One of the “super-rich” (about $277 billion in today’s terms) of the Renaissance, Jakob Fugger was an entrepreneur, merchant and banker; he even gained a concession from Charles V to hold sovereign rights over select lands, thus allowing Jakob to mint his own money. At the time of Jakob’s birth in March 1459 AD, the Fuggers were already successful merchants in Augsburg. In 1469 his father died and Jakob was told to abandon his plans for a career in the priesthood. Instead, he was sent at the age of 14 to the family’s offices in Venice, where he studied bookkeeping … with decided zeal.
When he completed his studies in 1485, Jakob was given control of the family’s interests in Innsbruck. He loaned Archduke Sigismund some 23 thousand gold florins, and as collateral received "temporary" control of several profitable silver mines in the region. When Sigismund turned over his dukedom to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I – who was even worse at managing his finances than the duke – Jakob soon had him indebted as well. In the process, he gained control of vast copper mines in Silesia and Poland.
As Maximilian borrowed ever more, Jakob gained ever more land, a title of nobility, and was made a count of the empire in 1514. A few years later he bribed most of the electors to insure that Maximilian's grandson Charles became the new Holy Roman Emperor … and that the Fuggers would keep the Hapsburgs indebted. As a result of this, the Fuggers were given the rights to divert the revenues of three knightly orders in Spain into their own coffers, as well as mining ventures in mercury and silver there. In the last years of his life Jakob Fugger even made the Vatican indebted, loaning it the money to establish the Swiss Guard in 1506. Jakob died in 1525, still counting coin.