June 18th, 2010

New from the Austrian Mint

The Austrian Mint will issue a 5 euro silver coin celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.  The engineering marvel takes its name from Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria (12,460 ft), which is considered the second most prominent mountain of the Alps, after Mont Blanc.  Grossglockner is located in the eastern Tyrol region.

The reverse of the coin depicts just two switch-back curves winding up the Grossglockner pass.  The car on the left is an Audi Roadster from 1935; the car on the right going up the road is a modern convertible car.  The two cars represent the 75 years of motoring on this mountain pass. The roadbed also reflects this span of time as the Mint’s Chief Engraver, Thomas Pesendorfer, chose to include some of the original cobblestones as well as reflect the modern paved sections on this side of the coin.  Along the outer edge of the road is a wall made of thousands of bricks and topped with a guardrail.  Soaring above the car is an eagle gliding on the updrafts.  In the top right quadrant are the words “Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse” or Grossglockner High Alpine Road, as well as the dates 1935-2010.

The obverse of the nine-sided coin is the standard 5 euro design, with the denomination encircled by the shields of the nine federal provinces of Austria.  In the center is the face value of 5 euros.  Mint engraver Helmut Andexlinger designed the reverse.

The Grossglockner road was first dreamed of and attempted over many centuries.  Hannibal crossed the Alps with elephants, Caesar marched over them, Napoleon rode across, ladies and gentlemen were carried across in chairs.  It became a reality in the 20th century, when the Grossglockner High Alpine Road made possible crossing from the province of Salzburg to Carinthia in the south by motorcar, bus, motorbike or even bicycle, and that over Austria’s highest mountain – the Grossglockner.

A plan for its construction was proposed for the first time in 1924 and it was flatly refused – not only due to the cost of building it but also the fact that there were very few cars during those years.  Officials regarded it as a trivial dream.  However, the depression years changed all that and it became a make-work project.  From 1930 till 1935 during 26 months of construction, 870,000 cubic meters of earth and rock were moved, 115,750 cubic meters of retaining wall were built and 67 bridges were erected.  A total of 3,200 men laboured with the fairly simple tools of the day completing it all in record time.

The road itself was and remains an engineering marvel rising to a height of 7,770 feet.  It is 30 miles long, has 36 hairpin turns, as well as many more curves, and 2 tunnels.  The gradient reached along the way is not more than 10%.

Construction of the road began in August 1930 funded by the government of Austria with the plan that users would pay a toll and eventually the road would pay for itself.  By 1935 the road opened to the public at a cost of more than 6.5 million dollars which was more than half a million dollars under budget.

The opening was celebrated with a car and motorcycle race that generated valuable publicity.  Organizers had hoped for around 120,000 visitors annually, but within three years, almost 350,000 were enjoying the alpine road each year.  Many travelled via public buses, mopeds and bicycles, some private cars, and very few on foot to the top. Nowadays, in addition to all the cars, the road is often used for athletic training, with cyclists and runners frequently seen.

The continually increasing number of visitors meant that 3500 parking spaces were created along the alpine road.  The width of the road was increased from a 20 feet to 25 feet starting in 1953.  Today the road surface is paved.

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is still to this day one of Austria’s key tourist attractions with around one million visitors per year enjoying the many panoramic views.  Including the massive Pasterze glacier, which is 5 miles long and 3 miles wide, and the twin peaks of Grossglockner Mountain.  The road is usually open from the beginning of May to the end of October.

The 5 euro face value coin has a diameter of 28.5 mm, contains 8 grams of fine silver and has a fineness of 800.

The coin is available in special uncirculated quality and will have a maximum mintage of 50,000. Each of these coins are vacuumed sealed in a colourful and informative blister pack, with bilingual text, English and German.

Collectors in the United States and Canada may purchase the “Grossglockner High Alpine Road” coin issue for $14.25 USD each by calling Euro Collections International toll-free at 1-877-897-7696.  The coin may also be ordered on-line at http://www.eurocollections.com/.

2010 . News and Notes . World coins