Niobium Coin Article by Louis Golino and updated August 2021 by CoinWeek …..
The Austrian Mint is one of the world’s oldest mints, with historical roots that date back to 1194. It is best known for its Philharmonic silver and gold coins, which are among the world’s most widely traded bullion coins, however, since 2003 the mint has issued a 25 euro coin that features an outer ring of silver and an inner core of a special oxidized metal that can create multiple different colors. This is known as the Niobium Coin Series.
This has become one of mint’s most well-known and popular collector series, and it honors Austrian, European, and global contributions to science and technology. It is a widely collected and innovative series, the first numismatic series in the world to use niobium, a metal that is much rarer than silver.
Niobium was discovered in 1801, and is used primarily in the aerospace industry and jewelry manufacturing. The only other countries that make a niobium coin are Canada, Latvia and Luxembourg (though Luxembourg utilizes the Austrian Mint). There are other “Branded Collector Coins” also produced under license with Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Mongolia and Palau.
These Niobium Coin have a striking appearance because the niobium is oxidized during the preparation of the coins, and it is done differently for each issue in order to give the Niobium Coin a different color. Because the coins are popular all over the world, especially in Europe, their mintage was raised with the 2005 issue from 50,000 to 65,000, a level which has been maintained through the current issue.
65,000 coins is not a low mintage by any means, but because the coins have an established core of collectors, they have mostly done very well on the secondary market. This is especially true of the earliest issues that are difficult to obtain even from European coin dealers, and a number of other issues in the series have increased considerably in value since they were issued.
The last few coins in this series were initially available directly from the Austrian Mint for about € 76.80 *incl. 20% VAT, and typically go for about $90-95 USD from dealers in the US when first issued.
The fact that these Niobium coins have compelling designs and sport a different color each year also helps support strong interest in the series because it makes the coins more interesting than a series with a stagnant design. Moreover, the Niobium Coin designs have become more intricate in recent years, especially on the outer silver ring where design elements have been added.
In addition, the color of the niobium core has evolved from a single uniform color to the use of two contrasting colors incorporated into the design elements on the core. Not surprisingly, a number of Niobium Coin in the series have been nominated or won Krause Coin of the Year awards in various categories.
In 2007 the amount of niobium in the Niobium Coin was changed from 7.15 to 6.5 grams, changing the total weight when combined with 90% pure silver from 17.15 to 16.5 grams. The diameter has been the same since the 2003 issue at 34 millimeters.
A quick overview of the individual Niobium Coins:
|2003– 700th anniversary of the Hall of Tyrol. Blue color. The obverse depicts a satellite-mapped image of the hall from outer space, and the reverse shows the die used to strike the famous 1486 guldiner coin.
|2004– 150th anniversary of the Semmering Alpine railway. Green color. The obverse depicts modern and antique locomotives, and the reverse shows a steam train. Semmering is considered the world’s first mountain railway. [View Coin Profile]
|2005– 50 years of Austrian television. Purple color. Obverse shows a television test pattern of the 1950s, and the reverse shows the globe behind a rabbit-ear antenna. [View Coin Profile]
|2006– European satellite navigation. Gold color. Obverse shows the location of Austria behind the face of a compass, and the reverse shows a satellite orbiting around the globe.
|2007– Austrian aviation. Turquoise color. Obverse shows the inside of a modern cockpit, and the reverse shows a Taube airplane flying above a glider and pilot.
|2008– 150th anniversary of the birth of Carl Baron Auer von Weisbach (an Austrian who pioneered the development of gas lighting). Green color. Obverse shows someone lighting a gas lamp in Vienna, and the reverse shows the profile of Weisbach and the evolution of light bulbs.
|2009– UNESCO International Year of Astronomy. Yellow color. Obverse shows Galileo and his instruments, and the reverse shows a space exploration satellite.
|2010– Renewable Energy. Blue color. Obverse shows a tree and the four elements (earth, wind, water, and fire), and the reverse shows solar panels, hydroelectric turbine, global thermal energy, and wind turbine.
|2011– Robotics. Pale Rust color. Obverse depicts a version of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man in which a robot replaced the human, and the reverse shows the Mars rover.
|2012– Bionics. Pinkish Purple color. The obverse shows a cross-section of a nautilus shell snail, and the reverse shows the honeycomb roof of the Olympic stadium in Munich.
|2013– Tunnel Construction. Ice blue color. Obverse shows a tunnel boring machine in the niobium part, and the silver ring shows the mountains themselves, and the reverse shows a typical Austrian road tunnel in the Alpine landscape and a worker drilling into the rock
|2014– Dawn of a New Era: (re)volution. Uses two colors, blue and green, for the first time, to illustrate the development of Homo sapiens from other species. The Niobium Coin obverse shows DNA and RNA and related symbols and scientific instruments, and the reverse shows different stages of human development from apes to today’s humans.
|2015– Cosmology : Uses two colors, blue and gold. The obverse shows several planets or planetoids (including a recognizable Saturn), four-point stars and the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe (pictured). On the reverse, planets and their orbits (in yellow) arc over the European Extremely Large Telescope (in blue ).
|2016– Time : Two-tone niobium coin core of cyan and magenta, the obverse of the coin shows an old-fashioned clock face in the niobium core and a chronometer in the outer silver ring of its obverse, while the reverse also shows a time spiral and the time in a selection of famous cities. [View Coin Profile]
|2017–Microcosm: A shining example of a butterfly is found in the raspberry-red and grass-green niobium centre of the coin’s obverse. But the journey of discovery really begins on the coin’s reverse, where a microscopic view of a butterfly wing is shown at the top of the center. Moving clockwise we go even deeper with the help of an electron microscope. [View Coin Profile]
|2018– Anthropocene : Using shades of green the obverse shows The footprint of humanity over a map of Europe, Africa and Asia symbolizing humanity’s impact on the planet. On the reverse, A man and trees are imposed on a map of north and south America, with humanity’s adverse effects on planet Earth are shown in the silver outer ring. So profound has man’s impact been on the planet, that it is time to declare a new geologic epoch – the Anthropocene [View Coin Profile]
|2019– Artificial Intelligence : Color : Aqua The coin’s obverse shows the head of a humanoid robot in its electric-blue niobium core and a processor from which conductor paths extend to the silver outer ring. The coin’s reverse symbolically depicts developments related to artificial intelligence: the e-health system, smart machines, processors, digitization, data analysis, and artificial neural networks. [View Coin Profile]
|2020– Big Data : Released on March 11, 2020 The coin’s obverse Big Data features a human eye that represents surveillance on the one hand and the biometric method of iris recognition on the other, while the silver outer ring is designed like a camera lens. The coin’s reverse he reverse of the coin shows people under surveillance, which is recognizable from the 20:20 running time on the left edge of the outer silver ring. [View Coin Profile]
|2021– Smart Mobility : Released on March 10, 2021 The coin’s obverse is dominated by a blueprint of an air taxi. The futuristic craft fills the two-tone niobium core and spreads into the silver outer ring so as to underline the visionary nature of this concept. The coin’s reverse underlines the ecologically sustainable, decelerated aspect of smart mobility. [View Coin Profile]
A word about values: There is a dearth of accurate and updated valuation sources for modern world coins and Niobium Coin compared to what is available for American coins. Like many collectors I do not find the market values contained in Krause Publication’s Standard Catalog of World Coins 2001-Date to be very accurate. That leaves two main useful sources, which are recent e-Bay sales and values listed in the Lighthouse Euro Catalog, which more accurately reflect the levels these coins trade at when sold by European dealers.