Numismatourist Howard Berlin is on the road again. Here's his latest report
for The E-Sylum readers, this time from Vilnius, Lithuania. Thanks! -Editor
Despite having been in over 54 countries, I had never visited any of the three Baltic countries.
While in Helsinki several times, I could barely make out the skyline of Tallinn, Estonia across the
sea, but never had the time to take even the ferry for a day trip. This time, I planned a trip of
four days in Vilnius and Tallinn, first stopping in Berlin. After spending 24 hours in Berlin, I
flew to Vilnius, Lithuania (the original home of my material grandfather and sculptor Victor David
Brenner) via an airplane transfer at Copenhagen.
It’s surprising how often I run into a numismatic item without really trying while traveling,
some of which have been told in past issues of The E-Sylum. This time in my hotel in
Vilnius, I saw this oval table top in the hallway a few yards from my room. What caught my eye as I
passed the table was a scattering of coins from quite a few countries. However, none were U.S.
coins, not even the lowly penny.
The day following my arrival in Vilnius, I went to the Money Museum of the National Bank of
Lithuania, and met with Ms. Vita Beržiunaite, a curator there. I had written about the museum in my
book, but nothing beats actually being there.
Museum of the Bank of Lithuania was created in 1999 and is located next to the headquarters of the
nation’s central bank. The high-technology Museum’s exhibition is divided into multiple galleries
on two floors where visitors are introduced to the history of world money, the complicated history
of Lithuanian money, and banking in Lithuania. Basic information is provided in Lithuanian and
The History of Money Hall is located in the basement, presents the development of money from its
most primitive forms, like grain, cowrie shells, furs, and amber to electronic money. The History
of Banking Hall on the ground floor where visitors are introduced to the beginning of Lithuanian
banking to the present day. The Contemporary Money Hall showcases banknotes and coins used in
different countries today. Visitors can view the banknotes put in special drawers after pulling
open the drawer with the name of a selected country. The drawers are connected by special sensors
to a computer program that activates the screen on a video wall and presents relevant information
about the selected country on it. This information for about 200 countries can also be viewed on
the wall using a computer terminal.
Also in this hall, information is presented about the Bank of Lithuania, the nation’s central
bank. In the Lithuanian Money Hall, exhibits are able to be seen using a vertical automatic
conveyor. Each of the eight conveyors carries plastic cards with the coins of the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania, Republic of Lithuania, and other territories which had been in circulation in the
country. Pushing a button allow visitors to adjust the height of viewing the cards with the coins,
and raise or pull down a lens to view small elements of a coin. In the stationary cases are the
commemorative coins of the Republic of Lithuania and in the 20 pull-out cases, the banknotes used
in the country from the late 18th century to the present day are on display.
While discussing her museum, Vita mentioned another museum, the National Museum of Lithuania,
that had some coins on display. I took a cab to the museum and once inside, I asked the lady at the
cashier’s booth about the coins on display. She walked me to the area and when I asked, said I
could take some pictures. After snapping a few, another lady, I guess a docent, sounded very
authoritative in Lithuanian which I gathered from her shaking her head and waving her index finger
– no photography! There are some nice items on display here but I don’t have any real pictures of
them. Apparently I needed to get permission from el jefe (the director) to take pictures, but she
wasn’t in. “Šudas!” (sh#*t, as they say it in Lithuanian) – Oh well. perhaps on another visit
before Putin annexes the country.
The museums of Tallinn, will appear in a following issue of The E-Sylum.
A partial view of the museum’s Lithuanian Money Hall, illustrating the history of Lithuania’s
currency. There are sliding magnification lens for coins and pull-out panels for currency.
The museum’s Contemporary Money Hall with over 200 countries represented.
History of Money Hall covering ancient monies to the present.
The National Museum of Lithuania, which has a few display case of coins. In the background high
up on a hill is the 15th-century Gediminas’ Tower, the remaining part of Vilnius’ historic “Upper
Castle” which is depicted on the national currency.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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