Like the Lietuvos Bankas, the Bank of Lithuania, whose 2014 issues we covered a couple of days ago, the Latvijas Banka (Bank of Latvia) has also managed to acquire a considerable portfolio of award nominations for its relatively small release schedule. In 2014 they were nominated three times for the Krause Coin of the Year Awards (COTY), and for 2015 they picked up four nominations, winning the Best Silver Coin award for the really beautiful Wagner coin.

Coins issued by the Bank of Latvia are not struck within the countries borders and they farm out the work to other European mints. The bulk of their output is struck in the Netherlands by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt, with a single 2014 numismatic struck by AgAuNEWS favourite, the Mint of Poland. Latvia transitioned to the Euro in January 2014, so the coins below represent Latvia’s first year of Euro releases, and with a style similar to that of the Lithuania, perhaps a harbinger of what that country may release in 2015 now that it too is a Euro economy.

Latvia’s 2014 output has also garnered some healthy attention, with both the Ainazi Nautical School, and the White Book coins doing pretty well, especially the former coin that’s seen some good appreciation this year. The Baltic Way coin is a sister release to the one issued by Lithuania and is another fine design. Most of the coins have some nice edge inscriptions and the image at the bottom of the post shows them quite well.

We’ve used the Latvian descriptions of the coins as they’re quite comprehensive and well done, (click the blue cross to expand and read in full). We’ll continue our walk through the 2014 releases of Eastern European Mints next week.


In the beginning there were words. The call of Krišjānis Valdemārs (1825–1891), an ideologist of the so-called New Latvians, who was one of the key figures in the national awakening movement, found poetic expression in the verses of Auseklis (Miķelis Krogzemis; 1850–1879): “Go to sea, Latvians ..” That was a call for Latvians to overcome their backwardness and isolation and take up a respectable place in the world’s economy, to get to know the cultural treasures of the human race and integrate with Western civilisation. That could be accomplished by active economic operation and cooperation. The fact that the Latvian lands lay by a bustling sea seemed to be a clear sign of the budding nation’s potential.

The words soon turned into deeds. On Valdemārs’ initiative, the first Latvian and Estonian nautical school was established on 23 November 1864. This area of Vidzeme had long boasted tough and enterprising men. The seaside people created their prosperity by building small ships and by shipping cargoes to Riga and St. Petersburg. Soon they developed capabilities for building larger vessels and exploring faraway seas, but for that well-educated sailors and captains were needed. Before the establishment of the nautical school, such education was out of the average Latvian’s reach. The school was financed by the ship owners of Ainaži: Juris, Andrejs and Oto Veide, Jānis Miķelsons, Gusts Lielmežs and others. It was housed in one of the buildings belonging to Juris Veide’s household. The first headmaster was Swede Christian Dahl (1839–1904), who devoted thirty years of his life to this mission. At first, the school functioned as an elementary education establishment, offering specialisation in the fundamentals of navigation and students taking their exams in Riga or Pärnu.

As time went by, Ainaži Nautical School began to be viewed as a model. In 1867, the Russian Empire decreed to create a wider school system of this kind. Forty new nautical schools were opened, of which eleven were located in Latvia. Education was offered free of charge and was available to anyone in their native language. In 1880, Ainaži Nautical School was awarded the highest-category status, which meant that it could now groom sea captains. The school organised training voyages with the sailing ship “Katarina”. Ch. Dahl with his students even helped explore the Northern passage. The school also gained several new buildings accommodating about 3 000 students. A thousand of them received the diploma of captain or steersman. This education was closely tied to shipbuilding in Latvia: by the end of the 19th century, a fleet of 550 sailing ships had formed, of which 50 had been built in Ainaži. Crews of about a dozen people took cargoes not only to all the ports in Europe but sailed also across the Atlantic. Latvians were proudly going to sea, indeed ..

With the advent of World War I came a new era, and steel steamers began to dominate. Yet the previous fifty years of economic activity had had a nurturing effect on national self-confidence. Valdemārs and his fellow visionaries had laid the cornerstone for Latvia’s future.

150 years have passed since the foundation of Ainaži Nautical School. By now citizens of free Latvia have sailed the seven seas; they have explored the world, integrated with the European Union and joined the euro area. The first euro collector coin issued by Latvijas Banka is dedicated to the anniversary of Ainaži Nautical School. The ship of great yearning, aspirations and dreams depicted on the coin is certain to sail smoothly around the world.

