Featured 1000 Year Anniversary of the Althing

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by Chris B, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. Chris B

    Chris B Supporter! Supporter

    Minted in 1930 to commemorate the 1000-year anniversary of the Althing this is one of the more stunning coins ever made (in my humble opinion). I find it hard to fathom a 1000-year anniversary of anything. This coin was minted at the Saxon State Mint in Germany at the request of the Icelandic Parliament, the Althing, to commemorate their anniversary. It is one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world and a forerunner of the Western Democracy style of governing.

    The obverse of the coin is a magnificent relief of the King of Thule on his throne, with his hands on the heads of kneeling children; it bears the initials EJ, for designer Einar Jonsson.


    The reverse is the Icelandic coat of arms with a sailing ship, shield, and crown surrounded by four mythic creatures. It bears the initials B.B. for designer Baldvin Björnsson.


    There was a total mintage of 10,001 pieces. This piece is 45mm in diameter and about 1-1/2 ounces of silver.

    In addition to being a historically significant design, the coin was designed by 2 of the leading artists of their time.

    Einar Jónsson was an Icelandic sculptor, born in Galtafell, a farm in southern Iceland. At a young age, Einar proved himself to be an unusual child with an artistic bent. At that time there was little or no tradition of sculpture in Iceland, so Einar moved to Denmark where he attended the Copenhagen Academy of Art. In 1902 the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, awarded Einar a grant to study in Rome for 2 years. He returned from Rome to Copenhagen and settled down there. According to The Einar Jónsson Museum in Reykjavik after residing in Rome:

    "Jónsson completely rejected naturalistic depiction and publicly criticized the classical art tradition, which he felt had weighed artists down. He emphasized the need for artists to forge their own path and cultivate their originality and imagination instead of following the footsteps of others. His ideas were related to German symbolism, and he developed a figurative language composed of interpretable symbols, personification, and allegory."

    In 1909, after living abroad for almost 20 years he made an arrangement with the Althing to provide him with a home and studio in Reykjavík. In return, he agreed to donate all his works to the country. Einar designed this combination living and working space in collaboration with Architect Einar Erlendsson, though early plans for the house were designed for him by Iceland's State Architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, but these were never realized.

    In 1914 Einar was awarded a commission by Joseph Bunford Samuel to create a statue of Icelandic explorer Þorfinnur Karlsefni (Thorfinn Karlsefni) for placement in Philadelphia. Bunford commissioned the sculpture through a bequest that his wife, Ellen Phillips Samuel, made to the Fairmount Park Art Association specifying that the funds were to be used to create a series of sculptures "emblematic of the history of America." Thorfinn Karlsefni was installed along Philadelphia's Kelly Drive near the Samuel Memorial and unveiled on November 20, 1920. There is another casting of the statue in Reykjavík, Iceland.

    In 1917, the day after he married Anne Marie Jørgensen, he and his bride traveled to the United States to complete the work, and today Einar's intrepid Norseman stands on East River Drive in Philadelphia. Several years later, in 1921, his second major North American work was erected when the Icelandic community in Manitoba, Canada purchased a casting of his Jón Sigurðsson statue and had it placed in the Manitoba Legislative Building grounds in Winnipeg. As with the version in Reykjavík, this statue included the bas relief The Pioneers on the base.

    After two years in America, Einar returned to Iceland where he produced an amazing body of work, none of it seen outside the country. Unlike most other sculptors, Einar worked almost entirely in plaster. This had to do partly with the lack of good modeling clay in Iceland, but it allowed Einar to work on his individual sculptures for years. Spending over a decade on a particular piece was not uncommon for him.

    Baldvin Björnsson was an Icelandic painter and goldsmith. He became the first Icelandic artist to work in the abstract while he stayed in Berlin from 1901 to 1914.

