Tonne of red gold steals show at "People and Money" exhibition

The Czech National Bank recently opened the doors of its fortress-like "strong room", for a new public exhibition called "People and Money". Under the gaze of armed security guards, visitors are taken on a tour of the history of money - from ancient seashells and counterfeit dollars to brand new euro notes and coins. Radio Prague's Rob Cameron was given a guided tour by the bank's spokeswoman Alicie Frisaufova, and he was immediately drawn to the exhibition's centrepiece - a tonne of gold bars, surrounded by a unique collection of gold medals.

Radio Prague: So there are medals on either side, and then in the middle a tonne, you say, of red gold.

Alicie Frisaufova: "A tonne, yes. It is a tonne."

RP: It's just this huge pile of gold. It doesn't look real somehow.

AF: "Yes, it looks really unreal, but it is real gold."

RP: If we look at some of these medals now, these gold medals. Special coins, issued between the wars, in the late seventies, in the nineties. Are they legal tender? Could I use these in a shop?

AF:"Theoretically, yes. But I don't think they would accept them. Because the value of these golden coins is not nominal. They are worth much more."

RP: So if I walk into a supermarket with a 5,000 crown gold coin, I probably won't get change, will I?

AF:"No, I don't think so!"

RP: It's a shame. They're lovely coins.

AF:"They would be very...very impressed, but it wouldn't work!"

RP: And you say this is one of the most popular parts of the exhibition.

AF:"Yes, this is something our exhibitors are really proud of."

The exhibit includes 65 showcases telling the story of Czech money, taking in the Bohemian kings, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the First Republic, the Communist era and finishing in the present day. It explains how the designs of Czech bank notes have evolved over the decades, reflecting the country's turbulent political and social history. It also seeks to tell the visitor how Czech money is protected from forgery - while obviously not giving too much away. But with the unstoppable rise of the credit card and Internet banking, is this the beginning of the end for the humble note and coin? Certainly not, says Czech National Bank spokeswoman Alicie Frisaufova.

AF:"I don't think so. I think that kind of discussion reminds me of the discussion about whether printed newspapers and magazines will still exist in ten years. I think they will, and money will also still exist."

RP: People will always want money in their pocket.

AF:"Yes, it's something traditional. It belongs to your culture. It belongs to human culture."