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Unusual Instruments on Austrian Philharmonic Coins

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - July 31, 2023

The Vienna Philharmonic coins from the Austria Mint depict a variety of uncommon instruments, including a Musikverein pipe organ, Vienna horn, bassoon, harp, violins, and cello. Courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

Were you aware that July 31 is Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day? If not, you are now, and you may just be surprised at some of the unusual instruments that make music. These days, the radio waves carry the strains of synthesizers, guitars, basses, pianos, cymbals, and drums. But there’s a whole orchestra of other fascinating instruments out there making music.

It’s been said that music is the universal language of humankind, and that being stated it’s a language consisting of many dialects, accents, idioms, and words, each uttered by instruments of every size, shape, and tenor. The Vienna Philharmonic bullion coinage is one place where some of the more unusual instruments are found. The Vienna Philharmonic coins have been produced by the Austrian Mint since 1989 and are revered the world over for their precious-metal purity and overall beauty.

Named in honor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the world’s most renowned musical ensembles, the Vienna Philharmonic gold, platinum, and silver coins enjoy a wide audience of investors and collectors. They were designed by Chief Engraver of the Austrian Mint Thomas Pesendorfer, whose Vienna Philharmonic coins depict a variety of musical instruments, some of them more obscure than others.

On the common obverse is the Musikverein pipe organ, a grand instrument named for its home, the Musikverein – the music palace the Vienna Philharmonic has called home since 1870. On the reverse are several instruments that come to life in the palatial Austrian concert hall, including the Vienna horn, bassoon, harp, and four violins splayed around a cello.

While many folks have certainly heard of these instruments, it’s less likely that they have heard them. Pop music hasn’t made much use of orchestral instruments since the heyday of disco, when horns and strings frequently punctuated the pulsating basslines to some of the era’s most memorable chart-toppers. Those of an earlier generation will remember when orchestras were a mainstay on the big-band circuit. But people who want to really enjoy some traditional orchestra sounds will simply need to tune in to the many classical numbers out there – including those so phenomenally played by the Vienna Philharmonic!

Article provided by PCGS at
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