Launched back in 1989 in gold form, the Austrian Wiener Philharmoniker soon became the premier European bullion coin and one of the big three alongside the American Eagle and the Canadian Maple Leaf ranges. Joined in 2008 by a 1oz silver coin, and in February 2016 by a 1oz platinum, it’s also one of the very few to have offered all three of the major precious metals with the same design.
Both sides of the coin were designed by the Austrian Mint’s chief engraver, Thomas Pesendorfer. The reverse face depicts eight orchestral instruments: four violins, a cello, a Viennese horn, a bassoon and in the background, a harp. The obverse side features the famous pipe organ from the Goldener Saal of the Viennese Musikverein, recognised throughout the world as the backdrop to the Philharmonic’s New Year concerts. The organ case was designed by the architect Theophil von Hansen, who was responsible for the whole building. The original organ was built by Friedrich Ladegast in 1872 and since then the organ has been renovated and replaced on various occasions, the last being in 2011. Visually, the body of the organ remains unchanged despite technical alterations. Above the organ, the words “Republik Oesterreich” stand in a semi-circle, while the weight and purity of the coin, with the date of issue below, stand beneath the balustrade of the organ. At the bottom edge of the coin appears its face value.
The coins are minted to demand every year, and as a result the mintages vary quite widely, especially the silver. The three versions all have the same diameter of 37.0 mm, the difference in metal density being taken up by thickness variations (the silver is 60% thicker than the gold for example).
The first 99.99 per cent purity European silver bullion coin, the Austrian Mint first issued Vienna Philharmonic coins in silver on 01 February 2008. A million coins had been struck within a month of the date of issue, and by the end of the year almost eight million had been produced. Only ever available in the one-ounce format, sales have remained in the multi-millions ever since, peaking at almost 18 million in 2011. That makes it the world’s third biggest silver bullion coin after the American Silver Eagle and the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf, although if depressed sales in 2014 translate into similar 2015 numbers, it may lose its title to Perth’s Kangaroo silver bullion coin for which the mint is making extravagent claims.
The design remains the same as the gold except for the small inscription SILBER on the reverse to denote the metal composition, and the usual obverse changes to denote denomination and composition. A minor difference is that the coin rim is smooth, unlike the reeded edge of the gold. The coin has the unusual denomination of €1.5 EURO, and because it was only issued for the first time in 2008, it has never been denominated in Austrian Schillings. The coins are sold in monster boxes of 500 comprised of 25 tubes of 20 coins. It’s very easy to pick up single coins if you so wish.