2020-2022 MYTHICAL CREATURES by the Czech Mint
Our love for the mythical beasts of ancient lore has never been higher. With modern mega-budget movies like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter drawing in huge audiences, as well as the new legends that are inherent parts of the various superhero universes, the weird and fantastical remains a popular escape from the day to day life most of us lead today. There’s no substitute for the old legends, however, dreamed up in a time where belief trumped logic in the popular mindset.
Tapping into that, the modern numismatic world has brought forth some superb coins for collectors to hunt down, but outside of a few bullion coins, most have sat and the higher end of the market. The Czech Mint has debuted a new series that is eminently more affordable and will be made up of twelve issues to be released from now until 2022 at the rate of four per year.
The first two coins choose old favourites – The Phoenix and the Dragon. Each has a consistent border in the old Hellenic style, with a striking depiction of the mythical beast in question filling the central area. The style of both is very similar, despite the employment of different artists for each one. Czech Mint regular sculptor, Asamat Baltev is responsible for the Dragon, done in a European style, while Maria Filova did the Phoenix. Baltev is also responsible for the common obverse. Both look like fine pieces, eschewing the usual gimmickry for a simpler, more classical look.
Two versions of each design are on offer. The first is the classic 1oz fine silver (circa €63), and the second a gold coin coming in at a tenth of an ounce (circa €282). With the rising price of gold this year, the smaller format may well turn out to be a wise choice, especially when there are twelve coins in a series, but it does mean the diameter is lacking. Each coin comes in one of the small and neat cardboard boxes which buyers of Austrian Mint coins will recognise. They’re nice and compact, so easy to store, and include a Certificate of Authenticity. The silver mintage is capped at 1,000 pieces, with the gold at half that. Both are available now. For 2021, the packaging has changed to the Czech Mints new standard type, which consists of a ‘snapper’ box inside a themed cardboard sleeve.
Dragons are majestic creatures that rule by immense power – they fly and spew fire. They occur in a variety of forms according to legends – for example, some have one head and others have several of them. They were depicted with a snake body, a dog’s head, lion’s feet, and bird wings in the early Middle Ages. Dragons began to dominate the characteristic lizard features in the 14th century, and they began to resemble bats thanks to their membranous wings. Where did this form come from? The answer can be found in times of dinosaurs when flying reptiles ruled the sky. It is possible that our ancestors discovered their fossilized bones and the human imagination did the rest. Or is it possible that dinosaurs did not become extinct 66 million years ago, as we believe? Could some Mesozoic reptiles survive and compete with legendary dragon-beaters such as St. George?
The medal maker Asamat Baltev, DiS. depicted the dragon as a winged lizard that spewes fire. The creature is accompanied by an English inscription DRAGON on the reverse side of the coin.
We know the word phoenix from Greek, but mythical birds endowed with supernatural power occur in the mythology of many nations. It is called Bennu in Egypt, Garuda and Bherunda in India, Simorgh in Persia, Paskunji in Georgia, Anqa in Arabia, Konrul in Turkey, Me Byi Karmo in Tibet, Fenghuang and Zhu Que in China, Hō-Japons in Japan and Firebird in Slavic folklore. Each of them represent different values – while Fenghuang expresses the harmony of feminine and masculine principle, Anqa was bird of prey that was destroyed by God… But all these birds have one thing in common – they symbolize the eternal cycle of rebirth. This cycle takes the following form: the old phoenix burns itself to death and dies every five centuries in order to rise from the ashes in full force.
According to medal maker Maria Filová DiS., the burning Phoenix features several feathered birds – the beak and claws of the eagle, the swan’s neck, and the peacock’s tail. The creature is accompanied by an English inscription PHOENIX.
The griffin embodies the features of an eagle and a lion – it is most often depicted with an eagle’s head, neck, wings and claws and a lion’s torso, hind legs and tail. Its character is also the result of a combination of both of these animals – it is bright and strong, therefore, it rules heaven and earth. In ancient mythology, the griffin served the sun god Apollo, the goddess of wisdom Athena and the goddess of revenge Nemesis. In the Middle Ages, the noble creature was perceived as a symbol of the king of kings – Jesus Christ – and therefore became a grateful subject of aristocratic heraldry. We can find a griffin on seventy coats of arms in Bohemia and Moravia and it was even one of the shield bearers of the coat of arms of Austria-Hungary.
