When King Richard I of England, better known as Richard the Lionheart, passed the Austrian border on his way back from the second crusades in 1192, he did not have a clue that he would not leave the country for some time to come. Due to a dispute during his visit to the Holy Land, the Austrian Duke Leopold put him in prison and demanded 6000 buckets of silver, which corresponded to a weight of approximately 12 tons. Leopold's demands were granted. However, after the silver had been paid out, the question arose what to do with the newly acquired treasure. At the time, silver was a common metal for coins, and it seemed obvious to use it to mint coins. Consequently, the Duke decided in 1194 to found the first mint of the kingdom in Vienna, the Austrian Mint. In the 800 years since its creation the Austrian Mint has been used in various minting processes. The first minters used a hammer to mint the coins up to the 16th century, and in the following centuries continuously improving methods were used to mint the coins which resulted in better and higher quality. In 1830, so-called "ring minting" was invented. With this method the blanks were clamped in a ring and then stamped. This process ensured a more even appearance of the coins. Modern minting processes are based on this method, and have been improved and industrialised over the course of the years. Today, modern facilities have a productive capacity of up to 700 coins per minute.
Today, the mint in Vienna is one of the most important internationally recognised mints. Apart from its main purpose, minting the coins officially in circulation in the republic of Austria, the Austrian Mint also processes valuable precious metals into bullion coins, collectors' coins and medals. In 1988, the former Viennese Mint was transformed into Münze Österreich AG, the Austrian Mint. Today, the Austrian Mint is a subsidiary of the Austrian National Bank and produces approximately 450,000,000 coins per year. Despite state-of-the-art production techniques the century-old craftsmanship is cultivated behind the walls of this house deeply steeped in tradition: The engravers of the mints still work with a plaster cast to achieve an image on the coin that is as precise as possible.
The programme of the Austrian Mint comprises some of the globally recognised bullion coins and collectors' coins in gold and silver. A particularly recognised piece that is steeped in tradition is the Maria Theresa thaler. This silver coin was first issued in 1780, the year when the Austrian empress Maria Theresa died, and today it is regarded as one of the most widely struck silver coins in the world. It was, however, another coin that gained world importance, and it dealt with a completely new motif and subject: the golden Vienna Philharmonics. The Philharmonic is one of the most sought-after and highest-grossing gold coins in the world. In addition to the Vienna Philharmonics Silver the programme of the Austrian Mint also offers other silver coins representing the beauty of the Austrian country. The mint pleased not only the Austrian collectors with its state series showing motifs of Burgenland, Salzburg, Tyrol or Vienna. The so-called niobium coins are classed as far more than only a visual innovation. They are bimetal coins made from silver and niobium. Although niobium is not a precious metal, it has a very high melting point, and thanks to its superconductivity is often used in the aviation and space industry. The niobium coins of the Austrian Mint unite a relatively new raw material with premium silver to create extraordinary and colourfulcollectors' coins.