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Lithuanian Wildlife, The European Elk: 50 Talonas (Lithuania, 1991)- Article

Updated: Feb 13

This early post-Soviet Lithuanian banknote represents the 9th denomination of the First Talonas (1991). The term "talonas" is the Lithuanian word for coupon. As Lithuania initially intended to used them as temporary coupon currency, similar to the Georgian Kuponi. Until a long-term national currency could be introduced. (SEE: A Brief History of the Talonas)

During their brief circulation they were occasionally called "zoologijos sodo bilietai" or "Zoo Tickets". As the majority of Talonas notes featured the wildlife of Lithuania. With the exception of the smaller First Talonas denominations, which resemble actual coupons. This particular banknote features a European Elk.


The observe depicts a European Elk (Moose), a species common throughout Scandinavia and parts of the former Soviet Union. Despite this detailed illustration the observe is relatively sparse. Featuring a turquoise on white color scheme, with a overlaying mesh. The note's Fifty Talonas value is represented by a number "50", on the lower left and right corners.

Notably the observe can be divided into 2 sections, with varying underprint. The first section covers roughly the first 5th of the observe. It features waving turquoise lines, with arrow-like points at their center. These waves extends outward toward to the right. Completing this section is a single turquoise number "50", with a red vertical serial number "AO No 001580".

The second section to the right features the European Elk illustration. The pointed waves in this section instead feature a reddish mesh, which features 2 braided patterns. The before mentioned "pointed waves" seamlessly combine with the mesh, making them nearly unnoticeable. Notably the Wisent is superimposed on a separate/final print.


The reverse features the note's "50" Talonas value overlaid, on stylized Sea Holly leaves. Not to be confused for true holly, Sea Holly more resembles thistle plants. It ancient times it could be found across the European coastline. Although its range has become fragmented, mostly along the major seas. The species has become nearly extinct in Northern Europe, increasing its cultural association with the past.

Similar to the observe, the reverse features a multi-layer print with waving light red and turquoise lines. With the exception of three vertical bundles (light red), the majority of these lines form a horizontal mesh. Notably the beforementioned number "50" features zig-zag lines on its surface. Additionally the section features a sets of text. The upper text reads "Republic Of Lithuania - Talonas", referring to the newly sovereign nation and currency. While the lower text roughly translates to "Forgery is punishable by law".

The final section to the far right is relatively simple, featuring no underprint. At its top is the print date (1991), followed by the Coat of Arms of Lithuania, and number "50". Which simply symbolizes the notes 50 Talonas value.

The European Elk

The European Elk (as known as Moose in North America) is the largest deer species in Eurasia. They are most numerous in the Scandinavia peninsula and Eastern Baltic. Although can be found in more moderate numbers in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Although it's former range extended into Germany, France, and Switzerland.

The average adult European Elk male (known as bulls) weighs 320 to 475 kg (705 to 1,047 lb). While the much smaller females (known as cows) weigh between 275 to 375 kg (606 to 827 lb). The average shoulder height for adults ranges between 1.7 to 2.1 m (5 ft 7 in to 6 ft 11 in) high. With some degree of overlap between cows and bulls.

European Elk feed on pond grasses, young trees and shrubs. In order to maintain their body weight, the average adult moose needs to consume 40.9 MJ (9,770 kcal) per day. This diet is divided into food rich in energy and those rich in sodium (salt).

Energy is derived from eating flowers and fresh shoots, such those from willow and birch. While half of their diet is water plants, supplying them with essential salts. To better browse under water plant, European Elk have a special adaptation. They are able to seal shut their nostrils, to avoid accidently breathing in water.

European Elk also require cover from would be predators and to regulate their body temperature. This is due to their cold-adapted features, which includes thick skin and a dense heat retaining coat. This coat features 2 layers. A soft woolly undercoat and a layer of tough air-filled guard hairs. Which insulates, while helping in swimming.

