Editor's note: The following is the second of a three-part Coin
World series about the Prague Mint prepared by Jeff Starck for
the September 2014 monthly edition of Coin World.
Read the other two posts in the series:
While some mints use design software to crank out dozens of
different coin issues every month, the private Prague Mint remains
firmly entrenched in the old ways while making reasonable use of the new.
Today the Prague Mint produces a vast array of medals for direct
sale, and other items as ordered by several customers. Though
computers are used to create dies, the craftsmen and women at the
Prague Mint abstain from the 3-D computer designing that has allowed
other mints to issue coins at a machine-gun-fire pace. Instead, the
mint’s artists use traditional methods in creating designs for medals.
A mint that acknowledges itself as the youngest in Europe, and
almost certainly the youngest in the world, is firmly holding to the
most traditional of methods for some aspects of medal design while
embracing newer technologies for other tasks.
Prague Mint revival
In 2011, about 18 months after the privatization of the
Czech Mint, several former Czech Mint employees formed the Prague
Mint. Since then, the Prague Mint has produced dozens of limited
edition medals to meet a burgeoning market for medals in the former
A boom in Czech coin and medal art has
risen in the last few years, according to engraver Tomas Lamac, cited
in a book the Prague Mint published. (The book’s title is the Prague
Mint’s name, in Czech.)
Lamac said: “The level is very
high and it can be compared with the best production in the world. The
reason for this is because fortunately we have a great many excellent
artists, whether it is Vladimir Oppl, [the] late Jiri Harcuba, whose
work I like a lot, or other brilliant artists. The high level of the
Czech medal production rests on these masters.”
Prague is a historic city, no buildings remain today that housed
minting facilities in the past.
The Prague Mint’s
headquarters, offices and a sales gallery are located in the center of
the capital city, in the Municipal House, a valuable and beautiful Art
Nouveau building more than 100 years old, according to Zdenek Vojtech,
commercial director at the Prague Mint. The actual minting for the
Prague Mint occurs at one of the firm’s facilities elsewhere, not in
“For a private company it is not possible to own
this amazing building, therefore we have been renting the space
there,” he said.
The building is right next to the
Powder Tower, a historic gate that stands at the entrance to the old
city of Prague. The so-called “silver trail” ended at the tower, which
is known today for the time it served to store gunpowder. At this
gate, though, silver from silver mines was delivered to the historic
mint, according to the Prague Mint.
The choice of
location is symbolic, since it was here in 1918 that the independence
of democratic Czechoslovakia was proclaimed.
also stands on the exact spot where the Bohemian king’s court used to
be located, and the king had the exclusive right to issue the currency
for the kingdom, Vojtech said, “So this place, historically, has much
to do with minting.”
In addition to its location in the
Czech capital, the Prague Mint has offices in Bratislava, the Slovak
capital, a village named Prague in Slovakia, and in Vsetin, a town in
Moravia, where most of the mint’s production facilities are housed in
a former bank building the Prague Mint bought on the main city
In person, Vojtech lights up when talking about
the mint’s products and mission, which include development of the
thousand-year tradition of numismatic production in Prague, which the
firm hopes to re-establish in the future.
is not large, but it has found its fans in Asia, Arabia and America
fast. Coins and medallions issued here have an extraordinary artistic
value,” Vojtech said in an email.
The Prague Mint has
produced designs from 50 renowned artists, and relies on traditional
methods to create the designs, plaster models and engraving, before
employing computer-controlled milling machines and lasers in preparing
the dies and striking the medals, according to Vojtech.
Most of the Prague Mint’s issues are Proof or Uncirculated .999 fine
gold, silver or platinum medals, though it has issued copper medals
and antiqued silver medals for some issues.
Mintages are always rather limited, in most cases to several hundred
pieces per design and finish. For instance, a BU silver medal marking
the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino in 2012 had a mintage
of a mere 74 pieces.
The medal was designed by Karel
Zeman, whose works return to the Napoleon Bonaparte leitmotif
frequently. Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who gazes off the field of the
obverse, was a Russian military commander who defeated Napoleon at the
critical battle on Sept. 7, 1812. The battle was the largest and
bloodiest single-day of action in the French invasion of Russia and
the Napoleonic Wars, a battle honored in numismatics both in the 1800s
and in the present day.
Check back with CoinWorld.com for the rest of Jeff Starck's
feature. Or, better yet, let us tell you when a new post is up: