The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 46, November 9, 2014, Article 20


Numismatourist Howard Berlin submitted his latest report for E-Sylum readers, this time from Tallinn, Estonia. Thanks! -Editor

A previous article in The E-Sylum was about my visit to two museums in Vilnius. Leaving Vilnius after four days, I flew to Tallinn, Estonia with a brief stopover to change planes in Riga, Latvia.

Bank of Estonia Museum In Tallinn I visited the country’s central bank museum, the Bank of Estonia Museum, where I was met by Siiri Ries, the museum’s manger, who guided me around the museum’s exhibits. Siiri had also provided information for my book, so seeing her and the museum in person was special.

Bank of Estonia Museum manager Siiri Ries Bank of Estonia Museum spiral staircase
Siiri Ries; Bank of Estonia Museum spiral staircase

The museum is in the former building of the bank of the Credit Society of the Estonian Knighthood. Built in 1904, at the time it represented the first modern purpose-built bank in Tallinn and was fully transferred to the Bank of Estonia in 1998. Renovations in 2010 allowed the museum to occupy approximately 4,000 square feet (370 square meters). There are three exhibition halls: Aadlisaal (Hall of Nobility), Peasant, and the Treasury Center. All have a little piece of hidden history in each one. Computer animation is used to explain the meaning of money, the role of the Viking trade, and Estonian participation in world trade in the 9th-10th centuries.

Bank of Estonia Museum display panel On display are the currencies that were used in Estonia before it became an independent republic in 1918. The Museum also displays every banknote and coin issued since independence, including the initial promissory and credit notes to the first actual currency banknotes denominated in the original marka system until 1940. This is followed by occupations by the Russians (1940-1941, and 1945-1990) and the Germans (1941-1944), after which independence from the Soviet Bloc allowed the 1992 monetary reform that established the Eesti kroon from 1992 to 2010. Multimedia is displayed in Estonian, English, and Russian, while exhibit texts are in both Estonian and English.

Visitors can also see a historic gold bar of the Bank of Estonia from 1922 that was part of the reserves backing the kroon during the first Republic of Estonia and also during re-independence. The historic gold bar was delivered to Estonia in December 2011 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Estonian History Museum entrance While in Tallinn, I was fortunate to have time to also visit the Estonian History Museum, with Ms. Ries providing me with the name and e-mail of its curator, Dr. Ivar Leimus. This museum has an exhibition, titled, "Striking it rich?! Money in Estonia Through the Ages.” It occupies a small vaulted room off from the museum’s entrance foyer, called the “Excise Chamber,” which was built between the Great Guild Hall and an adjacent house in 1551. The exhibition, started about three years ago by Dr. Leimus, provides an overview of the currencies that have been used in Estonia’s history. There are six major displays and they are supplemented with specimens contained in over 70 pull-out drawers. In addition, there are three different interactive video informational displays with Dr. Leimus narrating in Estonian with English subtitles.

The exhibition, documenting the money used in the former Livonia up to the present-day independent Estonia, covers six time periods: Viking Age, 800-1200 AD; Middle Ages, 1200-1561 AD; Early Modern Period, 1591-1710 AD; Late Modern Period, 1710-1800 AD; Late Modern Period, 1800-1918 AD; and Contemporary History, 1918-2011 AD.

Estonian History Museum numismatic curator Dr Ivar Leimus
Estonian History Museum numismatic curator Dr Ivar Leimus

Before heading home, I flew to London for an overnight stay. While there I met up with Michael Alexander who writes for the on-line sites CoinNews and Coin Update. Besides reporting on numismatic news, Michael also occasionally visits and writes about numismatic museums. Michael has visited the Tallinn museums several times and I was able to pass on regards from Siiri and Ivar. We traded some travel “war stories” over faux milkshakes at a McDonalds on High Street Kensington.

Later that day I also met up with a nephew and his girlfriend who both live in London’s Hampstead Village. We had dinner at Goodman Restaurant, a steakhouse in on Maddox Street in the Mayfair district. This time, I got hit with the bill – £238 ($381) for a party of three! I was debating between paying with five crisp, new £50 notes I recently got from the Bank of England or using plastic. Payment using the credit card won, thereby allowing me to collect my frequent flyer miles on British Air.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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