Location: Bank of Lithuania (Gedimino pr. 6)

The first exhibition “Litas: Traditions and the Present” organised at the Museum of the Bank of Lithuania featured two periods of the museum’s history and the introduction of the national currency. Although the idea of the national currency was considered already in 1919, it took up until 1922 for the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania to pass the laws on the national currency and, later, on the Bank of Lithuania, which was entrusted with its introduction. The exhibition displayed temporary banknotes dated 10 September 1922 that were printed at Otto Elsner’s press in Berlin, permanent banknotes dated 16 November 1922 (designed by Adomas Varnas) that were printed at Andrea Haase’s print in Prague, as well as sample one- and two-sided litas prints and banknote grid examples of the same issue. The exhibition also presented other banknotes that were issued before the Soviet occupation of 15 June 1940. Of particular interest was the 16 February 1938-issue banknote featuring a portrait of Antanas Smetona and the Act of Independence on its front side, and the Council of Lithuania on the back, which has never entered into circulation.

50 years later – in 1989 – Lithuania’s economic independence and the national currency once again became an object of debate. The exhibition for the first time displayed litas banknote design projects with graphic elements designed by Lithuanian artists Raimundas Miknevičius, Liudvikas Pocius, Giedrius Jonaitis, Alvydas Mandeika, Rimvydas Bartkus, Justas Tolvaišis and Rytis Valantinas. These designs were submitted to the French company Francois Charles Oberthur that was supposed to print these banknotes in 1990. Unfortunately, the contract with the company was later terminated. With the Bank of Lithuania’s establishment on 1 March 1990 and the restoration of Lithuania’s independence on 11 March, a more active preparation for introducing the national currency began. The exhibition also featured a temporary Lithuanian currency talonas that circulated from 1 May 1992, and did not perform the monetary function but was rather used alongside roubles for purchasing industrial goods of high demand. There also were the first sample prints of the general talonas printed at the Spindulys press in Kaunas. The exhibition presented all 1991–1993 talonas denominations along with their printing blocks and prints admitted to press with the signatures of Edmundas Žukauskas and Romualdas Visokavičius.

Following the Litas Committee’s decision, the litas and its cents were introduced on 25 June 1993. The exhibition displayed litas banknote samples of all denominations, printed at the United States Banknote Corporation, Thomas De la Rue and Company Limited in England as well as at Giesecke & Devrient in Germany, all marked with the dates 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997. It also featured the England-based company’s gift to the Bank of Lithuania – interwar Lithuania’s 5, 20, 100 and 1,000 litas banknotes as well as 1, 2 and 5 litas prints of the 1993–1994 issue. A large part of the exhibition was dedicated to the Lithuanian Mint which started minting 1, 2 and 5 cent circulation coins on 30 September 1992. The exhibition also presented plaster models of the first minted coins (1, 2 and 5 cents), designed by Petras Henrikas Garška and signed by the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania Audrius Misevičius, as well as other models designed by artists Rimantas Eidėjus, Rytas Jonas Belevičius and Antanas Žukauskas. Visitors could also get acquainted with the first commemorative coins minted at the Lithuanian Mint (10 litas coin dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the transatlantic flight of Darius and Girėnas) as well as plaster, rubber, epoxy models and working punches. The plaster model of the first 50 litas silver coin that never entered into circulation and was dedicated to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer (designed by Petras Gintalas) was one of the crowd pleasers. All the later-issued commemorative and circulation coins alongside their plaster models were also put on display. On 28 July 1998, the exhibition was visited by Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania.