In a nice change from the usual way a national mint designs its coins, back in 2011 the Mint of Austria (Munze Osterreich) ran a competition for the children of Austria to design the reverse sides of a new ten-piece set of silver coins. The coin series was to be called Austria: Piece by Piece. Austria is a federation of nine provinces and the idea behind the series would be that each province would have a coin themed around it. The reverse face would depict popular items or locations for which it was known, and the obverse would something in the province that had been deemed of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. The tenth coin would feature the country as a whole.
The reverse face of each release carries the design chosen from the entries put forward, all by schoolchildren. The childs artwork is then transferred into a format suitable for the production of dies to strike it into the coin face. The obverse face is one designed by one or two of the mints big three coin designers, Thomas Pesendorfer (designer of the Philharmonic bullion coin), Mag. Helmut Andexlinger, and Herbert Wahner.
The coins are an eclectic mix of styles and subjects, the contrast between the two faces giving them a distinct and imaginative look, quite unlike something you’d expect from a uniform design process by a professional team. A refreshing change from the norm.
Struck in just over half an ounce of sterling (0.925) silver, the 32mm diameter coins make a fine pictorial look at Austria and how its people see their own country. Much like the Japan Mints huge 47 Prefectures series, it also lets the rest of the world take an encapsulated view of the country. A fine example of the place of numismatics in national identity. Released from 2012 to 2016 the coins are available now in all three formats ranging from €10.00 up to €39.60, so all are quite reasonably priced.