AUSTRIAN GOLD PHILHARMONIC COINS
Austria originally joined Germany in the new German Empire of 1871 but broke away from that union to adopt its own form of currency beginning in 1892. The ducat was a popular coin for trade and commerce which remained so even after Austria’s duchies began minting their own currencies under the loose supervision of the Austrian empire. In 1918, after World War I, those smaller duchies were merged into what is now modern Austria, and the gold standard replaced silver as a metal for circulating coins at a ratio of 1:5 – thus paving the way for a new series of gold-based ducats beginning in 1920.
The first type issued had Saint Leopold on one side and an eagle or double-headed eagle on the other. The eagle symbol was a common motif of the ruling Habsburg dynasty, and while its derivation from past empires can be seen in some of Austria’s modern commemorative coins, Saint Leopold lent his name to the last great Austrian emperor – Franz Josef I, who reigned from 1848-1916.
The second style had two eagles on it with two faces on one side – both of them representing Emperor Franz Josef. This coin was minted from 1912 to 1914, but towards its end would have been issued under a new denomination: a hundred years after the coronation of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, a special double ducat had been created which took his portrait on one side and the imperial double eagle on the other.
As Austria’s currency shifted to the schilling, this denomination (along with all previous gold ducats) was demonetized in 1927. The gold standard was abandoned by Germany in 1914 and finally restored seven years later; but not for long, as it would be replaced with paper money during World War II. After suffering economic hardship because of high war-reparation payments owed to the allied nations following that struggle, Austria experienced very serious inflation while trying to maintain its own currency. With old silver schillings no longer mintable and an Austrian bank dealing only in German currency after 1948, a new series of one hundred “Vienna Philharmonic” gold coins were issued beginning in 1989.
A new set of ducats has been minted since 2001 and features famous composers on the obverse side: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, and Johann Strauss (father and son). The reverse carries the heraldic eagle with large shields of arms for Austria and Vienna. These coins are sold at a price significant enough to encourage most Austrian collectors to buy them rather than wait for change after purchases in shops – but they’re not so expensive as to restrict their appeal for most international coin enthusiasts either.
This is an example of modern commemorative coins that may come into use as currency only out-of-circulation, but collecting gold coins is also an investment with long-term returns. With the price of gold now at its highest level in many years, these coins have at least doubled in value over the past decade. Much more information can be found by consulting an expert or purchasing a reference book on Austrian coins – available both through online sources and shops where numismatic literature is sold.
Though their manufacture is not required for circulation anymore, it’s still important to mint high-quality gold ducats that will last better than crudely struck tokens; only then will this tradition continue to grace pockets around the world as long as human economies exist.
The obverse side shows an orchestra composed of nine Musicians who play musical instruments together, as well as a signature on one of the trumpets that reads “F.U.” (Franz Ullrich). This ensemble represents European classical music as it is played in some parts of Austria’s capital city, Vienna, where the minting takes place. The reverse side depicts an array of instruments including violins, a cello and a harp. As with other gold bullion coins such as Canadian Leaf or American Eagle, its value is derived from its gold bullion content rather than its face value.
Weight: 1/2 oz, 31.1035 g
Diameter: 16.5 mm Thickness: 1.52 mm
WHY BUY THIS COIN?
Although one would not be purchasing a “face value” coin, there are many reasons why this coin would be attractive to the investor. Firstly, its legal tender is €20 and thus can actually be used for all kinds of transactions across Europe where €20 bills are accepted. The gold content makes it an extremely liquid asset that retains or appreciates its worth no matter what economic circumstances unfold over time (especially with Austria’s history of producing gold). Second, this 1/2 oz (15 g) piece has an attractive design that lends well to both aesthetic and investment purposes. Third, gold is an extremely liquid global asset that has preserved value across millennia of time (see the previous reference to Austria’s history). Gold coins are favored by many who invest in European gold. This coin series is no exception. It certainly adds spice to any coin collection!