Editor’s note: The following is the final piece of a three-part
Coin World series about Latvia’s folk maiden as she appears on
coins, prepared by Jeff Starck for the July 2014 monthly edition
of Coin World.
Other posts in the
Latvia began using the euro on Jan. 1, 2014, a popular symbol
celebrating the triumph of freedom in that Eastern Bloc nation
returned to circulation.
that date, Latvia’s folk maiden, an iconic symbol of freedom and, some
say, love returned to the nation’s daily coinage some 70 years after
war forced into hiding the prior circulating silver coins with the
design appeared originally in 1929 on what may still be the most
popular of Latvian coins, a silver 5-lats coin. Since then, it has
been used for a gold 5-lats collector coin and a silver 5-lats
collector coin in modern times and, now, on circulating 1-euro and
2-euro coins from Latvia.
stories behind the design and the woman who inspired the motif are timeless.
Nation’s euro coins connect to historical issues
2014 1-euro and 2-euro coins of Latvia are affordable, readily
available options for collectors seeking a coin showing the Folk
start of the new year marked a new beginning for Latvia, as the nation
became the 18th member of the eurozone Jan. 1.
adoption of the euro took place 10 years after Latvia joined the
European Union amid the largest expansion of the body.
coins were minted at the State Mints of Baden-Wuerttemberg, at the
facilities in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, Germany, beginning July 31, 2013.
total, 30 million 1-euro coins and 20 million 2-euro coins were struck
for the initial transition from the lat currency to the euro.
Latvia had to move away from its historic lat currency, the appearance
of the folk maiden ties the modern, independent nation to the
historic, familiar design.
Folk Maiden design resoundingly won a national contest in 2004 to
appear on the euro coins, based on results the Bank of Latvia
announced in 2006.
Sietins designed the 1-euro and 2-euro coins based on Rihards Zarinš’
original design, and edge lettering on the 2-euro coin bears the
inscription that translates to “God Bless Latvia.”
2012, academician Janis Stradinš, while a member of the Coin Design
Committee of the Bank of Latvia, suggested that in 2022, to
commemorate the centennial since the establishment of the national
currency, the folk maiden image would likely be revived once again for
a commemorative coin, continuing the tradition established in the
design’s first 85 years.
postscript for Zelma Brauere, the woman who inspired the folk maiden
design does not end joyously, according to Stradinš. (Designer
Zarinš, the manager of the State Securities Printing House on Pushkin
Street in Riga where Brauer worked, had been intrigued by the young
woman's appearance and used her as the model for his Folk Maiden design.)
worked at the printing house for 43 years; she knew seven languages
and was a careful and responsible worker under different political
regimes, Stradinš said.
retiring, she lived in a Riga suburb together with her sister,
generously presented the 5-lats silver coins to her loved ones but
hated when people referred to the coin as a “Milda,” Stradinš said.
When that happened, “she would go quiet in conversation or left the table.”
she was 77 years old, Brauere was run over by a motorcycle in front of
what was then the Teachers’ House and is now the Swedish Embassy in Riga.
refused to allow her to be buried at the Forest Cemetery, a national
military cemetery in Riga, so the final resting place of this “gold
standard of Latvian maidenhood” is Lāčupe Cemetery. She was buried in
her traditional costume as seen on the coin.
her memory lives on in the design she inspired and the coins that
celebrate the freedom of the Latvian people.