New Swiss commemorative coin: “William Tell”

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May 10, 2018 – On 26 April 2018, the Federal Mint Swissmint launched a new commemorative coin for coin enthusiasts and collectors. The William Tell gold coin is dedicated to probably the most famous Swiss.

The first edition of Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell. Source: H.-P.Haack / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The work of Tell is mentioned for the first time in the White Book of Sarnen which is a chartulary written by the civic recorder Hans Schriber from Obwalden around 1470. In addition, as a figure Tell crops up at the time of the Burgundian Wars in the Song about the origin of the Confederation (“Song of Tell” of 1477). In 1507, his story was recorded in the Chronicle of the City of Lucerne by Melchior Russ and Petermann Etterlin and printed for the first time. It also found its way into the Swiss Chronicles written by Heinrich Brennwald of Zurich between 1508 and 1516. Around 1570, the chronicler Aegidius Tschudi condensed the various handed down oral and written versions of Tell’s narrative into a saga which he dated 1307. The popular theatre performances in Central Switzerland also helped spread the Tell legend. The dramatisation of the Tell legend by Friedrich Schiller (the premiere was in 1804) made the story well known initially in Europe and later on worldwide. Schiller drew extensively on the chronicle of Aegidius Tschudi. Schiller’s play is the basis for the great opera Guillaume Tell by Gioachino Rossini. 

Switzerland / 50 CHF / Gold .900 / 11.29g / 25mm / Design: Angelo Boog / Mintage: 4,250.

Earlier depictions showed Tell in different costumes depending on the spirit of the time. Tell as we imagine him today, i.e. in a herdsman’s cowl and with a beard, was influenced by the Tell monument by the sculptor Richard Kissling (1895) in Altdorf and by the famous Tell painting by Ferdinand Hodler dated 1897. The latter also served as a template for the new commemorative coin and thus pays respect to the great Swiss painter, the 100th anniversary of whose death is marked this year. The new gold coin was designed by the illustrator Angelo Boog.

For further information on the coin visit the Swissmint website. 

If you want to know more about the infamous 25 Francs in gold featuring the legend IN ARMIS LIBERTATIS ET PAX, please read our article of the week. We are grateful to Swissmint that we were allowed to reprint this article published first on their website.

You can watch this videopodcast in English on the myth of William Tell. 

At History Switzerland you can read the Legend of William Tell.