30th anniversary of the litas. Litas coin creators

This year marks thirty years since the litas began to circulate again in Lithuania after a more than 50-year break. This happened on 25 June 1993. We had the litas for a significant part of our history until the introduction of the euro in Lithuania in 2015. During this period, Lithuania changed and modernised, and the litas became an important symbol of the change of independent Lithuania. In this series of articles dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the litas, we discussed the most important stages of the development of the litas, its issuance, remembered the most important elements of the design of litas banknotes and coins, and today we will talk about the people who created the litas and centas coins. 

In the first litas project creation contest, litas banknote and coin projects were created. There was no experience in creating banknotes, and the design and protection requirements were high, so it was not easy for artists. It was a little easier to create coins. At least initially, only graphic drawings were required, without complex ornaments or security features. Fourteen artists took part in the coin production contest and although the process of coin-creation was much easier than for banknotes, and quite good projects were presented, the commission did not award the banknote or coin creators first place in the first contest. The second prize was awarded to Petras Garška, and the third was shared by Jolanta Balkevičienė and Antanas Žukauskas. 

Garška’s project became the basis for later designed and minted coins. These projects used the ideas of interwar coin motifs. It is true that they have been redesigned and modernised (for example, plant drawings were replaced by generalised motifs of bells, which framed the digits of small denominations). Only the obverse remained the same as in the pre-war period (the Vytis created by sculptor Juozas Zikaras). The coin was minted in 1992. It was then the idea arose that, in addition to the centas, metal litas could also be minted. It was decided to mint 1, 2, and 5 litas coins. Garška was contacted again. Since the litas coins were not created during the contest, the author had to re-create the litas. 

Petras Henrikas Garška (b. 1933)

In 1960, he earned a degree in jewellery making at Telšiai Technical School of Applied Arts. Lecturer at Vilnius Art Institute (since 1990, Vilnius Academy of Arts) from 1962 to 1993. He studied sculpture at the Department of Design. Between 1965 and 2003, he created more than 150 prominent individual and commemorative medals, including medals of Salomėja Nėris (1974), Ludwig van Beethoven (1976), Jonas Biliūnas (1978), Jonas Basanavičius (1981), Antanas Vienuolis-Žukauskas (1981), Pablo Picasso (1981), Nicolo Paganini (1982), Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, etc. He also created important state signs and marks, engraved the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas 3rd Degree, Order of Vytautas the Great 5th Degree, Darius and Girėnas Medal, etc. 

Since 1984 he has participated in Lithuanian medal exhibitions. Since 1986 he has been a participant of Baltic medal triennials. His medals are held by various Lithuanian and foreign museums. 

Having received an order to mint Lithuanian centas and litas coins, he created their punches himself and minted the first coin samples with a self-made mechanical press. In 1992, he officially became the first designer of the Lithuanian Mint. In 1993, he also created the first Lithuanian collector coin — 10 litas dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the flight of Darius and Girėnas across the Atlantic. 

Coins of later issue

After the issuance of the new 1, 2, and 5 litas banknotes printed into circulation, the issue of 1, 2, and 5 litas coins began to be withdrawn from circulation in 1991 because their counterfeiting was already a problem in the first months after the introduction of the litas. As a result, of the total of almost 120 million coins, less than 18 million coins, or only 15% of the minted coins, were minted in circulation. Until 1996, the old 1, 2, and 5 litas coins were withdrawn from circulation and stopped circulating; only banknotes of these denominations remained. It was decided to issue a new model of the coins. Five famous artists — the sculptors Algirdas Bosas, Rytas Jonas Belevičius, Rimantas Eidėjus, Antanas Olbutas, and Antanas Žukauskas were invited to participate in the closed contest. After two stages, Žukauskas was defeated, and he was entrusted with the creation of the coins. He created the reverse of the coins. The obverse of the coins (Vytis) was created by the artist Arvydas Každailis. 

Antanas Žukauskas (1939–2022)

He was born in Pienionys (Anykščiai d.). In 1948–1959, he studied at the Anykščiai Jonas Biliūnas secondary school. From 1960 to 1962 he studied at the State Institute of Fine Arts. In 1966–1970, he served as a member-expert of the College of Art Affairs of the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania. He was a freelance artist since 1970. In 1974, he joined the Lithuanian Artists’ Union. From 1976, he was a member of the National Monumental Art Council and served as Chair of the Council from 1991 to 1995. He was a member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Culture, the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, Vilnius Municipality, the Bank of Lithuania, member-expert of the councils and art commissions of the Lithuanian Copyright Union.

Antanas Žukauskas was a creator working in various genres, he made significant monuments, memorials, decorative sculptures, interiors, small graphic works, sculptural portraits, collages, installations. Since 1964, he has regularly participated in exhibitions, projects, contests, and symposiums in Lithuania and abroad. His works are held by various Lithuanian and foreign museums. 

Žukauskas won not only the litas coins, but also the national side of Lithuanian euro coins — the Vytis — project contests (organised in 2004). 

He received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas (2004) and the Bank of Lithuania’s Letter of Thanks (2004) for his merits to the Republic of Lithuania.

Arvydas Každailis (b. 1939)

He was born in Baisogala (Kėdainiai d.). From 1957 to 1962, he studied graphic art at the Institute of Fine Arts of the LSSR. In 1961-1965 — research infrastructure designer at Vilnius Radio Measurement Devices. In 1965–1987, he was an art teacher in the Art Department of the M. K. Čiurlionis Secondary Art School-Boarding School. Member of the Lithuanian Heraldry Commission since 1987. He restored and created over 40 coats of arms, flags, and prints of cities and towns: the historical state flag and coat of arms of Lithuania (1991), the border poles of the Republic of Lithuania (1991), the President’s flag (1993), the grand coat of arms of the State of Lithuania (officially approved in 2004), the logo of the Seimas (2012), he reconstructed the 15th-century Lithuanian war flag (2004). In 1992–1994, he was Head of the Art Education Content Sector of the Education Content Department of the Ministry of Culture and Education of the Republic of Lithuania.

In 1999, he received the Order of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas 5th Degree, and in 2002 he was awarded the Lithuanian National Culture and Art Prize for his cycle of etchings “Prūsijos žemės kronika.” 
His brother, Aloyzas Každailis (1943–2018), was a Lithuanian historian, museologist, prose writer, and first director of the Lithuanian Sea Museum.