Tag Archives: history

(West) Germany: 50 pfenning 1971

This is a pfenning coin – the subunit of the Deutsche Mark (often referred to as the D-mark). Germany was split in two after World War II. One state was created from the zones occupied by the U.S., France and Great Britain. This was Bundesrepublik Deutschland – West Germany and it was here that the D-mark was the official currency. The other state was created from the zone occupied by the USSR. This was Deutsche Demokratische Republik – East Germany.

The two parts were separated for about 40 years and developed in two different ways. West Germany developed into a stable democratic country, even though they had problems with people who’d been part of the power during the Nazi era keeping high positions after the war. The same problem wasn’t that present in the east, but there the population suffered hard from both economic problems and an undemocratic rule. The Berlin wall constructed in 1961 is the main symbol of the separation of these two countries. It stood as an example of the insanity that was the Cold war, and it wasn’t until one wonderful night in 1989 that the wall was brought down. Sadly, walls are still being built…

The coin features a woman planting an oak three. The oak is a symbol of Germany and is featured on many different coins both from the D-mark and the euro. To me the woman planting the tree represents something new. It’s a rebirth of a new country that rises from the ashes of the Second World War.

The D-mark also became the official currency in East Germany following the unification of the two countries in 1990. It was later replaced by the euro in 2002.

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Lithuania: 50 centų 2000

Following Estonia and Latvia, we now come to the third and last of the Baltic States. The centų is the subunit of the Lithuanian litas. As with many European currencies the litas was supposed to have been replaced by the euro in an earlier state, but since the economic crisis has severely damaged the union this has been moved to the future. Now the litas is set to be repaced in 2014.

Oh, and did you hear that the EU will receive the Nobel Peace Prize this year? Such a bad timing… But now I’m drawing away from the subject. Maybe I’ll write another post just concerning this prize…

The mounted horseman on the coin is from the Lithuanian coat of arms. This is the symbol used on all coins and have been used in Lithuania and the area since the 14th century. The identity of the horseman is unknown, though there seems to be a couple of theories. I would put my money on him being some sort of nobility of high importance from an early age. The cross on the knights shield is known as the Cross of Jagiellons in Lithuania and has been used by officials in Lithuania since the country was first Christianized. This also happened in the 14th century.

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Ukraine: 1 Hrivnja 2004

This is one of two common designs of the Ukrainian 1 Hrivnja coin. The text that reads YKPAÏNA (Okraina) is the name of Ukraine in Ukrainian and above the name you have a trident in the country’s coat of arms. This trident (sometimes also interpreted as a hawk) dates back to the medieval ages. The trident is also strongly connected with Volodymyr Velikij (Vladimir the great) and it is he who is featured on the other side of the coin. Volodymyr was the ruler of the Kiev Rus’ kingdom from the late 10th century until the year 1015. Kiev is today the capital of Ukraine with about 4 million inhabitants. The country itself has about 45 million inhabitants. It’s one of Europe’s largest country, but unfortunately overshadowed by its huge neighbor, Russia.

The early history of the Kiev Rus’ kingdom is very interesting. In the beginning it was actually founded, to a large extent, by Viking settlers coming from Sweden. The Swedish Vikings went eastward (the Danish and the Norwegians went westward) and this led to many places of Eastern Europe becoming colonies and settlements ruled by these Vikings. There’s a theory that the Vikings that founded Kiev Rus’ in the 9th century originated from the region of Roslagen, the coastal area of the province Uppland of Sweden (where I’m at). The name of Kiev Rus’ should by this theory come from Roslagen. Kiev Rus’ later became a vital part in the founding of the Russian empire, or Rossiya. It’s quite a funny thought that some people from Sweden in the 9th century are the cause of Russia bearing its name of today.

Let’s continue with Volodymyr. On the coin he’s holding a cathedral – symbolizing the fact that it was Volodymyr that introduced Christianity to Kiev Rus’ and other parts of Eastern Europe. The cathedral does actually exist in reality, in Kiev. Its name is Sofiyskyi sobor (Saint Sophia Cathedral) and it was Volodymyr that decided that it would be built. Saint Sophia Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1990 and it’s as beautiful outside as it is inside (but you’re not allowed to take photos inside). I’ve got first hand experiences from this cathedral because I visited it last year, and it was amazing.

Ukraine is a country with a lot to offer – both for travelers and coin collectors!

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Russia: 50 kopek 1899 + Bonus

Nikolaj II Romanov was the emperor (czar) of Russia between 1894 and 1917, during the last period of the Russian Empire. Nikolaj was the father of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, who according to legend would have survived the execution on her family, but this has been disproven.

This is a beautiful silver coin with the czar himself and the towheaded eagle – a symbol of the Russian Empire. Post-USSR the eagle is once again used as a symbol of Russia but now without the crowns, the spire and the globus cruciger. Nikolaj looks very secure on the coin, there’s and aura about him that radiates “good leader”. In 1899 this may have been the way that the world saw him as well. But that would change. Nikolaj were to be the last czar. He would bring the Russian Empire to its end.

