Not the most prolific of mints, the Swiss Mint does offer a fascinating glimpse into this beautiful alpine country, regardless. Some of the subjects (Yodelling!!) are a little esoteric, but everybody knows a Swiss Army Knife when they see one. As iconic in red as a London bus, these hugely popular utensils are available in a huge range of practical, and impractical configurations. The 20g coin is a standard 20CHF affair from this mint, struck in the rarely used 0.835 fineness silver, and available with an uncirculated finish (30,000 mintage of which 5,000 are in a card sleeve), or in a box with a proof finish (5,000).
Scientific illustrator Nadja Baltensweiler from Lucerne has drawn up a good representation of the knife against a view of the Swiss Alps. There’s no mistaking what the coin subject is, and that’s surely the point. An eclectic coin, it’s available to order now from the Swiss Mint shop, or from their dealers worldwide.
In the 19th century, our country was one of the poorest states in Europe and high unemployment forced many Swiss to emigrate. The creation of jobs was therefore greeted with open arms. With this in mind, Schwyz-born Karl Elsener (1860 – 1918) founded a cutlery workshop in Ibach in 1884. He came up with the idea of manufacturing soldiers’ knives which had previously been made in Germany in Switzerland. However, his business was too small to obtain orders from the army. For this reason, in 1891 he founded the Swiss cutlers’ association with the aim of manufacturing the soldiers’ knives for the army together with other cutlers in Switzerland. The first delivery was made the same year. At the time, the knife pioneer would probably never have dreamed that it would one day become a world-famous company.
The soldier’s knife was very robust but also relatively heavy. So Karl Elsener developed a lighter and above all more elegant knife with even more functions. He called this pocket knife model the “Officer’s and Sports Knife” and had it legally protected in 1897. However, unlike the soldier’s knife, the Officer’s Knife did not become official army equipment. This did not affect its success. The “Swiss Army Knife”, as the Officer’s Knife was called for export, began to conquer the world after the Second World War. Victorinox AG is now run by the fourth generation of the Elsener family.