Inventor of Swiss Army Knife Honoured on Coins

19 Sep 2018  Wed

On 10th September, Swissmint released a 20-franc coin in Uncirculated and Proof versions, to honour the creator of the Swiss Army Knife - Karl Elsener on his 100th death anniversary. Designed by Nadja Baltensweiler, the obverse depicts the knife and its tools with Swiss mountains in the background while the reverse features the denomination, 2018 and Swiss cross symbol. Made of 0.835 fine silver, the 20 grams coin has a diameter of 33 millimetres. 5,000 Proof version pieces and 30,000 Uncirculated version coins have been struck. The Uncirculated version can be purchased for €30 from while the Proof version costs €60.

Switzerland was going through an economic turmoil in the 19th century leading to unemployment. Many Swiss migrated elsewhere looking for a livelihood. This was when Elsener founded a cutlery workshop in Ibach in 1884 to manufacture soldiers’ knives in Switzerland instead of getting it imported from Germany. He established the Swiss cutlers’ association in 1891 to bring all cutlers together for manufacturing army knives. The first order was completed in that year and the company started growing ever since then.

The original soldier’s knife was durable but was heavier. Elsener designed a lighter and more elegant knife with more functions. He copyrighted his product in 1897 and called it the “Officer’s and Sports Knife”. Even though the knife was not used as official army equipment, it became very popular worldwide over the years, especially during World War II. The company is called Victorinox AG and is currently run by the fourth generation of the Elsener family. It was difficult for American soldiers to pronounce Offiziersmesser ( German word for “officer’s knife”), and the product got its name “Swiss Army Knife”.

The knife has a spearpoint blade, and other tools such as screwdrivers, can opener, bottle openers etc. A pivot point mechanism is used to slide these extensions inside the knife’s handle. The handle is generally red in colour, and features a cross logo of Victorinox or the coat of arms of Switzerland if it’s used officially by Swiss military.

Image Courtesy: Swiss Mint

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