World Coins

Croatia chooses Tesla for euro coins, but Serbia cries foul

Croatia hopes to honor Nikola Tesla with circulating coins beginning in 2023, but Serbia already honored the man with this circulating 20-dinara coin in 2006.

Images courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

Scientist Nikola Tesla famously battled Thomas Edison for recognition and respect as contemporaneous inventors.

Today, Tesla is the subject of a battle, between his native Serbia and neighboring Croatia, which plans to honor him numismatically by placing him on three euro coins beginning in 2023.

The National Bank of Croatia in mid-July announced themes for Croatia’s euro coinage, which it will adopt Jan. 1, 2023.

Aside from the designs chosen through a national vote, Tesla won the most write-in votes, featuring in 2,599 of more than 11,000 suggestions.

Tesla, an ethnic Serb, was born in present-day Croatia in 1856 when the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Serbia’s national bank threatened to press the European Union to block issuance of Tesla-themed 10-, 20-, and 50-cent coins, according to news reports, calling his appearance on the coins “inappropriate,” and “usurp[ing] the cultural and scientific heritage of the Serbian people.”

The European Commission will decide the fate of the proposed themes this fall.

Other themes for Croatia’s euro coins include a checkerboard motif (which will appear on all eight denominations), a geographical map of Croatia (on the €2 coin), the marten (on the €1 coin), and the Glagolitic script, the oldest known Slavic alphabet (on the 1-, 2-, and 5-cent coins).

Croatia may eventually issue coins honoring Tesla, but it already lost the battle to be first to honor him. Serbia features Tesla on an annual series of 1-ounce silver coins that began in 2018, and also marked the scientist’s 150th birth anniversary on a circulating commemorative 20-dinara coin in 2006.

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