World Coins

Coins with musicians strike chord with collectors

Editor's note: this is the first part of a story by Coin World Senior Editor Jeff Starck about musicians on coins. The story originally appears in the June 2016 monthly issue.

Music has the distinct ability to connect people or take them on their own individual journey.

Every culture in the world has some form of musical entertainment and enjoyment, and its own pantheon of musical greats.

That’s why so many famous musicians appear on coins.

From Brahms and Strauss to Louis Armstrong and Stephen Foster, or even Sir Edward Elgar (think Pomp and Circumstance), musical subjects on money are many. 

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If there were a Mount Rushmore for musical legends, some shoe-ins would include composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig von Beethoven. Perhaps from the modern era, artists like Bob Marley and John Lennon would earn a place on the musical monument. 

All four of these individuals have been honored in some form of currency. They would provide the perfect launching point for a collection geared toward the musically inclined.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart might just be the musician most honored on money. 

Mozart was born in Salzburg, and showed musical talent at an early age, especially on the harpsichord and in composing. 

The child prodigy toured with his father and sister, and served as a representative of the Viennese or classical school. He moved to Vienna to teach and compose, and though he served in a royal capacity for Emperor Franz Joseph II, Mozart lived in poverty. 

Mozart composed more than 600 works including operas, operettas, cantatas, arias, duets, quartets and more. 

In 1931, one of the earliest of the .640 fine silver 2-schilling coins ever issued honors the 175th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. The other side is the now iconic design showing the coat-of-arms wreath of all nine Austrian provinces. 

Mozart made an appearance in 1956 on a 25-schilling coin, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of his birth. In 1991, the Austrian Mint issued two 100-schilling coins, one 500-schilling coin and a 1,000-schilling coin for the 200th anniversary of his death.

Mozart’s father accompanies him on the reverse of one 1991 100-schilling coin (which marks his years in Salzburg), while he composes music alone on the other (which is related to his time in Vienna).

The 500-schilling coin gives a nod to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, an opera that “contrasts unbridled love of life with the majesty of death,” according to Charles R. Hosch, author of Modern Commemorative Coins of Austria and Germany: Complete Descriptions.

One of Mozart’s more famous works, The Magic Flute opera, is honored on the 1991 1,000-schilling coin.

Before the euro began circulating in 2002, Mozart was selected for the obverse design of the €1 coin, where he remains today.

In 2006, the Austrian Mint issued a Proof gold commemorative €50 coin celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The 2006 coin is the third and final coin in the “Great Composers” series.

The house where Mozart was born, in Salzburg’s Getreidegasse, is depicted on the obverse of the coin, just to the left of center. 

On its reverse the gold coin features two three-quarters portraits: Mozart’s on the right side in the foreground, and on the left side, somewhat in the background, that of his father Leopold. 

Another of the honorees in the three-year “Great Composers” series is Ludwig van Beethoven. 

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