REVERSE: The central field features a compass, with an element painted red and pointing to the North. There are semi-circled inscriptions AINAŽU at the top and JŪRSKOLA at the bottom, and the years 1864 and 2014 on the left and right respectively.

OBVERSE: The number 5, with the inscription EURO beneath it, is placed in the centre. Four sailing ships are symmetrically arranged along the outer ring of the obverse.

DESIGNER: Ivars Drulle

EDGE: The inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA, separated by rhombic dots.

MINT: Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)

5 EURO 0.925 Ag 22.00 g 35.00 mm PROOF 5,000


Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš (1877–1962) was a famous Latvian author and painter. His life and work were imbued with bright light and clear vision. Having come from the countryside, Jaunsudrabiņš was well familiar with the life on the traditional Latvian farm and its intimate connection to the cycles of nature. As many Latvians he, too, had to experience personally the dramatic shifts and collisions of the 20th century. During World War I, Jaunsudrabiņš shared the fate of many refugees in Northern Caucasus; then he experienced peace and relative prosperity of newly independent Latvia and familiarised himself with Western culture. At the end of World War II, Jaunsudrabiņš was once again a refugee – this time in Germany where he settled in Kerbeck, living there until his death in 1962. In 1997, Jaunsudrabiņš was reburied in Latvia, near his Nereta birthplace.

Having studied drawing and painting in Riga and perfected his skills in Munich and Berlin, Jaunsudrabiņš vividly revealed his sincere and benevolent personality in his works, both in visual art and literature. He was particularly loved and acclaimed for his literary work, however, including fiction. Jaunsudrabiņš was also the translator of many foreign classics. Indication that his oeuvre was in the highest esteem was the Three Star Order awarded him already in 1927.

During a stay at the writers’ retreat Burtnieku Nams on the outskirts of Riga, Jaunsudrabiņš started writing his masterpiece, “The White Book”, one of the most outstanding works of Latvian literature. The first part of it was published in 1914 and the second followed in 1921. It is a fictionalised memoir of the writer’s childhood seen through the eyes of the protagonist Jancis, and, at the same time, a panorama of the Latvian country life in the mood of the late 19th century and passing of the year with its four seasons’ cycle, supplemented with heartfelt illustrations by the author. Despite the realism with which everyday life is depicted, the book has spiritual undertones and its humanist ethic is akin to Latvian folksongs, the dainas. The benevolent attitude towards nature, people and life as such grows on the reader and in later life is remembered with great fondness by many Latvians who read it in their childhood.

An attractive ethnographic testimony, yet, looking beneath the surface, we encounter in this book a message on the Latvian spirit, character, mentality, closeness with God and the nature, and toil. Hence “The White Book” is gaining in importance in our globalised and urbanised environment. It can be compared to a cornerstone or an anchor, yet it is also a lighthouse that may help one stay afloat in the stormy global seas. For Latvians, it is a book that is kept not far from the Bible.

The deceptively provincial lessons of “The White Book” are at the very heart of the patriotic call once issued by Jaunsudrabiņš in exile: “Remember Latvia!” Guided by this heartfelt motivation, Latvijas Banka has emitted a euro collector coin to commemorate the 100th anniversary of “The White Book” by Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš.


REVERSE: features an image of the book’s cover with the title Baltā grāmata (The White Book) in Gothic lettering and the year 1914. The square background bears an image of a small boy and the Sun shining on him, an illustration from the book. Facsimile signature of Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš is placed at the bottom.

OBVERSE: features an image of the cover of Jaunsudrabiņš’ White Book adorned with floating clouds. The inscription LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA is running down from the top along its right side, and the year 2014 is placed slantwise on the left. The square background features contours of a birch-tree-enclosed homestead, an illustration from the book. The inscription “5 euro” is placed at the bottom right.

EDGE: Plain.

DESIGNER: Sandra Krastiņa

MINT: Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)

5 EURO 0.925 Ag 25.80 g POLYGONAL PROOF 5,000


The idea of freedom is one for which people have always been willing to pay the highest price. In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the yearning for freedom found a powerful expression at the end of the 1980s. The Baltic peoples were united by a common goal: to shake off the shackles of the Soviet totalitarian empire, which had meant subjugation of half a century and which had originated in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. This mutual non-aggression pact signed on 23 August 1939 by the USSR and Germany was supplemented by a secret protocol, which in fact meant the division of six independent European states into spheres of influence and occupation.

