Münze Österreich: The National Mint of Austria
The minting of coins is an importing business an any country - or at least, it was in those days when coins were the only way in which money could be exchanged. In Austria, minting reached an early climax in terms of quality and international recognition in the late Middle Ages.
Back then, the economic powerhouse of the Habsburg Empire was in the areas where precious ore was mined - near the Styrian iron ore mines, the salt mines of the Salzkammergut - and most importantly, the gold and silver mines of Tyrol. Unsurprisingly, the late Medieval and Renaissance mints of the Habsburgs were not in Vienna, but in today′s western Austria - most notably in Kufstein.
The Habsburg coins were of very high quality and the craft of making money - in the literal sense - remained important in Austria. The bills of the current currency, the Euro, were designed by the Austrian Robert Kalina. When Vienna University abandoned the diploma course in "numismatics" in (I think) 2007, there was a big argument about this move in the media. If you are into coins, the "Münze Österreich" or "Austrian Mint" will excite you.
Imperial Splendour for Economic Control
The palatial (but sadly historicist) building of the mint can be found by the Heumarkt in Vienna′s third district. The institution that lives here is responsible for the production of all Austrian coins. This includes not only the Austrian share of the Euro coins and special series in national designs, but also the important and precious "investment" coins, such as the Golddukaten and the Maria Theresien Taler.
The latter two are gold and silver coins respectively, that were designed under the rule of Emperor Franz Joseph I (the latest series in 1915) and Empress Maria Theresia (in 1780). This makes a good starting point to investigate the history of the national mint in slightly more detail.
The Vienna mint was first mentioned in a document written in 1397 - however, mints have existed a long time before. The traditional "Guldiner", the golden Taler, was probably created for the ransom of King Richard the Lionheart before 1194 (see my article on Wiener Neustadt for details). The year 1554 saw some innovations in the technique of minting coins, and a new type of press was developed in 1700 - details in the history of numismatics, that only scholars of the field and real aficionados can get excited about.
Important Coins of the National Mint of Austria
More important is the development of the Maria Theresien Taler in 1780 - the series is still being produced and a popular gift in Austria for very special occasions. The same thing, by the way, applies to the 1915 series of the Golddukaten mentioned above.
The current building of the Münze Österreich was built in 1834, relatively early for a building of its style. Ever since World War I, it is the only institution commissioned for the production of coins in Austria. Since 1989, you can purchase shares of the company, which is governed by the National Bank of Austria. On the premises of the Münze Österreich, there is some space usually used for exhibitions. They are dedicated to some aspect in history that is associated with coins, economics or currency issues.
Attractions nearby include the Wiener Konzerthaus, the Stadtpark, the Museum of Applied Arts and - in the other direction - the Schloss Belvedere with the Austrian National Gallery and Palais Schwarzenberg.
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