The musical coinage of the Austrian Mint: Part I

The Austrian Mint’s origin goes back to the year 1194, when King Richard I (the Lionheart) paid Duke Leopold V of Austria a ransom to secure Richard’s freedom after a year of imprisonment. Richard’s men had thrown Leopold’s banner into a moat over a quarrel and insulted Leopold, who subsequently captured and imprisoned Richard near Vienna when Richard was returning to England from the Crusades. Leopold struck coins from the ransom and, thus, started the Mint.

Throughout the centuries, the Mint had various names with each associated empire by which it was occupied. The current day Austrian Mint (then the Mint House) was built in 1835. After the formation of the Republic of Austria in 1918, the Austrian Mint (then the Vienna Principal Mint) became Austria’s only mint and remains so today. In 1989, the Mint officially changed its name to the Austrian Mint and it became a subsidiary of the Austrian Nation Bank (Many world mints are subsidiaries of their national banks.)

The Austrian Mint is a member of the international minting elite. It was the first in the world to strike a silver-niobium coin in 2003. But the Austrian Mint is renowned by numismatists for their performing arts coinage. The focus of the performing arts coinage is the nearby Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and composers and artists born in Austria. We will look at some of the Mint’s beautiful coins produced in 2016 and the expected releases for 2017 below.

Vienna Philharmonic Bullion Coins

The iconic Vienna Philharmonic gold coin was first introduced to bullion investors in 1989. It was named after the nearby Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which inspired the designs on both sides. It was so successful that it was the best selling gold coin in the world in 1992, 1995, 1996, and 2000. Due to it’s success, the Austrian Mint produced a silver version in 2008. The obverse of the coin depicts the pipe organ in the Viennese Musikverein’s Golden Hall, home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The reverse of the coin depicts eight characteristic orchestral instruments: four violins either side of a cello in the foreground and the Viennese horn, the bassoon, and the harp behind.

Commemorative Coins

Vienna Opera Ball

The year 2016 celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the reopening of the ball after a 17 year suspension during World War II. The annual Austrian event takes place in the building of the Vienna State Opera, on the Thursday preceding Ash Wednesday. It is one of the highlights of the Viennese carnival season. The obverse of the coin depicts a young woman holding a red bouquet and a young man kissing her other hand. The Vienna State Opera is depicted in the background. The reverse of the coin depicts the ball opening with dance performances by young men and women.

New Year coin 2017 – Waltzing in the New Year

The Mint of Austria has launched its latest “New Year’s” coin that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the first performance of Johann Strauss II’s (Austrian born) masterpiece, “The Blue Danube.” The piece is the first tune of the year to be played on Austrian radio, thus, it is synonymous with the New Year and is the perfect theme for the Mint’s New Year coin.

175th Anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic

In January 2017, the Austrian Mint will be releasing the 175th Anniversary of the Vienna Philharmonic silver coin. It celebrates the first ever performance of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, on March 28, 1842. The obverse of the coin depicts the orchestra’s three founding fathers: August Schmidt, Otto Nicolai, and Alfred Julius Becher. The reverse depicts a detail from Max Oppenheimer’s massive triptych, titled “Die Philharmoniker”, which hangs in the Belvedere museum in Vienna.

Part II will be posted next week. Stay tuned!