The Czech National Bank has released its latest silver collector coin, which is part of the popular series “Great Czech Transportation,” which highlights some of the country’s most iconic or emblematic models of transportation from the air, sea, rail, and automotive. The third coin in this five-year series concentrates on one of the most popular and stylish automobiles, the Tatra 603 passenger car.
Tatra began with a factory in Kopřivnice known as Ignatz Schustala & Comp, named after its founder, which started with the production of horse-drawn vehicles back in 1850. After manufacturing carriages and rail cars, they diversified in 1897 and attempted the manufacture of automobiles, with their first commercially successful model, the Präsident. This was a milestone in terms of industrialisation and became the first mass-produced motor car in Central Europe. In 1919, a name change occurred to the now-familiar Tatra brand inspired by the nearby Tatra Mountains on the former Czechoslovak-Polish border. The car company with an already impressive track record introduced the Tatra 77 streamliner in 1934, leaving both professional automotive designers and the general public speechless. The world’s first mass-produced aerodynamic car seemed like an apparition from the future, despite the fact it still had several shortcomings in terms of design and performance. However, the Tatra model 97 introduced in 1936 was actually the inspiration for a far more familiar automobile manufactured in Germany which was to flood the post-war highways of Europe and America. Tatra brought a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the Volkswagen beetle but, due to the war, the suit was not heard until 1965, and in Tatra’s favour. With the end of the Second World War and Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, the factory was nationalised in 1945 and renamed “Tatra Národní Podnik.” The company’s later models, the Tatra 87, 97, 600, and finally the 603 dealt with any nagging flaws from the 97 successfully. The last Tatra passenger car with its trademark streamlined body was produced in 1956 for almost two decades.
The breakthrough for Tatra during Czechoslovakia’s one-party government rule came when it became evident that Czechoslovakian manufacturers could build a better automobile than the poor quality automobiles imported from the USSR. Tatra were permitted to do just this, and the 603 model was launched in 1956, partially in secret. Ultimately, this once-secretive automobile would go on to become the symbol of high-ranking party officials and civil servants. It was not an unusual sight to see a sleek, jet-black Tatra 603 speeding down the avenues of the capital. In those days, Tatras were not available for ordinary citizens as they were not permitted to buy them, but they were always couriering the directors of national enterprises, ministers, and representatives of the communist government. The Tatra 603’s air-cooled eight-cylinder engine was also admired abroad, where it was on display out of the country as they were dispatched to serve Czechoslovak embassies. Remarkably, the Tatra also successfully participated in motoring competitions, but despite considerable interest outside Czechoslovakia, the Tatra 603 was exported but limited to just a handful of automobiles annually. With the downfall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe in the early 1990s and the separation of the Czech and Slovak Republics, Tatra faced financial and competitive challenges. With the introduction of the 613 model in the 1970s, the brand enjoyed some moderate success both in the Eastern Bloc and Western Europe. However, Czechs and Slovaks were now able to buy more commercially popular Western automobiles and did so. Tatra became a wholly privatised company once again and began concentrating on the production of trucks, which had been the backbone of their business for most of the years under communism. Today, Tatra still produces automobiles, specifically launching a brand of replica models in 2010 and a line of custom-built individually designed automobiles. Tatra and its brand enjoy the distinction of being the third oldest company in the world, producing cars with an unbroken history.
The coins are produced by the Ceska Mincovna at their facilities in Jablonec nad Nisou on behalf of the Czech National Bank and are designed by Petra Brodská. The obverse side depicts three images of the Tatra 603, which includes an oncoming view as the car approaches, seen above the other two images. The second image is a side view of the car in the form of a black inlay; the special silver inlay with a black coating has a purity of .999 fine silver and weighs an additional 1.1 grams. Alongside the black inlay is the Tatra 603 logo to the left, and below is a technical drawing of a partial top-view. The text TATRA 603 and 2023 are separated by a dot along the upper edge of the coin, and the designer’s intertwined initials PB are located near the right-hand edge of the coin.
The reverse side features a front-facing view of the Tatra 603. Part of the car’s dashboard and steering wheel are shown in the upper part of the coin. The text ČESKÁ is located at the left-hand edge, the text REPUBLIKA is near the lower edge, and the denomination 500 Kč is located near the right-hand edge. The lower half of the coin depicts a tiled floor with the mintmark of the Czech Mint, in the form of the letters ČM being located to the left of the denomination just above the floor line. The edge of the Proof-quality coins is smooth with incused lettering ČNB * OSOBNÍ AUTOMOBIL * T603 * (“ČNB * PASSENGER CAR * T603”).
|500 koruna||.925 Silver||26.1 g||40 mm||Brilliant Unc. with applied colour||30,000 pieces (combined)|
|500 koruna||.925 Silver||26.1 g||40 mm||Proof with applied colour|
Both the Brilliant Uncirculated and Proof strikes are encapsulated and presented in a blue case branded with the logo of the Czech National Bank and are accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. For additional information, please visit the sales page of the Czech National Bank.
Please note, the information lists coin dealers retailing the coin and is provided only in Czech.
Additional coins planned in the series for 2024 are the ČKD Tatra T3 tram and, concluding in 2025, the Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainer.