Thomas Pesendorfer Honored With 2022 COTY Lifetime Achievement Award

Pesendorfer’s iconic Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra design has been used on quite a number of bullion pieces from Austria. He stands here next to the largest version, a 100,000 Euro 1,000 ounce gold coin produced in 2004.
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From 1997 through 2016 at the time of his retirement from the Austrian Mint, Thomas Pesendorfer was involved in the design of 18 Coin of the Year award winning coins. I say involved because the Austrian Mint has a fine tradition of working as a tightly woven team, producing coins often created by two or more team members, with many of the COTY winners having obverse and reverse designs attributed to different designers.

While it is an achievement in itself that a team can create award winning combinations such as this, it sometimes complicates the process of awarding the COTY Lifetime Achievement Award. But having more than enough deserving candidates is certainly a “problem” which we are pleased to navigate.

Bullion traders and collectors will surely know Pesendorfer as the designer of the Vienna Philharmonic bullion coin, which brought the Austrian Mint to the forefront of the market. Pesendorfer’s iconic Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra design has been used in several different metals and many denominations, two of which have won COTY awards; a feat that remains unparalleled to my recollection.

The coin was designed by Pesendorfer near the beginning of his career. For the reverse side he chose eight characteristic orchestral instruments: four violins either side of a cello in the foreground and the Viennese horn, the bassoon and the harp behind. The obverse side features the famous pipe organ from the Goldener Saal of the Viennese Musikverein, recognized throughout the world as the backdrop to the Philharmonic’s New Year concerts.

Winner of the COTY Most Artistic category in 1995, this 1993 silver 500 Schilling commemorating the Hallstatt and Lakes Region was the sole creation of designer Thomas Pesendorfer.

Though an undeniably brilliant design, the Philharmonic was not the only award winner in Pesendorfer’s career. Many of his creations garnered recognition in the numismatic community and as noted above many of Pesendorfer’s designs have won COTY awards.

Shortly after winning the COTY Best Gold category for his 1989-2000 Schilling Vienna Philharmonic coin, Pesendorfer designed a lovely silver 500 Schilling for Hallstatt and the Lake Regions which won the COTY Most Artistic category. He followed that up with a Best Crown win for an Olympic Ribbon Dancer design on a 200 Schilling which remains a very popular collector piece to this day.

From the outstanding Niobium Bi-Metallic 25 Euro series of Austria comes this 2013 COTY Best Contemporary Event award winner featuring this Robotic reverse designed by Thomas Pesendorfer.

Three of his 100 Schilling commemorative designs completed from 1997 through 2000 were recognized in various COTY categories and two Bi-metallic circulation pieces also took awards with a single side designed by Pesendorfer in the same timeframe. Later in 2011 Pesendorfer produced a reverse for one of the Bi-metallic Niobium 25 Euros which have so dominated COTY competition since their appearance in 2008.

In 2007 a Pesendorfer design for the S.M.S. St. Georg won for COTY Best Silver. This sparked a run of COTY wins for Pesendorfer-designed coins which culminated in 2012 with a second award for his famous Vienna Philharmonic design, this time as a 1.50 Euro, the first silver bullion piece for the Austrian Mint.

In a short period from 2007 to 2010 Thomas Pesendorfer created a run of wonderful silver 10 and 20 Euro’s which won five COTY category awards. This inner view of the Melk Abbey dome displays fantastic depth for a standard struck coin.

Most of Pesendorfer’s wonderful work up to this period had been in silver and base metals. Beginning in 2013 Pesendorfer combined with other Design Team members to create a number of COTY award winning gold coins in several series including the Gustav Klimt and His Women series and the ongoing Austrian Wildlife series of 100 Euro gold coins.

Pesendorfer’s steady guidance as chief engraver for the Austrian Mint for over 20 years is clearly a primary factor in the great success of the Mint’s program during his time there and well past, as many of the designers he worked with in those years have received accolades of their own.

Pesendorfer’s 2005 commemorative silver 20 Euro for the S.M.S. St. Georg was a 2007 COTY award winner in the Best Silver category. The Statue of Liberty in the background makes this a great coin for an American hobbyist to begin their COTY collection.

Following the retirement of Thomas Pesendorfer in 2016, Helmut Andexlinger, with whom he designed several coins, became head of the design team, ably assisted by the highly experienced Herbert Wähner and three new team members, Anna Rastl, Kathrin Kuntner and Rebecca Wilding.

With Thomas Pesendorfer acting as “elder statesman” in an advisory role, there is, however, a sense of continuity. This stems from the fact the Fachschule für Metalldesign, the technical institute for metal design, located in the town of Steyr, is the alma mater of all of the Austrian Mint’s engravers. The importance of this common bond and sense of solidarity that their shared educational experience brings to his talented department is not lost on Helmut Andexlinger.

Pesendorfer originally went to the Fachschule für Metalldesign in Steyr to become a sculptor, however, he discovered his vocation was in metal design and was eventually advised to join the Austrian Mint, a Mecca for Austrian engravers. During his time there he has scaled the heights of his profession yet he keeps his feet very firmly on the ground, refusing to accept that engraving is an art but considering it more of an “artistic craft”.

This mindset has clearly served Pesendorfer extremely well in his work. In retirement Pesendorfer dedicates his life to social activities, some of which involve using his coin producing expertise to make the lives of children, refugees and elderly people more enjoyable. He lives a humble but rewarding life these days, so we find great pleasure in presenting him this COTY Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his quietly stellar career.


This article was first published in the April issue of World Coin News.

See the winner of the COTY-Award 2022.

Pesendorfer’s Austrian colleague Herbert Wähner, received the Lifetime Achievement Award too, in 2014.

Find more coins designed by Thomas Pesendorfer in our online archive Cosmos of Collectibles.

If you understand at least some German and are interested in the intriguing story of how the Austrian Vienna Philharmonic came into life, don’t miss Ursula Kampmann’s monograph on the subject!