The Czech Mint looks at Leonardo Da Vinci and his work in the field of engineering with four new coins

Renaissance genius Leonardo Da Vinci is no stranger to the coin world and it’s easy to see why. A huge body of incredible artwork and astounding inventions are a veritable visual feast and make splendid numismatics. To date, the vast majority of coins featuring the mans work have stayed firmly in the artistic sphere, but the Czech Mint are now showcasing Da Vinci’s engineering skills, especially in works that led to advances in warfighting.

Designed by Asamat Baltaev, the medal maker responsible for the beautiful Jules Verne series from the same mint, this is a four coin series to be released throughout 2019. The first coin is available now, with the second imminent, and the third and fourth issues coming in July and September. Each has a common obverse which depicts small images of the four inventions to be showcased. These surround the ubiquitous effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank Broadley – this is a Niue Island issue.

The first coin features the Aerial Screw. Not related to the mile high club, this was actually an early and unsuccessful attempt to create a helicopter, but was doomed to failure because the materials to make it possible simply weren’t available back then, The second coin features a Glider. and while also problematic because of the materials of the age, it was a wholly more realistic affair. Indeed, with tweaks, it was built and flown centuries later. Both coins carry very cool reproductions of Leonardo’s designs and both have the same image of the man in the background – a stylised version of his only self portrait.

The third and fourth coins, reproduced below in pencil art form (we’ve added the pencil sketch of the second issue next to the actual coin further down so you can get an idea of how the finished articles will look in comparison), will feature the Machine Gun and the Tank. Each is an ounce of 0.999 in weight and comes in a small box similar to those used by the Austrian Mint. Like the Jules Verne series, there’s a neat and very cheap tin to hold all four. Despite having a themed lid and enclosing a large art card, it sells for just €7.00. We wish more mints would take note. Just 1,000 of each coin is being struck and they’re available from the mint, or from sponsors like Minted-UK or Powercoin.

LEONARDO, THE INVENTOR

While he is most famously known for his works of art like the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and The Vitruvian Man, Leonardo’s studies in science and engineering are sometimes considered as impressive and innovative. These studies were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and natural philosophy (the forerunner of modern science). They were made and maintained daily throughout Leonardo’s life and travels, as he made continual observations of the world around him

Leonardo’s notes and drawings display an enormous range of interests and preoccupations, some as mundane as lists of groceries and people who owed him money and some as intriguing as designs for wings and shoes for walking on water. There are compositions for paintings, studies of details and drapery, studies of faces and emotions, of animals, babies, dissections, plant studies, rock formations, whirlpools, war machines, flying machines and architecture.

These notebooks—originally loose papers of different types and sizes, distributed by friends after his death—have found their way into major collections. Most of Leonardo’s writings are in mirror-image cursive. Since Leonardo wrote with his left hand, it was probably easier for him to write from right to left. Leonardo’s notes appear to have been intended for publication because many of the sheets have a form and order that would facilitate this. In many cases a single topic, for example, the heart or the human fetus, is covered in detail in both words and pictures on a single sheet. Why they were not published during Leonardo’s lifetime is unknown.

Leonardo was fascinated by the phenomenon of flight for much of his life, producing many studies, including Codex on the Flight of Birds (c. 1505), as well as plans for several flying machines such as a flapping ornithopter and a machine with a helical rotor. The British television station Channel Four commissioned a 2003 documentary, Leonardo’s Dream Machines, in which various designs by Leonardo, such as a parachute and a giant crossbow, were interpreted, constructed and tested. Some of those designs proved successful, whilst others fared less well when practically tested. Source: Wikipedia

MINTS DESCRIPTION

The four-part miniseries of the Czech Mint with the name “Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci” was published on the occasion of the 500th anniversary when the Renaissance man exhaled the last time.

01 AERIAL SCREW: Leonardo had been fascinated by the birds since the childhood, and dreamed that he will once fly with them. Because he was not only an unrivalled artist, but also a brilliant designer, he sketched out 150 designs of sophisticated machines to fulfill his dream. There were parachutes or so-called ornithopters with wings to fly. Another flying machine to use the human force was a so-called “air screw”. Why the screw? Leonardo believed that the air was compressible, so had to have a tangible density to which the screw could go to – just like the screw into the wood. This conclusion could be reached by observing the winged maple seeds that are rotating when they fall on the ground. When it goes down, why it could not go up with the right drive?

The invention was provided with a complex system of pedals, gears and levers by which the four-men crew had to spin a spiral propeller. Though Leonardo was thinking about lightweight materials – linen, reed and wire – the machine would be too heavy. And because it would not have enough lift, it would never take off. At the end of his life, Leonardo realized that the human force was not enough to take off, and he returned to the drawing board. But this is the story of another invention … Still, four centuries later Leonardo´s draws inspired Igor Sikorsky, who is the designer of the first real helicopter.

02 FLYING MACHINE: The helicopter proved to be an impasse in Leonardo’s attempt to create a flying machine. The inventor realized that the human power that should drive it would not be enough to take off. So he returned to the drawing board. He admired the animals, enforced their rights and was likely to be a vegetarian. He decided to imitate what he had learned from his beloved dumb faces. He was initially inspired by a bird flight. As a model for the new invention, which he simply called a “bird”, he chose a kite – a small and agile predator. He created a number of sketches based on its skeleton, but it was still not perfect.

He continued studying the flying creatures and finally wrote down in his diary: “Remember that your bird must not imitate anything other than a bat. And that’s because it’s flying through the membrane and not the feathers like the birds. That bird must rise to a wind, so its wings must be robust – made of thick skin and ropes.” Unlike the helicopter Leonardo actually built and even tried his “bird” which more than anything else recalls today’s hang-glider. Unfortunately, he was not successful at the time, but when his compatriots repeated his attempt five centuries later, they succeeded. Leonardo da Vinci could become the first flightman in human history. The glider, however, was not the last invention. He invented a parachute, a wind gauge to check velocity of wind, an anemoscope to check wind direction and an inclinometer to check the horizontal position of the flight.

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SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $1 New Zealand (Niue)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams
DIMENSIONS 37.0 mm
FINISH Proof
MODIFICATIONS None
MINTAGE 1,000
BOX / COA Yes / Yes (Optional Collection tin)
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