Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic, Numismatic Curator, Balzekas Museum.
A rare original plaster coin model sculpted by the designer of Lithuania’s 1925-36-38 coins, Juozas Zikaras (1881-1944), has been donated to the Balzekas Museum. This piece was donated to the Museum by Elena Sakas-Sluder of Colorado.
This white plaster model measures 213 mm. in diameter, and is 15 mm. thick. The design features the obverse of the proposed 50 litu gold coin which was never issued by the Republic of Lithuania.
Sculptor Zikaras was authorized to design a 50 litu gold coin in 1925, and began his work on the project that year. This particular obverse design was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on July 15, 1925. A half-million litai was allocated in the 1926 budget for work required to produce this coin.
It was subsequently determined however, that a 50 litu gold coin was unnecessary in normal commerce, and that the allocated funds could be better used elsewhere. Thus, no regular gold coins were struck by the Republic of Lithuania during the period of independence 1918-1940.
This obverse design features the legend “LIETUVOS RESPUBLICA” similar to that which appeared on the 1925 coins minted in England. The date at the bottom is “1926.”
In the center is a young Lithuanian woman, seated, and facing left. She is clothed in a fine long flowing dress, and holding a flag with a staff in her right hand. Her left arm is resting upon a shield with a double-barred cross, as found on the Vytis emblem. The shield contains an embellished dotted border, as does the cross. In her arm rests an olive branch, symbolic of peace.
Of special interest is the crown on her head. The crown top is shaped like the Hill of Gediminas located in the capital city of Vilnius, then under Polish occupation (1920-1939). The crown base forms the Columns of Gediminas design.
The reverse of this plaster model does not have any design, but has the incused hand-engraved writing of the sculptor, “SKULPTORIUS JUOZAS ZIKARAS.”
A red plaster model of this exact design is housed in the M.K. Ciurlionis Museum of Fine Art in Kaunas. That model is illustrated on page 123 of the 1995 book “Lietuvos Pinigai” by Ruta Kunciene. It however, has a full horizontal crack at the position of the top of the bottom crossbar.
Zikaras also continued work on a design for the 50 litu reverse, but did not complete it because the decision was made to abandon the project. That design consisted of a farmer on the left plowing his field, with a horse on the right. No legend or denomination was included by Zikaras, nor did there appear a Vytis emblem, the national insignia of Lithuania. Space was included, however for those features on that incomplete design, with that red plaster model also in the Ciurlionis Museum.
The piece donated to the Balzekas Museum has been placed on display in the Numismatic Room next to the collection of 1925-36-38 coins designed by Juozas Zikaras.
Plaster Model of the 1925 50 Litu Coin, Front View.
Juozas Zikaras (1881-1944)
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic