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Latvia commem mimics fine China

Let’s just call this the “I think I’ve finally seen it all” department. In recent years there have been non-circulating legal tender coins shaped as ingots, sharks, baseball gloves, maps and just about everything imaginable other than flying saucers. Well, perhaps this saucer isn’t flying, but Latvia has recently issued a commemorative Baltars Porcelain 5-euro coin shaped as either a saucer or a plate.


According to the Latvijas Banka or Bank of Latvia, the coin is dedicated to the Baltars fine china workshop that is considered to be the pride of Latvian national culture. The coin appears to be a miniature plate or saucer, but isn’t as fragile as fine china, having been composed of 0.925 fine silver instead.

Frančeska Kirke, the artist who designed the coin, has previously designed a horseshoe and a basketball NCLT coin, each for Latvia. The new coin was struck at the UAB Lietuvos monetu kalykla or Lithuanian Mint. The commemorative is limited to an issue of 5,000 pieces. It was released Aug. 9 through the Latvian Bank Cashier Office (K. Valdemāra iela 1B in Riga and Teātra iela 3 in Liepāja) or online at

The obverse of the coin depicts art deco images as appear on a classic plate that was produced during the 1920s. The reverse appears as would be expected for the bottom of a plate. Latvia was independent between the two World Wars of the first half of the 20th century. The nation regained its independence following the disintegration of the Soviet Union during the 1990s.

The coin appears as it would if it were composed of porcelain, but isn’t as brittle. Porcelain composition notgeld coins were made between 1915 and 1923 for Eisenach in Thuringia, Freiberg in Saxony, Munsterberg in Silesia, Quedlinburg in Saxony-Anhalt and other cities throughout Germany. Notgeld was meant to be used as small change during a chronic coinage shortage during the years of German hyperinflation following World War One. Notgeld porcelain was being produced primarily in Meissen in Saxony about the same time the Baltars porcelain fine plates were being designed in Latvia.

The process for making hard paste porcelain or Böttgersteinzeug was developed by Meissen Porcelain Company employee Johann Friedrich Böttger. The dance concept appearing on the 2016 coin was designed by Latvian artist Romans Suta. Suta’s design was meant “to create a cultural milieu corresponding to the era of modernism and its language of form.”

According to the Latvia central bank, “His [Suta’s] intent mostly focused on interior design and applied arts where decorative ceramics was supposed to work as a peculiar accent of functionalist and constructivist aesthetics and ideology.”

Modern porcelain is not as brittle as had been good china made in earlier times, but even the German notgeld coins chip easily. Had the Latvian 5-euro coin been composed of porcelain it would have followed a long numismatic tradition. Terracotta elephant staters are known commencing during the reign of Seleucus I of Syria. The staters were likely used as models for celators or coin engravers in the Seleucid Mint; although, it has been speculated they were also used as tokens in Seleucia for the same purpose as did German notgeld coins centuries later.

Round, square and rectangular Thai porcelain tokens also known as “pee” or “Xuanluo taoci daibi” initially used for gambling were produced in large numbers mainly during the 19th century. Inscriptions are in either Chinese or Thai. These tokens eventually circulated as a form of small change coinage.

Germany was not the first 20th century country to use porcelain for token coins. White porcelain coins were issued by the Empresa Electro-Ceramica in Portugal. Among Portuguese issues is a 1921 2 centavos made for the city of Gaia.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today

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