24 million Latvian 1-lat coins remain in circulation - are they worth collecting?

In the several years since Latvia transitioned from the lat to the euro, the 1-lat coin has been the least exchanged form of currency with around 24 million coins remaining in circulation, according to LTV's “4. Studija” broadcast on December 24.

“This shows that people are reluctant to part with their collections, and their numismatic turnover is definitely very great,” said Latvijas Banka representative Juris Kravalis.

Lats, including anniversary coins, can be exchanged for euros at Latvijas Banka, but only at the defined exchange rate. It's not possible to buy anniversary coins or banknotes at the national bank. 783 tons of coins haven't been exchanged. The majority of these are 1-lat coins, and 1-santims and 2-santims coins, which have most likely been lost or remained in tourist's wallets.

“In total 96% percent of banknotes and around 40% of coins have been returned,” said Kravalis.

Latvijas Banka can't discuss how the value of the anniversary lats has changed, but they can say that there has been great interest. “Once in a while people come and ask what happened to these coins. The artwork on the Latvian money is very advanced, so that our euro coins - both the specially designed 2-euro coins and collection coins - are in demand throughout the world as well, and there is great interest,” said the bank representative.

Online shops offer various anniversary lat coins for sale from a few euros to even hundreds for a full collection. But what's the real market price? “They're value won't make collectors particularly happy, it's even decreased a bit for the more expensive coins,” said numismatist Madis Gerbaševskis.

“At the peak moment the stork [coin] cost around 35 euros, which was around 25 lats, but now you can buy the coin for under 20 euros,” said Gerbaševskis.

Of the 24 different types of coins, the most valuable have historically been the stork and ant coins, as there were the least of these in circulation. The rest of the anniversary coins remain at around 3-4 euros per coin, and a complete set can be bought for under 100 euros. The price is also related to the quality of the coin.

Mint condition high-value banknotes, however, have increased in value. For example, a high-quality 500 lat banknote can cost up to 1500 euros.

The anniversary lat value could increase when more people end up exchanging them and there are less in circulation. Interestingly, the regular “salmon” lat is more difficult to find, as everyone has been busy collecting the anniversary lats and tourists are most likely to bring home the regular lat as a souvenir. 

“The last 2-euro coin, of which only a small amount were minted, were snatched up at the bank within a few hours. Their market value is currently around 5 euros,” said the numismatist.
 

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