Imagine scaling an electricity pole in the dead of night, a bitterly cold wind rushing past your ears, and tiptoeing along a power cable through the skies of Berlin. This is exactly where trapeze artist Horst Klein found himself after being banned from performing in East Berlin for his anti-communist beliefs.

He eventually fell to the ground after becoming fatigued, but fortunately landed in West Berlin. Despite two broken arms he was finally free from the communist holds of the East. But he wasn’t the only one to risk his life.

30 years ago, on 9th November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the people of Berlin were liberated after being separated for almost three decades. But during the years that the Berlin Wall stood, hundreds of people followed Klein’s example, with each one having to find their own creative way to defect to the West.

West and East Germans at the Brandenburg Gate in 1989 - The Great Escape from East Berlin
West and East Germans climb on top of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate in 1989

A homemade hot air balloon

Two friends who worked as mechanics used their skills to build a hot air balloon. They had a little help from their wives too, who stitched together bed sheets to make the actual balloon. In September 1979 the couples and their children climbed into the balloon and floated through the skies over the wall into the freedom of the West.

The last train to freedom

In 1961 not long after the wall was erected, Harry Deterling found himself driving a train down a disused railway track. As a railway engineer he knew this track led to gap where the Berlin Wall had not yet been completed. After piling his friends and family on board, Deterling drove the train at high speed through the gap in the barrier and into West Berlin. The gap was sealed by East German guards the next day, giving the train its nickname “the last train to freedom”.

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Conrad Schumann, the first person ever to cross the Berlin Wall, leaping over the barbed wire that formed the initial barricade.  

In a stolen tank

An East German soldier stole a tank in 1963 and drove it straight into the wall in the hope that it would break through. The force wasn’t enough to destroy the wall so instead the soldier was forced to climb out on top of the tank and up onto the wall. Under gunfire from the East German border guards he got stuck in barbed wire, and shot twice. Fortunately West Germans came to his aid and rescued him.

In a convertible with no windshield

Checkpoint Charlie, was the scene of a successful, and bold, escape by Heinz Meixner. He rented a red Austin-Healy Sprite, chosen because the car itself only measured 90cm high. This was vital for Mexiner’s plan. He removed the windshield and let out a little air from the tires to lower the car even more, drove to Checkpoint Charlie (with his girlfriend and mother in law hidden in the back) and drove straight under the barrier into the West.

On an air mattress

One man who was so familiar with the banks of the River Elbe, which ran through Berlin, used an air mattress as a makeshift raft. Under the cover of darkness and with a trusted friend, the pair navigated a metal fence and the muddy riverbank. They climbed on board the mattress and silently paddled along the river into West Germany.

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A ‘wall woodpecker’ chips away at a section of the Berlin Wall.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. On the night the wall came down celebrations continued throughout the city into the early hours of the morning as friends and families reunited. Today, little remains of the wall as it was almost entirely destroyed, but the legacy of that night and the wall lives on.

If you’re interested….

You can own an ORIGINAL piece of the Berlin Wall along with a coin from both East and West Germany. And just think, this might even be the very piece that Horst Klein walked over! But it’s already over 75% sold so you’ll need to act fast. Check out the video to see Adam explain what makes this set so special or click here to order yours today >>

The Stories of British Coins Collection includes 16 of the most remarkable coins from over 200 years of British history, but many of them are in high demand and difficult to source, especially those which are historic artefacts in their own right!

Join Adam as he unboxes a fascinating coin collection that together tells the story of Britain.

Find out more and add the set to your collection by clicking here >>

LS UK Stories of British Coins Collection Box Lifestyle 300x208 - Unboxing over 200 years of British coin history

The story behind England’s first colonial coinage is one that few people know about. It begins with the most influential company in world history – The East India Company…

The East India Company today are producers and distributors of quality, exclusive and exotic goods with a 400 year legacy through its trade history, which built the British Empire.

Originally, the East India Company was a band of pioneering merchants who were granted a Royal Charter by Elizabeth I in 1600 to explore the East Indies and bring back exotic goods to the Regal West. In doing so they established new trade routes and broke down the barriers of the world. They established Singapore and Hong Kong, held Napoleon captive in St. Helena and sent the tea that was destroyed at the Boston Tea Party.

The consequences of the Company’s actions are the very fabric of our Commonwealth.

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Queen Elizabeth I

England’s very first colonial coinage – struck for the company’s first voyage

In 1601, Queen Elizabeth I signed a Royal Charter awarding The East India Company the right to monopoly on trade in the East.

On signing the Royal Charter, Queen Elizabeth I instructed The Royal Mint to strike England’s very first colonial coinage – the Testern coin. Struck specifically for The Company’s first voyage to the East, the Testern was the very first currency that was minted specifically for trade outside of England.

Following the defeat of Spain in the Spanish Armada in 1588 and after the death of Prince Philip of Spain, the British colonial era of empire commenced and the start of 270 years of trade and conquest began.

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The Originial Testern Coin

It’s believed that Queen Elizabeth I insisted on her own trade coinage as means of demonstrating that she was just as powerful as the King of Spain, which would only be effective if it was based on the prevailing international trade coin of the time – the Spanish Real. So, she introduced a coin that was minted in the exact same specification as the Spanish 8 Real denomination, commonly known as ‘Pieces of Eight’. This coin was formally named the Testern but came to be known as ‘Portcullis Money’ due to its unique Portcullis design.

The end of the Testern

Elizabeth I insisted that The East India Company carried the new Testern coins on each voyage, as means of exhibiting her power overseas. Just over £6,000 worth of ‘Portcullis Money’ was loaded onto the vessels of Sir James Lancaster VI’s fleet – the first fleet of The Company. When the fleet arrived in the East many of the coins were melted down, and very few returned to England. In fact, those that did were presented to The Company’s shareholders.

A coin found only in museums

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The 2017 Silver Testern Coin

Today, you will only find these coins in museums and even then only a very small number of the Testern ‘Portcullis Money’ coins will be exhibited across the world.

This year, The East India Company and St Helena government have issued the Testern coin in Silver featuring a design based on the original ‘Portcullis money’ and struck in the same weight specification as the Testern coins. Only the second ever minting of Portcullis Money, the design features the iconic portcullis engraving just as its 1601 predecessor.

If you’re interested…

east india company testern coin in display case - The story behind England’s first colonial coinage…

Fully approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and strictly limited to just 10,000 coins worldwide, you can own the 2017 Testern Silver coin today if you’re quick.

Click here for more details >>