The mythical hybrid of an eagle and a lion dominates the reverse side of the coin which was processed by the medal maker Mária Filová, DiS. The depiction of the griffin is supplemented with an English inscription GRIFFIN.
Half female and half bird of prey – this is the harpy, which represents the destructive power of nature. It personifies the storm, and its original role was to take the souls of the deceased to the underworld and punish criminals according to the command of the gods. Hence its name – the Greek “harpazein” means to kidnap or seize. Its description has changed over the years. Beautiful women with wings that were like seductive sirens gradually became monstrous and omnivorous scavengers with the faces of old women, who harmed all good people, tormented brave heroes and devoured the wounded soldiers they abducted from battles. No wonder this version of the harpy gave its name to all evil and cruel women.
On the reverse of the coin made by Asamat Baltaev, DiS., there is a harpy, kind of beautiful, yet wild and dangerous. Its whole body is covered with feathers, only human part is a face. Its depiction is accompanied by an English incsription HARPY.
Legend says that the Greek city of Lern was plagued by a serpent monster with countless heads. Its poisonous breath infested fields and rivers, and killed passers-by. No mortal could stand up to it, but fortunately the demigod Heracles came here. The killing of the Lern Hydra was one of the impossible tasks assigned to him by King Eurystheus. Because a huge crab with sharp claws helped the monster, the hero also brought a comrade-in-arms. Heracles first used blazing arrows to lure the hydra out of hiding place, then began to knock its heads off with a club, however, two new ones suddenly grew up. Then Heracles’ nephew Iolaus intervened in the fight, setting fire to the forest and handing his uncle burning branches. No new head grew on the site of the burnt head. Eventually, Heracles cut off its last head which was immortal. He hid it under a stone, where it has been dreaming ever since. He then dipped arrows in the bile of the carcass.
Medal maker Asamat Baltaev, DiS., placed a monster with a series of hissing heads on the reverse side of the coin and supplemented it with a inscription HYDRA.
Mentions of magical animals with one horn can be found in the mythology of most of the world’s cultures. The Persians had Shadhavara and the Slavs had Indrik, Chi-lina was known in China, and Kirin in Japan. However, under the term unicorn, most people imagine a creature that the ancient Latin people named unicornis. It is a noble white horse, who differs from an ordinary horse by split hooves (therefore it is an even-toed ungulate) and a long, spirally curled horn that grows from its forehead. According to legend, this pride was to be endowed with healing abilities, therefore, unicorns became sought-after prey. It was almost impossible to catch them unless the hunter used a special bait. The unicorns could not resist the virgin girls from whom they let themselves be tamed. The stallion, sleeping peacefully in the virgin’s arms, was defenseless and at the mercy of his pursuer.
Medal maker Mária Filová, DiS., placed a coin of a galloping stallion with a lush mane and tail on the reverse side and accompanied it with an English copy of UNICORN.
Cerberus, the giant dog that in Greek mythology closely guarded the entrance to the underworld, came from a monstrous family. His parents were giants Typhon and Echidna, who was half woman and half serpent. Among his many siblings was the hydra, a reptilian creature with countless heads. Cerberus also had more than one head. Although various legends describe him in different ways, he is most commonly believed to have had three, symbolizing the past, present, and future. Cerberus’ jagged maw emitted poisonous breath and dripped venomous salivas. The hellhound also had a dragon’s tail and snakes writhing in his fur. Its incessant barking tormented everyone who heard it. Although Cerberus was immortal and invulnerable, few ancient heroes managed to defeat him – Heracles and Orpheus, for example.
The medal maker Asamat Baltaev, DiS., placed an angry barking monster with a spiked collar on the reverse side of the coin, accompanied by the English inscription CERBERUS.
Centaurs, which are found in ancient Greek myths, are depicted with a human torso and a horse head. These wild creatures – half human and half horse – were a symbol of masculinity, strength, passion and hot-temper. To saddle up and ride an untamed centaur was an extraordinary honour… According to legend, the centaurs were descendants of King Ixion, who was punished by Zeus for his love of Hera. But in reality, they were chosen by prehistoric people who saw a rider on horseback for the first time and who could not imagine that one creature could saddle another.
