Commemorative “banknotes” issued to mark 10th anniversary of Václav Havel’s death

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Václav Havel, the dissident playwright, human rights activist, and first president of post-communist Czechoslovakia. In honour of his memory, a commemorative sheet, resembling a banknote, has been issued, featuring an image of the late statesman chosen by his widow.

Former first lady Dagmar Havlová was literally on hand this week to launch the limited print run of commemorative “banknotes” featuring her late husband. It she who pressed the button setting the wheels in motion (and alarm buzzer).

She had lent some of her favourite unpublished photos of Václav Havel, from the family archives, to a team of artists and designers. In the end, she told Czech Television, she was presented with a handful of mock-ups to choose from.

“There were four images that I could pick from. In some, he is smiling broadly, in another he is looking quite serious, and then there was one with those gentle, kind eyes of his. And so that is the one I chose.”

The “Havel banknote” idea came from České dukáty, a company specialising in gold ducats and medals featuring important figures in Czech history, which struck a partnership with the State Printing Works of Securities – which prints paper money.

In collaboration with leading Czech banknote designers, the printmaker and illustrator Eva Hašková and engraver Martin Srb set to work on creating the commemorative sheet.

In addition to Havel’s face (with those “gentle, kind eyes of his”), she says, it depicts Václav Havel on the Prague Castle balcony from which, on 29 December 1989, spoke to the nation for the first time as head of state.

“I tried to find something at the Castle that directly concerned Václav Havel. And no matter who else appears there, for me, it is simply Václav Havel’s balcony. It is his alone.”

Photo: České dukáty

Although a commemorative sheet, the “Havel banknote” is printed much in the same manner as legal tender - on security paper with watermark (in this case, of a leaf of the national tree, the linden) – and using the intaglio engraving method.

Ultraviolet light reveals other motifs typical for Václav Havel, on both sides of the note, including his famous assertion that “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred!” (Pravda a láska musí zvítězit nad lží a nenávistí!”). The reverse side depicts other iconic features of Prague Castle, namely the Matthias Gate and the Wrestling Titans statues.

České dukáty said it decided to commemorate Havel’s legacy with a commemorative print that appeals not only to collectors but the general public.

Photo: České dukáty

The “Havel banknote” will be issued as a limited edition in five numbered series, A, B, C, D, E, with 500 prints in each one. Series H, of which there are only 300, comes exclusively in a set with a medal (gold, silver or bronze) designed by legendary glassmaker and medallist Jiří Harcuba.

The commemorative sheets and medals go on sale on November 17 – the anniversary of the brutal crackdown on peaceful student protestors in 1989 that sparked the Velvet Revolution, toppled the communist regime, and brought “Havel to the Castle”.