When, in 1194, Richard the Lionheart paid 12 tonnes of silver to Duke Leopold V of Austria not only did he secure his freedom from a year of incarceration, he also unwittingly laid the foundations of the Austrian Mint.
As was the rather brutal custom of the day, having been previously insulted by King Richard I, Duke Leopold captured and imprisoned the English monarch near Vienna when he was returning overland to England from the Crusades. Duke Leopold decided to strike coins from his booty and in so doing set in motion more than 800 illustrious years of minting history in Vienna.
It was not for another 200 years, however, that the Vienna Mint was first mentioned in historical documents. Originally situated near Hoher Markt, then in the Wollzeile and later in Prince Eugene’s winter palace in Himmelpfortgasse, since the first half of the 19th century the Mint has been at its magnificent home in Heumarkt, central Vienna, where coins are still struck to this day.
In the last 800 years, many different minting methods have been employed there. Up to the 16th century the minting hammer was used for striking coins. The roller press, rocker press and screw press followed, while ring striking, which produces an even round shape, has been in use since c. 1830. It basically still is today, although up to 750 coins per minute can now be minted by its modern manifestation.
Right from the outset the expert craftsmanship of the Vienna Mint also played a vital role in the production of prestigious and timeless coins of the very highest standard. The engraving academy has been in existence since 1733 in Vienna and miniature works of art are still being created by its highly gifted and experienced designers. Indeed, the Austrian Mint is especially proud of the loyalty of its long-serving staff, for whom coins are a passion not merely a means of earning a living.
Over the years, mints were established and coins struck throughout Austria in towns and cities such as Graz, Krems, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Villach. However, with the formation of the Republic of Austria in 1918, the Vienna Principal Mint became the country’s one and only mint and remains so today. In 1989 its name was officially changed to the Austrian Mint and it became a subsidiary of the Austrian Central Bank.
One of the Austrian Mint’s most internationally recognised coins is the Maria Theresa Taler. Originating in 1780, the year Empress Maria Theresa died, today the Maria Theresa Taler is not only the most famous silver coin in the world but also boasts the greatest number minted. Such international successes have made the Mint something of an ambassador for Austria, another prime example being the world famous golden Vienna Philharmonic coin. One of the most popular gold bullion coins worldwide, it has played a vital role in the development of the Austrian Mint into a highly successful company.
Today the Austrian Mint is a global player in the business of supplying means of payment. Its beautifully crafted coins minted in the very heart of Vienna are highly sought after by investors and collectors all over the world, as well as by those simply looking for a worthy and suitable gift for a loved one.