The Carolina steamboat first sailed the Danube 200 years ago. Slovakian silver coin commemorates.

Steamboats are not a subject that appears with great regularity in the numismatic world, but we’ve recently had a new series debut at the Swiss Mint and now the National Bank of Slovakia is adding a new coin. The coin commemorates 200 years since the steamboat Carolina first made its way along the Danube river. Built to the plans of Hungarian inventor Antal Bernhard, the ship was employed as a ferry service between the cities of Buda and Pest, then distinctly seperate cities.

Sadly, the service was not a success and just a few months later it was suspended. Powered by a 24 HP steam engine, she was never going to break speed records, but even then you’d have thought the novelty factor at the time would have been enough. It was not to be and the last reported location of the Carolina was as a wreck on the Danube’s southern shore.

The coin comes in at 18 grams in weight and is struck in 90% (0.900) fineness silver. It has a clean-struck finish, devoid of modification like colour or gilding – a classic coin style.  The artwork is quite unusual, certainly not going to far down the realism route, but the style seems to work well and offers a good look at the vessel on the reverse face – one going some way to explaining why nobody wanted to get on it… The obverse features a look at the mechanism that powered this early steamboat and is a fascinating glimpse of the early technology employed to power ships in this period. All of that equipment generated just 24 HP!

Struck by the Kremnica Mint, their mintmark is placed on this face. All in all a quirky design, but a good one by designer Zbyněk Fojtů. Available now, these are not the easiest coins in the world to track down, but prices seem very keen where we’ve seen them. There are two versions distinguished by finish, but both versions sell for well under €30. The brilliant uncirculated version has a mintage of 5,650 and the proof is capped at 2,750 pieces.


In the nineteenth century, the age of steam, the development of steamboat transportation was seen also in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The first time a steamer sailed on the Danube River was in 1817. The Carolina, as she was named, was a wooden paddle steamer built by Antal Bernhard (1779–1830) in Vienna. Measuring 15 metres long, 3.5 metres wide and 2.3 metres freeboard, and generating 24 horsepower, the Carolina was able to haul a load of 45 tonnes upstream. She was tested over a longer distance on 2 September 1818, travelling in three hours from Vienna to Bratislava and mooring on the quay near Coronation Mound (now Ľudovít Štúr Square). The next day, according to the Pressburger Zeitung newspaper, the Carolina put on a demonstration for curious onlookers by turning upstream and downstream several times, before moving on downriver to Pest. She sailed upriver from Pest for the first time on 16 September 1818 and, travelling only by day, reached Komárno on 26 September 1818.

OBVERSE: The coin’s obverse design portrays technical parts of the Carolina, which in 1818 became the first steamboat to sail to Bratislava on the Danube. Slovakia’s coat of arms is situated on the left side, below the name of the issuing country ‘SLOVENSKO’. The year of issuance ‘2018’ is shown at the bottom of the coin. In the upper right of the design are the mint mark of the Kremnica Mint (consisting of the letters ‘MK’ between two dies) and the stylised letters ‘ZF’, the initials of the coin’s designer Zbyněk Fojtů.

REVERSE: The reverse depicts the Carolina with a view of Bratislava in the background. At the bottom of the design is the coin’s denomination and currency ‘10 EURO’, and at the top is the inscription ‘PRVÝ PARNÍK V BRATISLAVE’ (THE FIRST STEAMER IN BRATISLAVA) in semi-circle. At the left side is the year ‘1818’, when the Carolina made her maiden journey.

COMPOSITION 0.900 silver
WEIGHT 18.0 grams
FINISH Proof or Brilliant Uncirculated
MINTAGE 2,750 (pp) and 5,650 (bu)
BOX / COA Yes / Yes