First of all I need to mention the war with Japan (1904-1905). The war mainly concerned the region of Manchuria (present day China and Russia) and the Russians thought that it would be an easy victory against the undeveloped Asians. However Japan was developed – a result of major economic changes during the 19th century. Japan won and marked the first victory of an “undeveloped” country against one of Europe’s superpowers. Russia’s prestige was diminished and so was Nikolaj’s.

Internal problems continued in Russia. The population mainly consisted of farmers, people who lived tough lives with little help from the ruling classes. Tension continued to stir with different organizations defying the czar’s rule.

In 1914 Russia was a part of the entente, an alliance also consisting of Great Britain and France, whom stood against the central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) during what would be known as the Great War and later (at the time of WWII) as the First World War. Russia was an early looser with the powers of Germany overpowering it. This was yet again a disaster, but of a grander scale. The war took place in the motherland and the Russians were losing. The already low standard of living decreased, there was food shortage and millions of soldiers were lost in battle. Uprisings started in the larger cities among workers and together with deserters of the Russian army the czar was forced to abdicate. This was the result of the February revolution (in March according to the Gregorian calendar) 1917.

A provisional government was formed but this too would have to step down. During the October revolution (in November) the Bolsheviks (translated to “men of the majority”) managed to get power by another military uprising. The Bolsheviks was a result of the misery in Russia and they shared a communist ideology – calling for an end of a society divided by class with an ambition of collectivizing ownership. The new Russian ruler quickly made peace with Germany, resulting in the loss of large areas. Their new system was put to use and the royal family, with Nikolaj and Anastasia, was executed. A civil war started together with a witch hunt on wealthy people and landowners.

Russia’s new leader was Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the rebels since the turn of the century. He was a vital part in turning Russia yet again to a super power, but now as a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

This Soviet 1 ruble coin is commemorating the year when Lenin would have turned 100 years (1970).

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United Kingdom: 2£ 2009

Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, was born in 1809. This 2£ coin was minted in 2009 commemorating the birth of this very important scientist. The obverse side features Elizabeth II who’s been queen since 1952. The reverse side features Charles Darwin face to face with, the origin or our species, a chimpanzee. Of course, humans haven’t evolved from chimpanzees but according to Darwin’s theory we and other primates share the same ancestors. Darwin and his theory were despised during his lifetime and it wasn’t until the 20th century that his ideas were taken seriously – when they became the truth.

This coin was one of the first ones I managed to get my hands on during my visit to London earlier this year. And later during my stay there I met Darwin again – now as a huge statue inside the Natural History Museum.

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Denmark: 25 øre 1991

The øre is de subunit of the Danish krone. This is not the coin I wrote about in the about-section but it is of that kind. A lot of different countries use currencies with names similar to the Danish krone (Norwegian krone, Swedish krona, Icelandic króna and Czech koruna) and here we get an example of why. One side of the coin features a nice crown and krone basically means crowns. For the Scandinavian countries the name was taken during the founding of the Scandinavian Monetary Union in 1873. During the 19th century the Scandinavian countries turned to friendship instead of hostility and the union was a strategy to stabilize the currencies with support from each other. The crown is an obvious symbol of monarchy.

A little heart can be found on the coin and this is a symbol that’s been used in Denmark for several hundred years. Originally the hearts may have been lily pads transformed into hearts through the centuries. This symbol can also be found in the national coat of arms of Denmark.

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Sweden: 1 krona 2009

This coin is quite common in circulation here in Sweden. It’s the latest coin minted in Sweden (apart from the silver/gold “wedding coins” from 2010).

This coin features King Carl XIV Gustaf of Sweden just like the normal 1 krona, but the other side is different. In 2009 it was 200 years since Sweden got separated from Finland and it is this that the coin commemorates.

Finland was basically a part of the Swedish kingdom from the 13th century throughout the days of the grand Swedish empire until 1809 marking the definite end of Sweden’s days as a greater power in Europe. Finland was lost to the archenemy, Russia, and it was a huge defeat. This was not like losing a distant colony; this was a part of the motherland which was taken away – causing a huge political crisis in Sweden. From a Finnish perspective the separation was both negative and positive. Culturally the Finnish people were more connected with Sweden (a lot of them spoke Swedish as their native language). However, Finland would get the status as an autonomic grand duchy within the Russian empire thus taking one step towards independence.

This coin is not commemorating the separation as something regretful; instead it salutes the friendship shared between the two countries since the separation. The text on the reverse side translates into “The wonderful tale of a country on the other side of the ocean” and the stripes symbolize the sea and the sky between Sweden and Finland. The text is from Anton Rosell’s book Studiebesök i Finland from 1857.

It’s a beautiful coin in both design and symbolism.

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