A global innovation when launched almost a decade ago, these 25 euro silver niobium coins still combine state-of-the-art numismatic technology and first-rate aesthetic design. First issued in 2003, their silver outer ring and coloured niobium ‘pill’, which is attained by oxidation as opposed to the application of artificial colour, have provided the perfect backdrop for exploring suitably technological themes, from astronomy to aviation, robotics to renewable energy and electric light to television.
Although as common as lead and even present in the human body, niobium was only discovered at the beginning of the 19th century. A resistant metal with extremely high chemical stability, it can be rolled and forged at room temperature, which in part explains why niobium is increasingly popular as a component in the manufacture of jewellery. Another of niobium’s facets is that colour does not need to be applied to it. Instead, through ‘anodized oxidation’, the method first applied to coins by the Austrian Mint, a thin oxide layer is produced on the coin surface and subsequent light refraction enables different colours to arise. The resultant effect is quite striking and quite unique.
Equally striking is the quality of artwork on both sides of these coins. The 2012 coin Bionik, has been nominated for an award at the 2014 Coin of the Year awards, the 2011 coin, Robotik, won Best Contemporary Event and the 2008 coin, Fascination Light, won Most Innovative Coin.
We know that many collectors don’t bother looking at Euro coins, but there are some terrific quality series coming from the European mints and the quality is usually top-notch. The Silver Niobium series definitely fit’s that description and is well worth a good look. They come packaged in the Austrian Mint’s usual little red box, which are small, neat and appreciated by those with collections that can do without huge amounts of packaging..
Mintages have settled at 65,000 and they all seem to sell out. A recent boost has given the series a real kick. Since the 2014 coin there has been the use of two-colours for the niobium pill, the Cosmology and Time coins in particular being very appealing pieces. An attractive, unusual collection that’s reasonably priced. We’d like to see the process applied to a coin series with more worldwide appeal as well, although the Royal Canadian Mint has also used it on a few issues.