German printer and publisher Ernst Litfass (Ernst Litfaß) is the subject of a 2016 20-euro silver coin honoring the bicentennial of his birth. Litfass was born in Berlin on February 11, 1816 and took over his stepfather’s newspaper business in 1845. In 1858, Litfass published the 242-volume Economic Encyclopedia (Oekonomische Encyklopädie), a well-known German encyclopedia that was started by Johann Georg Krünitz in 1773 and comprises a total of 170,000 pages. While the encyclopedia is out of print, what is perhaps Litfass’s most lasting contribution can still be found at sporting arenas, on sidewalks and other outdoor places where the masses gather: the advertising column.
Advertising cylinders, which usually stand between six- and 12-feet tall and typically measure three- to six-feet in diameter provide businesses with a centralized place to post advertisements and posters. Litfaßsäule advertising columns are as ubiquitous in some cities as newspaper stands, and many European Litfaßsäule advertising cylinders (often called Morris columns in France) contain pay toilets, mechanical equipment for city infrastructure, vents for underground transit systems, and municipal storage rooms.
Much of Litfass’ financial success came by way of his advertising column invention, which had spread in use throughout Germany and around the world by the time of his death on December 27, 1874. The sterling silver 20-euro German Uncirculated and Proof coins honoring Litfass and his life fittingly depict one of his eponymous advertising columns.
The obverse of the coin, which was designed by artist Susanne Jünger, features a stylized version of the Bundesadler federal eagle from the German coat of arms floating above a featureless plane symbolizing a city sidewalk. On the sidewalk is the inscription SILBER 925, signifying the coin’s 92.5-percent silver composition, and a “D” mintmark indicating the Munich Mint.
Within the plane is a triangular formation of six stars which, along with a similar arrangement of six stars above the eagle, represent the 12 stars of the European Union. To the right of the eagle is the coin’s date, 2016, and on the left is the coin’s denomination, EURO 20. Arched in two lines along the upper-left obverse rim is the inscription BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND, or Federal Republic of Germany.
The plane seen on the obverse below the Bundesadler eagle is carried through over to the reverse, where it artistically anchors a design featuring an elaborate Litfass advertising column. Standing next to the poster-adorned Litfaßsäule is the silhouette of a man wearing mid-19th-century business attire and a top hat; the male figure somewhat resembles Litfass as seen in many period portraits, though the simplicity of the design lends the well-dressed person to symbolically portray a typical 19th-century individual who would have read advertisements on the Litfass column.
In the background stands a 19th-century European-style streetlight, with the designer’s initials “SJ” (Susanne Jünger) situated just to the left of the base of the streetlight. The inscription 200. GEBURTSTAG ERNST LITFASS reads along the top half of the reverse rim in semi-circular fashion.
|Year Of Issue:||2016|
|Mint Mark:||D (Munich)|
|Mintage:||Uncirculated: 800,000; Proof: 175,000|
|Alloy:||92.5% Silver, 7.5% Copper|
|Edge:||Inscribed: RUNDUM INFORMIERT (“All-Round Information”)|
|OBV Designer||Susanne Jünger|
|REV Designer||Susanne Jünger|
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