The medal maker Mária Filová, DiS., placed a sturdy centaur with a drawn bow on the reverse side of the coin and accompanied it with the English inscription CENTAUR.
The tale of the Minotaur, featuring the legendary characters of King Minos, the builder Daedalus, Prince Theseus and Princess Ariadne, is one of the most famous ancient stories. But the tale of a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull trapped in a complex labyrinth offers much more than just thrilling entertainment. It introduces us to the ancient Minoan civilisation of Crete – the oldest known European civilisation, which significantly influenced the culture of Greece, together with the culture of the whole of Western Europe. For the Minoans, whose history began 7,000 BC, the bull was a sacred animal – the personification of a religious cult of strength and fertility. Clay statues of bulls, bull heads made of gold and murals of daredevils jumping over bulls have survived in Crete to this day. Therefore, Minotaur was probably a god in human form, and the role of the man-eating monster was not attributed to him until Homer…
The medal maker Asamat Baltaev, DiS., placed the angry Minotaur on the reverse side of the coin and supplemented it with the English inscription MINOTAURUS.
The one who is mysterious, silent and patient is said to be like the Sphinx. No wonder. For Egypt’s most famous statue, with the face of a man and the body of a lion, stubbornly refuses to give up its secrets. It’s four and a half thousand years old, and what it was used for and who it represents is still disputed. While Egyptian Sphinxes probably protected temples, burial grounds and royal palaces from desecration, in Greek mythology the Sphinx was a cruel and tame creature. Her parents were the stocky giant Typhon and Echidna, who was half woman and half serpent. The Sphinx had the head and chest of a naked woman, the body of a lion, the tail of a snake and the wings of an eagle., She gave riddles to travelers by order of the goddess Hera. Anyone who did not guess, she would tear apart, but her own destiny was to die when someone solved her riddle…
The medal maker Mária Filová, DiS., placed the sitting Sphinx in her Greek form on the reverse side of the coin and supplemented it with the English inscription SPHINX.
According to ancient Greek legends, the brave recusant Perseus clashed with a number of mythical creatures. One of them was Medusa, an evil Gorgon with snakes for hair who turned everyone who laid eyes on her to stone. After Perseus cut off her head, a son named Pegasus sprang from her body. It’s a wonder the monstrous woman gave birth to a beautiful offspring in the form of a winged horse. What’s more, Pegasus was also kind and noble unlike his mother. All his life he helped sick children, served the Muses, accompanied famous heroes and protected all living. His wings allowed him to fly as fast as the wind and reach the gods, who sat atop Olympus. Therefore, a winged white man became the personification of freedom and liberty…
The medal maker Asamat Baltaev, DiS., placed a rearing steed on the reverse side of the coin, supplemented with the English inscription PEGASUS.
The scarabeus beetle, which was one of the most revered creatures among the ancient Egyptians, is known in Czech as sacred scarab. Because scarabs roll a ball of dung in front of them in which their offspring develop, the ancient people believed that all these beetles were actually females born from their own decay. This eternally repeating cycle reminded the Egyptians of the cycle of death and resurrection and the endless journey of the sun’s disc across the sky… Scarabs brought good luck and ubiquitous in Egyptian society. The living wore necklaces with a scarab motif on their necks, while the dead wore amulets placed directly on their hearts – among other things because the shape of the beetle resembles a vital organ.
The medal maker Mária Filová, DiS., placed a scarab with outstretched wings on the reverse side of the coin, supplemented with the English inscription SCARAB.
A standard effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank Broadley, there is some neat customisation present as well, consisting of a Greco=Roman border pattern, and a font in the same style. A small Czech Mint privy is also present.
Those interested in collecting the set may want to pick up one of the folders that can hold them all. One is on sale for each of the two variants, although they remain fundamentally the same. They look good, but at €37.10 each, a little price in our view.
|DENOMINATION||$5 NZD (Niue)||$2 NZD (Niue)|
|COMPOSITION||0.9999 gold||0.999 silver|
|WEIGHT||3.11 grams||31.1 grams|
|DIMENSIONS||16.00 mm||37.00 mm|
|MINTAGE||500 per design||1,000 per design|
|BOX / C.O.A.||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes|
Leave A Comment