    Baldvin was the son of the saintly daughter of Sigrid and Bjorn Arnason goldsmith. He trained as a goldsmith with his father in Isafjordur and then moved to Copenhagen to work fully in the trade. After that, he went to Berlin where he worked for thirteen years at the gold shop. Where he married Martha Clara Bemme (later Björnsson). They had three sons, Hauk merchant (1906), one of the founders of the Communist Party of Iceland, Harald Stein merchant (1910) and Bjorn Theodor art historian (1922). Hw and Martha moved to Iceland when World War I broke out.

    There is little information on Friedrich Hornlein, the engraver, aside from references to this coin.

    Obverse Designer: EJ - Einar Jonsson

    Reverse Designer: BB - Baldvin Bjornsson

    Subject: 1000 Years Althing

    Note: Prev. KM#M3. FH stands for Friedrich Hornlein, the engraver.

    Composition: Silver

    Weight: 45.0000

    Diameter: 45mm

    Sources: Wikipedia and others
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  3. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    Very nice write-up. They are actually medals, not coins, but of the same weight and metals of coins of similar size. That is why they have been given pseudo-denominations.
  4. Chris B

    Chris B Supporter! Supporter

    Krause and others classify them as coins because it has a denomination on the edge.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
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  5. sonlarson

    sonlarson World Silver Collector Supporter

    Nice write up. This coin has been high on my list for a long time. One of these days I'll pull the trigger.
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  6. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector

    Right, strictly speaking they are medals. But the three pieces (2, 5 and 10 krónur) have the denomination on the edge, and were produced with the "option" to be made legal tender by the Icelandic government. But that never happened, so ...

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  7. Steve66

    Steve66 Coin People

    Very nice piece!

    Here is the 2 and 5 kroner of my set.

    4568C509-D976-4A20-A49C-CBF6F72CD65D.jpeg 807DA99D-05A4-4784-B35A-EE21BB611C06.jpeg 5718E3AE-0E8A-4C25-9541-315B06ABAD7C.jpeg E5EDAA0E-6B19-4657-988A-1F6FC7A86A4B.jpeg

    I read somewhere that the 5 kroner was accepted as legal tender in some establishments.
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  8. Maxfli

    Maxfli Well-Known Member

    Wow! Spectacular coin (or medal, whatever) and terrific write-up. I learned something today. Thank you!
  9. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector

    Don't think so; legal tender is what a government declares to be money that cannot be refused by a creditor if somebody needs to pay a debt. And of course there are lots of "legal tender" pieces in the world that are not actually used, just collected. ;)

    Now "accepted as means of payment", that I can imagine. In that sense, many things work - telephone tokens, "foreign" money, gold bars ... In any case, the designs of the three pieces are quite attractive. And 1000 years, that is definitely something too. In Europe, only the regional parliaments of the Isle of Man and the Faroe Islands are roughly about as old, I think ...

  10. mlov43

    mlov43 주화 수집가

    Let's get an image of the edge!
  11. mlov43

    mlov43 주화 수집가

    Agreed! However, if you're gonna commemorate something that old, this is it!
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  12. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector

    See the "Edge" and "Comments" sections of this page ...

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  13. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector

    The Isle of Man, by the way, issued its parliament (tynwald) millennium coins in 1979. Almost 50 years younger, hehe. That was a set of three as well, I think, but not quite as nice in my opinion ...

  14. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    It is a good day - I learned something new. I didn't realize they had an incuse lettered edge with a denomination. Thanks.
  15. Iceman57

    Iceman57 Junior Member

    Since we are on the subject of the althingi medal I figured I throw my 2 kronur sense.. in the mix

    Attached Files:

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  16. Cachecoins

    Cachecoins Historia Moneta

    Wow...love it. :)
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  17. KSorbo

    KSorbo Well-Known Member

    I had a chance to visit the original Althing site in Thingvellir National Park. The meetings were held outdoors regardless of weather in a desolate, depressing climate. When I saw it I remember wishing that our Congress could also meet there. It would give them motivation to pass legislation quickly, and if the weather was anything like the day I was there I can guarantee there would be no filibusters.
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