These air-filled guard hairs are an extremely useful adaptation. As elks will often wade and swim in lakes and ponds. In order to avoid over-heating in the summer. As heat-stress negatively effects amount of body fat elks produce. This extra body fat is crucial to surviving the winter. In addition to providing proper calving in cows. As low body weight can lead to a delayed mating season.

European Elk mating season spans from September to October. During mating season the male bulls will enter a period known as rut. When in rut the bulls will not eat for 2 weeks, instead constantly searching for a mate. There is a period of fasting before and after rut, neurophysiological changes are at play.

During the mating season both bulls and cows will call to each other. The bull call features heavy grunting sounds, traveling about 500 meters. While the cow call features wail-like sounds, that travel further. The bulls will fight with their antlers to win over nearby mates. Although occasionally younger bulls will retreat from more experienced bulls.

The calves are born after 8 months, featuring reddish-brown fur. Usually only one calf is born, occasionally twins are born. This is due mild winters, abundant food, and relative lack of predators. The rate of twin birth are as high as 30% to 40%, when these conditions are met. Which has help in recovery efforts in Europe. The average life span of a European Elk is 15-25 years.

A Brief History of the Talonas

A 0.20 Talonas note, issued in 1991.
A 0.20 Talonas note, issued in 1991.

The Talonas currency was divided into 2 series, the First (1991) and Second (1992-93). The First Talonas series of banknotes were introduced as a temporary currency. During independent Lithuania's efforts to disassociate itself from the Soviet Ruble and the Soviet Union (1922-1991). As dependency on the hyperinflated Soviet Ruble, made pricing for everyday goods and services difficult.

The First Talonas was 5 August 1991, under the orders of Prime Minster Gediminas Vagnorius (1957-20xx). The system was unorthodox, Lithuanian salaries were paid in Soviet Rubles. While 20% of the salary was paid in First Talonas, up to 200 Talonas. Notably these banknotes lacked an officially named subdivision, instead using a simple decimal value.

In theory, Talonas banknotes were equally valued to the former Soviet Ruble. Purchases involving Talonas were equally unorthodox, as they had to be double paid. An item's or service's posted price had to be paid in an equal amount of Soviet Rubles and First Talonas. Although due to salary payments in 20% First Talonas, met equal Ruble-Talonas payments were impractical.

This was due to design, as it would force consumers to retain 80% their salary in savings. It forced the prices of expensive goods to drop, due lack of consumers. As consumers would require multiple pay-cycles to acquire enough Talonas for these purchases. Although due to new Russian monetary restrictions and delays in adopting a new long-term currency. The inflationary problem was not confronted as originally intended.

The Second Talonas was introduced on 1 May 1992, as a second temporary solution. As inflation was greater in post-Soviet Russia, than in Lithuania. The Second Talonas was introduced as a true parallel currency, unlike the First Talonas. Thus allowing the Lithuanian government to counter some effects of hyperinflation.

To the degree the Ruble was outright abandoned, in 1 October 1992. Allowing the Talonas to become the sole currency of Lithuania. On 25 June 1993, the Talonas was replaced by the Litas, at a rate of 100 Talonas to 1 Litas. Which in turn was replaced by the Euro, on 1 January 2015.

First Talons "Coupon" Gallery

(Gallery contains all sub-denomination First Talonas banknotes)

First Talons "Zoo Tickets" Gallery

(Gallery contains all full denomination First Talonas banknotes)


Additional Notes

  • This note dimensions are 120 x 75mm or 4.72 x 2.95 in, shorter and thicker than a US Dollar.

  • The Litas was replaced by the Euro, at a rate of 3.4528 Litas to 1 Euro.

  • No coins were minted for either the First or Second Talonas currency.

  • Elks/Moose are divided into 8 living subspecies, 4 Eurasian (Elks) and 4 North American (Moose) respectively.

  • Eurasian Elks include the European, Mid-Siberian, Manchurian, and East Siberian subspecies.

  • North American Moose include the Eastern, Western, Alaskan and Yellowstone subspecies.

  • Until the early 20th century the extinct Caucasian Elk represented a 9th species.

  • This note depicts the European Elk, representing western edge of Eurasian subspecies.

Photo Credits


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