Highly respected and yet vastly underrated, the Lithuanian Mint designs and strikes some truly superb precious metal numismatics. Nominated three times in the 2014 Krause Coin of the Year awards and four times in 2015, they’ve always punched well above their weight, especially considering they usually release under ten coins per year.
As from the 01 January 2015, Lithuania becomes the last of the Baltic States to start using the Euro for its national currency, after Estonia in 2011 and Latvia in 2014. This silver coin is the last to carry a denomination in Lithuanian Litas, the current currency of the country since it was re-introduced to replace the Soviet Ruble back in 1993, and the mint is certainly leaving the Litas on a high point.
Billed as the most technically advanced coin in Lithuanian history, it’s certainly a different approach from this mints usual style. A large coin for it’s standard ounce in weight at 44mm in diameter, it’s also convex in profile, a technique quite difficult to implement, that’s been used by the Monnaie de Paris, the Royal Australian Mint, the Mint of Poland and the United States Mint this year, all to great effect.
The most impressive part of this coin for me is its purity of design, critical for something designed to create an optical effect. The reverse is clean of any superfluous inscriptions, carrying just the denomination, important given this is the last coin to be issued in this currency. In the centre of the pattern of assymetrically positioned circles whose edges that never cross, sits a tiny polished silver sphere. The overall effect is said to be of weird movement when the coin is tilted and rotated in the hand. We don’t have one, so can’t exactly describe the effect.
The obverse depicts a stylised version of the coat of arms of Lithuania built up using short stretched-teardrop shaped lines also following a circular form. This is said to have a pulsating effect upon movement.
It’s certainly a visually striking piece of work, and early sales from the mint (i.e. all gone!) mean I’m not alone in that opinion. A dead cert for nomination in the 2016 Coin of the Year awards methinks. Currently selling for around the $100-120 mark, we think that will rise.
The author of the coin’s form, artist Agnė Dautartaitė-Krutulė, through the irregular arrangement of the perfectly circular coins on the reverse of the coin creates an unpredictable and surprising illusion of movement, it seems to hypnotise. As the coin captures silver mirror flashes, it creates an image of a spiral that draws in the viewer. Although the circles do not converge, they create the effect of purposeful movement. The author created a small synergistic miracle — no matter which way the coin is tilted (together with the symbol from the coat of arms of Lithuania — Vytis), the functional elements of the Vytis and the denomination are still proportional.
The depiction of the Vytis on the coin seems to be almost hidden. In the minting of Lithuanian collectors coins, such technology has been used for the first time. The author created a new modification of the Vytis, the national coat of arms; she attempted to express the delicate metaphysical level of the rider’s silhouette: this figure becomes clear only by looking very closely. On the obverse and reverse of the coin the author produced the illusion of rotation and movement. At first glance the symbol on the obverse is hard to see, but a more careful look reveals the depiction of the Vytis, recognisable once the optical illusion of movement is conquered. Although the symbol has lost its concreteness and clarity, the association is still clear.
The objects created by the author, due to the optical illusion of rotation, seem almost deformed — by looking at it for a longer period of time it seems as if the form is changing. Due to this illusion, the size of the coin seems to be entirely different than it really is. The coin looks larger, thinner. Its convexity only strengthens this illusion — with the coin in your hand it seems as if you can feel the power of infinite space. In rotating the coin everyone will be able to experience the moment when the realistic view turns into an illusory play of space and light, the play of colours on the frosted and mirrored surface of the coin. With this coin that she created the author seems to have given tribute and respect to one of the major Lithuanian artists of the 20th c., Kazimieras Žoromskis (1913–2004), who had created examples of glossy and matte frescoes during his studies at the Royal Art Academy of Rome, while his paintings, done in the style of optical impressionism, achieved international acclaim.
The author included an inclusion in the coin — this is the first case in the history of the school of coin creation in Lithuania, although in the international coin minting tradition this artistic solution has already been done. The spherical silver ball is not a unique detail, but it is an important accent, due to which the effect of optical rotation intensities.
The Bank of Lithuania has issued a bimetal collectors coin, rectangular and regular dodecagon-formed collectors coins. A double hidden image was used in several coins — when the coin is tilted, at a certain angle two different visual elements can be seen. Enamel technique has been used; a coin was minted that had an oval hole. This newest coin will not only be different because of its larger diameter. Due to the convex form achieved through the minting process, the use of the inclusion and the principles of optical art, it is considered the most technological coin in the history of Lithuanian collectors coins. At the same time it is the last litas coin. In creating it the author purified the idea of saying goodbye to the litas — in holding the coin in your hand, you can feel the unique vibration of transformation, or metamorphosis.
OBVERSE: Carries a carefully carved a stylised image of the coat of arms of the Republic of Lithuania, which creates an effect of pulsating movement. The inscription 2014 is in the centre, and Lietuva (Lithuania) is described on the right edge of the coin.
REVERSE: Features motives of optical art, a spherical bead of silver in the centre and rhythmically repetitive circles of different sizes arranged at irregular intervals around it, providing an image of rotation, movement and space, optical illusion; there is also an inscription of the denomination — 50 litų (50 litas).
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