coin was large (1⅝in. diameter), and among Arabs and Africans, who prize ample women, the profile of the Empress' thrusting decolletage was almost...

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