Editor's note: The following is the first 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 second and third 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.
Mint is not affiliated with the Czech Mint, which was privatized
in 2009. After that sale several former employees came together to
form the Prague Mint, which competes with the Czech Mint for medal
sales and tenders for coinage production from the Czech National Bank.
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.
Minting history in Prague
While the Austrian Mint in Vienna lays claim, rightfully, to being
the longest continually operating mint in the world, dating back to
1194, officials at the Prague Mint note that their city has a minting
history going back even further.
However, that history has been interrupted, according to the Prague Mint.
Minting has been an important enterprise in Prague for centuries,
since the city was the seat of Bohemian dukes, and later, kings, who
exercised their sovereign right to issue coinage with vigor.
The oldest Czech means of payment was the denar, production of which
goes back to the second half of the eighth century.
From the 10th till the 13th century, several mints were located in
what is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, including a mint in
Prague during the kingdom of Bohemia.
In 1300 the first Prague groschen was minted under Wenceslas II.
These coins reflect the “top of the minting art of that time,
especially for the level of the mintage,” according to the Prague
Mint, but minting activities were soon transferred to the city of
Kutna Hora, marking a break in production of coins in Prague until 1325.
Prague’s minting history is marked by many other interruptions and
notable events, like the 1539 restoration of regular production of
silver coins (an event commemorated on one of the Prague Mint’s
medals, tying the historical to the here-and-now).
The most recent interruption occurred in 1856, after which the
production of coins was concentrated in Vienna under the reign of the Habsburgs.
Prague was part of the nation of Czechoslovakia from 1918 until Jan.
1, 1993. From 1927, minting of local coins was completed at the
Kremnica Mint, itself one of Europe’s old-guard mints, with a history
dating back to 1328.
Finally, upon the dissolution of Czechoslovakia into the Czech
Republic and Slovakia in 1993, a Czech Mint was formed to serve the
Czech National Bank, the national mint’s main customer even today.
That national mint is located in the mountain resort town of
Jablonec nad Nisou, a center of Czech medallic art and sculpture in
recent decades thanks to the Secondary School and College of Art and
Design located there. The town has a tradition of art and jewelry
dating back to 1880, but the school has served as particularly fertile
training ground for coin and medal artists since 1995 when specially
designed programs were introduced.
This is one of the few medalist schools in Europe educating new
generations of coin and medal artists, according to Pavel Trtik, chief
executive officer of the Prague Mint.
Both the Czech Mint and the Prague Mint employ many graduates of the
Secondary School of Art and Design.
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: