This massive silver tankard, inset with numerous coins, takes as its inspiration the form and size of tankard favoured by the early Prussian Kings for ceremonial and military dinners. Three such tankards from the Prussian Royal Collection were made by Johann Christian Lieberkühn the Elder for Friedrich Wilhelm I (1688-1740), King of Prussia (r.1713-1740) specifically for use at smoking parties with his officers at the Rittersaal (Hall of Knights) at the Berlin Palace. The Lieberkühn tankards were used for beer, and were much favoured and passed by descent through Friedrich Wilhelm's line.
While much of the Prussian Royal silver was melted down to finance wars, both by Frederick the Great in the 1740s and by Frederick William III in 1809, the Lieberkühn coin tankards were spared. Their survival during the Napoleonic Wars may be attributed to the King's secretary, Bussler, who wrote the King on April 1, 1809 that 'I have not been able to convince myself to melt them because of the beautiful workmanship and the coins.' The King agreed that 'the pieces in the Buffet in the Rittersaal should be conserved.' (translated from Paul Seidel, Der Silber- und Goldschatz der Hohenzollern im Koniglichen Schlosse zu Berlin, Berlin, 1905, pp. 42-43.) The largest of the three coin tankards by Lieberkühn remains in Berlin (Kunstgewerbemuseum), and one of the remaining pair is in the collection of Stiftung Preussische Schlosser und Garten, Potsdam.
The present example with a central medallion depicting William I, Emperor of Prussia, made circa 1871 is a clear reference to the earlier tankards in size, form and decoration and would have been similarly intended for use both for display and at military and political banquets.