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact prepared and initiated World War II. The USSR, an active ally of Nazi Germany, occupied the Baltic States in the summer of 1940 in direct consequence of the pact. The social and economic orders were forcibly changed in accordance with the interests of the USSR and subject to the dictatorship of communist ideology and regime. The Baltic States were incorporated into this superpower, experiencing deportations and killing of their citizens, nationalisation and collectivisation, political terror and life behind the “iron curtain” in isolation from the world.

Fifty years after the criminal Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was signed, on 23 August 1989 at 7 p.m., about two million residents of the Baltic countries joined hands forming a 600-kilometre-long human chain that joined Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius for 15 minutes. This unique action drew the attention of the entire world, highlighting the historical injustice and asserting that the idea of freedom and independence is very much alive in the minds and hearts of the three Baltic nations. In the lexicon of non-violent struggle, the message of Awakening, Popular Front and Singing Revolution was supplemented by another striking entry – the Baltic Way. It was like an informal referendum that demonstrated to the occupation power how united the Baltic nations were in their desire to regain their freedom and renew their independence. The Baltic Way demonstrated the effectiveness of non-violent struggle and the power of unity.

In 1991, the Baltic nations regained their statehood and political independence. The withdrawal of occupation troops, admittance of the Baltic countries to the United Nations and later to the European Union, NATO and many international organisations were natural milestones in their subsequent journey. On 30 July 2009, UNESCO included the documentary testimonies of the Baltic Way in the international register “Memory of the World”. This Latvian euro coin is dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the striking event demonstrating unity among the three Baltic nations.


REVERSE: displays a vertical image of a tree trunk with exposed roots. There are two semi-circled inscriptions – ATMOSTAS BALTIJA (Awakening Baltics) on the left and LIETUVA LATVIJA EESTI (Lithuania Latvia Estonia) on the right.

OBVERSE: The obverse is crossed by a braid with ribbons in the colours of national flags of the three Baltic Republics woven in it. The inscription “5 euro” is on the right. The lower left part of the obverse bears the semi-circled inscription BALTIJAS CEĻŠ 1989, with the year 2014 on the right.

EDGE: The edge features two inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA, separated by rhombic dots.

DESIGNER: Visvaldis Asaris (graphic design), Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

MINT: Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)

5 EURO 0.925 Ag 22.00 g 35.00 mm PROOF 10,000


The UNESCO events calendar for 2014 includes, among others, the 300th anniversary of the Latvian writer, linguist and thinker Gotthard Friedrich Stender (1714–1796), thus celebrating his fundamental contribution in the area of culture, education and science, including inter-cultural dialogue.

G. F. Stender (nicknamed Vecais Stenders, Old Stenders) is an outstanding representative of the 18th century Enlightenment. He was a German born in the pastoral estate of Laši (now Eglaine), Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. He studied philosophy and theology at Universities of Jena and Halle and served both as a pastor and as an inventor (he made globes for the royal court of Denmark; provided a method for determining the geographical longitude at sea, and even constructed a primitive washing machine). In 1765, he returned to his native land and spent the last thirty years of his life to enlighten and educate the Latvian serfs.

Old Stenders is considered the founder of Latvian secular literature: he wrote fairy-tales, fables, short stories and popular songs; he compiled ABCs in Latvian and performed tasks essential for the formation of a cultural nation: writing a grammar of the Latvian language and putting together a Latvian–German and German–Latvian dictionary.

Old Stenders’ most outstanding work is his “Book of High Wisdom on the World and Nature” (1774), in fact, the first peasant encyclopaedia in Europe. There, Old Stenders explains natural phenomena and the basic principles of physics and astronomy, including rotating of the Earth around its axis and around the Sun, and gives basic insights into issues related to meteorology, zoology, botany, chemistry and geography as well as tells his readers about mountains and deserts, earthquakes and volcanoes, seas and rivers.

Old Stenders may not have had the range of other figures of the Enlightenment like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, or Johann Gottfried Herder, yet his contribution to the evolution of Latvian nation is invaluable. He taught Latvians to think and was the first to offer praise to his native land in poetry. Confirming his unity with the emerging Latvian nation, he had his headstone in Sunākste (now Viesīte region) supplemented with the word “Latwis” – Latvian.

The obverse of the coin dedicated to Old Stenders has borrowed the theme from the title page of the first edition of the “Book of High Wisdom on the World and Nature”: a pastor is showing a boy how full of wonders this world is. The reverse of the coin features the progressive idea of the world, the heliocentric concept of the universe.

