From 16 February 2023 to 24 September 2023, the exhibition ‘One in a million: Silver prizes in the historic Dutch Lottery’ can be seen in the Dutch Silver Museum in Schoonhoven. Lotteries were a form of crowdfunding avant la lettre in the 16th and 17th century.
From disaster to opportunity
Traditionally a disaster took place which prompted people to start a lottery and raise money for charity. Think of a major fire, a war, destruction by looters or arranging a shelter for orphans, the sick, the elderly or the poor. Rich and poor could participate. And who doesn’t like the chance to win? Perhaps it fulfils the wish for a better life or the desire for something you could not otherwise buy. At the same time you help a good cause. In the 15th century lotteries came up in the Netherlands and Italy at about the same time, with silver as the main prize.
Silversmiths were asked to supply prizes. These were often utensils, like salts which were very popular at the time or beautiful dishes for the table and a lot of spoons as consolation prize. A well-known painter made a print of the disaster and the prices, so that people from far and wide were tempted to participate. Ticket sellers travel all over Europe to sell lottery tickets. After the draw they presented the prizes at the winners house, just like famous TV stars are still doing today in the Netherlands!
Not much has changed
In fact, not much has changed since then. We are still raising money for charities and prizes should appeal to the imagination. In the exhibition, visitors discover the stories of the past, which are told from different angles and are accompanied by 16th and 17th century silver objects from the Netherlands.