One of the world's oldest manufacturers with continuous manufacture
Kremnica Mint is one of the oldest continuously manufacturing manufacturers worldwide. Its story began on 17 November 1328, when the Hungarian King Charles Robert of Anjou promoted Kremnica, a settlement surrounded by rich gold deposits, to a free royal town and granted to it the privilege to operate a mint. Coins that started to be minted here were made of gold with a purity of 23 carats and 9 grains; as they followed coin patterns coming out of Florence, they were initially referred to as florins. Since a Latin inscription was found on a similar gold coin used in the town of Venice, ending with the words "ista ducatus"
, people started to call this type of coins 'ducats', and the coins became historically known under just this name.
All Kremnica ducats were characterized by high and stable levels of purity, thanks to which they were considered the hardest currency in Central Europe. Available historical records report that 21.5 million ducats were minted in Kremnica Mint throughout its history. The aggregate value of this amount, measured at today's prices of gold, would be one billion US dollars (exclusive of the historical value).
Talers and medals
Masters of Kremnica had good command of unique gold refining technologies that enabled them to produce 250 thousand gold ducats per year - an incredible amount in those times. Such an annual production was maintained until the end of the 15th century; thereafter, gold ducats started to be substituted by coins made from less precious metals. The last ducats as national currency were manufactured in 1881. This Kremnica company was one of the first mints in 1499 to start minting silver tolars. Coin minting is technologically and logically closely linked with the minting of medals, and medals that started to be minted in Kremnica Mint at the end of the 15th century also contributed to the fame of the Mint's. A medal is not a unit of currency. A medal is an art work with very concentrated focus on a specific social event. The author has only a limited space on the medal's surface to express an idea. Also the height of the relief is by far more liberal than that of coin.
A medal is an information carrier with unlimited durability, and therefore the preciseness of workmanship and absolutely true reproduction of the portrayed reality are essential - as said by the words of Jean Babelon, a 19th century medal expert : "Let it be known that a medal will give an eternal testimony of us"
Medal for the Coronation of Ladislav II.
The first ever known medal of Kremnica origin is a medal for the Coronation of Ladislav II as a child from 1508. The first era of the Kremnica medal-minting tradition is associated with the names of masters such as Kristof Fussl, Lukas Richter, Abraham Eisker, and many others, who created Renaissance medals ranking among the most precious numismatic jewels today. At the end of this era, in the 17th century, the Roths of Rothenfels, the father and two sons excelled in their craft that became famous through their St. George's medals, used by horse cavalries as talismans.
Mint in the 15th century
In the mid-15th century, the Mint was relocated to a site inside the ring of the town's walls, and formed a separated protected complex of buildings. The structures of both mint facilities have been preserved in their original locations to date. The historical buildings, leaning towards the town walls in their north-west section, were completed in 1880's and equipped as a modern minting manufacting unit. In 1892, when the Koruna was introduced as the currency of the union of Austria and Hungary,
Kremnica Mint was able to smoothly cope with the sharp increase in minting associated with the introduction of new currency coins. Hungary had several mints during the medieval age, such as in Bratislava, in Hungarian Nagy Banya, or Romanian Alba Iulia. However, Kremnica Mint was far ahead in terms of both processing technology and production amounts. Gradually the state wound up unpromising minting facilities and, therefore, at the end of the 19th century, Kremnica Mint was the only mint in Hungary. The Mint's peak production era was during Empress Maria Theresa's reign . Then, the amounts of coins minted in Kremnica were higher than the amounts minted by all other royal mints collectively. Given the nature of the production, the facility was also a centre where the latest technologies were employed and new machines designed. The first known minting machine was a drop press, launched in 1565, with an operating principle resembling that of drop hammers, still used in the building industry for pile hammering.
The era of the greatest fame of Kremnica Mint was associated with the use of a screw press, referred to as 'Balancier'.
This machine was introduced at Kremnica Mint by the well-known Swedish engineer, engraver and medal-maker Daniel Warou in 1710. With this machine a modern coin minting method was introduced which has been in use up until now. Thus, Kremnica became the first location in Central Europe to use the Balancier machine.
Kremnica's manufacturing pattern was then followed by mints in Vienna and Prague. The amounts of coins struck in Kremnica are evidenced, among others, by the number of Balancier machines operated within the Mint: while the Vienna mint had 4 and the Prague mint 3, Kremnica used 18 Balancier machines. The Mint was able to design and build such machines on its own and, upon request, supplied them to other mints throughout the kingdom.
After 1918, and throughout the duration of the united state, Kremnica Mint was the only mint existing in former Czechoslovakia. The Mint was immediately affected by events associated with the World Wars. After the WWI, only empty buildings remained of the Mint. All the equipment and precious metal stock ended up in Budapest. At the end of WWII, a retreating squad of German soldiers used explosives to destroy all the Mint's equipment . In both cases, the employees combined theirefforts and revived the facility in a short time. The introduction into circulation of a new currency was of vital interest to the state.
Modern mint's history
In late 1986, a new plant outside the confines of the town was completed, and the entire coin production was transferred there in order to avoid disturbing the tranquil atmosphere of the historical town's centre. Only medal production remained at the old location. Until the early 1990's, the Mint plant was the only currency producer for the Czech and Slovak Republic. As of 1 January 1993, the plant continues to serve this duty on behalf of the independent Slovak Republic. The 23rd of January 1993 was the day of the birth of the new Slovak coins. The first minting machine was launched in a festively decorated minting shop in the presence of the Head of Parliament, representatives of the National Bank of Slovakia, and invited guests and a large number of journalists and representatives of TV and radio stations. The general public does not have the slightest clue as to what an exceptional achievement this was: this happened only less than three months after formulating the initial idea of what should basically appear on the coinsů
In the end of 2008, Kremnica Mint struck also the new Slovak euro coins. Those were produces already in the new modern minting room that was created by overhaul reconstruction of the old production room located in Mint's original building in historical center of Kremnica, where Mint is positioned since mid 15th century.
Currently, Kremnica Mint is one of about 80 facilities of this kind worldwide; it personifies symbiosis between the past and the present, and between the town and the plant. It is a manufacturing facility, and at the same time it is a cultural and artistic institution, and a symbol of the state's sovereignty. The obligation of following up the past and enhancing present developments is best captured in the text inscribed on a medal issued on the occasion of the opening of the new coin minting shop: "I WILL RETAIN AND MAGNIFY THIS FAMOUS HERITAGE FOR YOU"