REVERSE: The reverse of the coin features the progressive idea of the world, the heliocentric concept of the universe. The image comprises the inscriptions “G. F. Stender” and “Latwis”. Above it, there are semi-circled inscriptions VECAIS STENDERS on the left and “5 euro” slightly on the right.

OBVERSE: A theme from the title page of the first edition of the “Book of High Wisdom on the World and Nature” (1774) by Gotthard Friedrich Stender (1714–1796) is a central motif: a pastor is showing a boy how full of wonders this world is. At the top on the left, there are semi-circled inscriptions 2014 and LATVIJA.

EDGE: The inscriptions LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA and LATVIJAS BANKA, separated by rhombic dots.

DESIGNER: Aigars Ozoliņš (graphic design), Jānis Strupulis (plaster model)

MINT: Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)

5 EURO 0.925 Ag 22.00 g 35.00 mm PROOF 10,000


Existence manifests itself through change. It pulsates in endless rhythmic variation: heartbeat, dancing, hammer striking an anvil, marching soldiers, ticking clocks and everyday rushing around. In nature, as well, rhythm and cyclical passage are the crucial elements. Night replaces day, dawn blooms into a bright sun, which in turn fades into sunset. The moon waxes and wanes and waxes again to full moon. Gusts of wind bring clouds and snow and rain but we are certain to have scorching heat one day and long for refreshing rain.

The Earth, our vast and only home, is full of rhythms that organise and sometimes interfere with people’s lives. The place where Latvians are destined to live has been called God’s land, our Green Land and Land of Laima. Everything seems to be well proportioned here: there are times of bitter cold and times of blazing heat, there are pouring rains and serene mists that veil our fields and woods, cities and lakes, villages and farms. To use a fashionable expression, we live in the comfort zone.


We are a part of constant alternation of the four seasons, with the everyday course of events illuminated by a change of darkness and light during solstices and the festivals of Jāņi, Martinmas, Christmas, Shrovetide and Easter. The basic processes of nature are a subject of scientific research, while our consciousness has in store more ancient cultural layers that reflect the four primal forces of nature – fire, water, earth and air –, four cardinal points, four lunar phases and four dimensions.

The change of seasons is reflected in our ethnography and folklore; in ancient times, it determined people’s lives and work to an even greater degree than today. The old Latvian names for the twelve months of the year are but one example: there is Winter Month, followed by Candle Month, Snow Crust or Dove Month, Tree Sap Month, Leaf or Sowing Month, Blossom Month, Hay or Linden Month, Rye or Reaping Month, Forest Month, Dead Souls’ or Autumn Month, Frost Month and Wolves Month. Latvian writer Edvarts Virza (1883–1940) in his romantic work “Straumēni” (1933) provided a vivid description of how the four seasons are intertwined with the rustic life of the Latvian farmer.

The romanticism and poetry seen in the seasons have been an inspiration for peoples, cultures and civilizations. Venetian Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678–1741) baroque violin concerto “Four Seasons” remains popular centuries after it was composed. An allegory to spring is Sandro Boticelli’s (1445–1510) painting “Primavera”. Latvians recognise their spring in paintings by Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945). The genius of impressionism, Claude Monet (1840–1926), reveals the pulsating joy of high summer. A melancholic nostalgia flows from the works by Isaac Levitan (1860–1900) depicting autumn.

The seasons have also been a source of concern and problems for people. How to keep warm in winter? Is there a danger of flooding this spring? Will the crops survive the sweltering sun of the summer? Is there a possibility of major storms in the fall? The symphony of seasons is at the same time a magnificent ode to joy and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Now we are reminded of these also by this Latvian euro collector coin.


REVERSE: The inner part of the reverse shows a potato with straws stuck into it, a traditional interior decoration of ancient Latvians. It is surrounded by the images representing the Latvian seasonal traditions: Father Christmas, a girl swinging at Easter, a Midsummer celebrant, and mummers who roamed farmsteads from Martinmas to Shrovetide. The names of ancient seasonal celebrations are circled along the outer ring of the reverse: CHRISTMAS, SHROVETIDE, EASTER, ŪSIŅI, JĀŅI, MĀRAS (the days of Ūsiņš, Jānis, Māra and Miķelis), and MARTINMAS. Going up to the right of the centre, there is the slantwise inscription LATVIJA, and the year 2014 is placed on the right hand side.

