Precious Metals

Bullion coins from a mint that cost a king’s ransom

The Austrian Mint has unveiled designs for a three-coin 1-ounce silver bullion program to commemorate the 825th anniversary of founding the mint in Vienna.

Coin images courtesy of Austrian Mint.

More than 800 years ago, it took a king’s ransom, literally, to found the Austrian Mint in Vienna. 

To commemorate the 825th anniversary of its founding, the Austrian Mint has announced a series of three 1-ounce silver €1.5 bullion coins to be issued during 2019.


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The coins will celebrate some central figures, places and results from events in the story surrounding the Mint’s creation. 

Central to the story but not depicted in the coin lineup is King Richard the Lionheart of England, who detoured through Austrian territory on his return from the Third Crusade. Though he wore a disguise, the king was recognized in Vienna and taken hostage. 

He was imprisoned in the castle of Dürnstein in 1192 at the behest of Duke Leopold V of Austria.

His capture set off fractious negotiations for his release (or his continued imprisonment, depending on the faction) involving European leaders including the pope, the king of France, the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry the Lion of Saxony and Duke Leopold V of Austria. 

His release was finally secured subject to several conditions, one of which was the payment of a heavy ransom. The portion to be paid to Duke Leopold V in the process was 16,370 kilos of silver, made in two payments of 11,690 kilos and 4,680 kilos. 

The first silver arrived in Austria in 1193. Leopold founded the Mint in Vienna in the next year, using that silver to strike the “Vienna pfennig.”

Subjects of coins in series

The first of the three coins in the 825th Anniversary of the Vienna Mint series is dedicated to Duke Leopold V of Austria. The coin is scheduled for a Jan. 23 release.

The second coin, scheduled for a March 13 release, depicts a city, Wiener Neustadt.

The final coin in the series, scheduled for release Oct. 16, honors the popular folk hero Robin Hood. 

The duke

Born in 1157, a member of the Babenberg dynasty, Duke Leopold V (known as ‘the Virtuous’) was Archduke of Austria and Styria and became a key figure in the history of the Austrian monetary system, with a legacy that continues to this day.

In 1194, the year he founded the Vienna Mint; however, Leopold fell from his horse during a tournament and suffered a major leg injury. He died Dec. 31, 1194.  

The city

Wiener Neustadt, unlike most other cities, did not develop gradually over time but was founded and constructed for strategic reasons on barren land at the easternmost tip of the Austrian Alps, south of Vienna. A fortified stronghold, it was designed to help secure the duchies of Austria and Styria against the Kingdom of Hungary.

The silver paid for the release of King Richard the Lionheart also provided the capital required to construct this “new city,” as Neustadt translates.

The tax, and the hero

Robin Hood is the hero of numerous ballads dating as far back as the late Middle Ages. Over the centuries, he has evolved from an outlaw into a righteous character who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Whether Robin Hood actually ever existed is uncertain. What is known, however, is that the taxation introduced to raise the huge ransom in silver demanded by Duke Leopold V of Austria for the release of King Richard the Lionheart led to violent social unrest in England, at the root of the legend of Robin Hood.  

Design details

The common obverse of the three 825th Anniversary of the Vienna Mint coins features Leopold V’s equestrian seal, showing him as a military commander on horseback with a shield and a banner. 

The original imagery can be found in the Monastery of Heiligenkreuz, near Vienna.

The obverse also carries the year of issue, name of issuing country (in German), the denomination and fineness of silver. 

Only sketches, thus far, of all three reverse designs have been unveiled. 

Each design highlights the honoree or subject in detail, with little, if any, text elements to disrupt the design.

The Vienna Mint 1-ounce .999 fine silver bullion €1.5 coins have the same specifications as the standard Philharmonic silver bullion coins.

The coins measure 37 millimeters in diameter and have a mintage limit of 100,000 coins per design.

Distributors will begin offering the first coin in the series soon after its release. 

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