OBVERSE: The inner part of the obverse features the Sun surrounded by the images of four farm labourers, each depicted in an activity typical for one of the four seasons: a woodcutter (winter), a sowing man (spring), a crop harvester (summer), and a thresher (autumn). The ancient names of season-concluding months are circled along the outer ring of the obverse: the Candle Month, the Leaf Month, the Rye Month and the Frost Month. The inscription 5 EURO is placed to the right of the centre.

EDGE: There are the inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA and LATVIJAS REPUBLIKA, separated by rhombic dots.

DESIGNER: Arvīds Priedīte (graphic design), Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

MINT: Koninklijke Nederlandse Munt (the Netherlands)

5 EURO 0.925 Ag 22.00 g 35.00 mm PROOF 10,000


The end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century was a time of flourishing architecture and decorative art in Courland. Estate owners competed amongst themselves for the largest and most lavish church on their property. These desires were satisfied by the woodworking workshop of Ventspils (then Windau), which had been established to be part of Duke Jacob’s great shipbuilding plans. Woodcarver Nicolaus Söffrens Sr. (?–1694) made the retable and pulpit of St. Catherine’s Church in Kuldīga (Goldingen) (1660–1663), and his son Nicolaus Söffrens Jr. (1662–1710) became the most outstanding master of the Courland Baroque. The Baroque era has left a particularly rich legacy in Latvia. The 17th and 18th century churches in Courland are among the greatest treasures created in Latvia in the period of historical styles. The contemporary demand promoted the immigration of foreign artists and craftsmen and thus also flourishing of the arts.

The city of Liepāja (Libau) managed to successfully match the luxury needs of the landed gentry of Courland. In 1697, the largest Baroque altar in Latvia was built in St. Anna’s Church whose retable has been included in the Latvian Cultural Canon as one of its visual art treasures.


The altar and pulpit for the Landze Lutheran Church (1701) and Ventspils Castle chapel furnishings completed by Söffrens’s stepson Johann Märtens (1690–1737) were also built in Söffrens’s workshop. Märtens continued the woodcarving traditions of the Ventspils school. He is the author of the furnishings of the Salgale Church (1722) as well as the pulpit and confession bench of the Kandava Church (1735–1736). The carved case of the Ugāle Church organ built by master Cornelius Rhaneus from Liepāja in 1700 was made by Michael Marquart, a Söffrens’s relative, in 1697. Influenced by Söffrens’s workshop was also Joachim Kreuzfeldt (1673–1721) who is considered to be the author of furnishings of the churches in Usma, Saka and Vārme as well as of parts of the Apriķi Church furnishings.

The largest Baroque ensemble in Courland (1704–1709) used to be found in the Lestene Church. The altar, pulpit, confession bench, benches for the congregation and the organ case made in the same style were the last carvings made in Söffrens’s workshop. In February 1945, the church was damaged by the soviet artillery bombardments. In 1961, the Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Lestene discontinued its activities. The remnants of the demolished church were taken to the Tukums Museum in 1964, and in 1967 the curch became a grain drying kiln.

As of 1982, the partially restored fragments of the Lestene Church were on display at the Rundāle Palace Museum. Now the church is undergoing renovation, and its woodcarvings are being restored to be gradually taken back to Lestene.

The restoration of the Lestene Church and woodcarvings by Nicolaus Söffrens is one of the most important projects in protecting the cultural heritage of Latvia. The participation of each and every citizen in this project is of vital importance.

REVERSE: The angel from the altar of the Lestene Church is the central motif. The semi-circled inscriptions KURZEMES BAROKS (Baroque of Courland; on the left) and NIKOLAUSS SĒFRENSS (Nicolaus Söffrens; on the right) encompass the design in the lower part of the reverse.

OBVERSE: The obverse features an acanthus leaf design from the altar of the Lestene Church. The semi-circled inscription of the year 2014 occupies the upper part of the obverse on the left from the design, the inscription 5 EURO is in the centre, and the semi-circled inscription LATVIJA (Latvia) is placed in the lower part of the obverse.

EDGE: Two inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA, separated by dots.

DESIGNER: Laimonis Šēnbergs (graphic design), Ligita Franckeviča (plaster model)

MINT: Mennica Polska S.A. (Poland)

5 EURO 0.925 Ag 22.00 g 35.00 mm PROOF 10,000