Tradition Meets Innovation – The 27th Mint Directors’ Conference

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by Ursula Kampmann

June 12, 2012 – This was the 27th time that representatives from mints, central banks and technical suppliers have assembled together at a Mint Directors’ Conference. The Austrian Mint extended the invitation to come to Vienna, a city always worth a visit. The number of participants alone speaks volumes about Vienna’s appeal: Four hundred and twenty eight representatives were registered from all around the world.

Impressions of the welcoming Heuriger.

The first evening was to be the last of the relaxing moments; the welcoming Heuriger approached. With little talk, a lot of music, a bit of singing and plenty of wine, the congress began. It was a wonderful opportunity to renew old friendships, make new ones and generally create a conducive atmosphere in which to talk both collegially and objectively about pressing issues in the industry, over the next few days.

Impressions of the welcoming Heuriger – in traditional costume.

Offering yet another attraction for their overseas colleagues, a whole row of Austrian and German delegates seized the opportunity to dig out their traditional costumes.

Impressions of the welcoming Heuriger.

Huge compliments go out to the amazing organization of the welcoming Heuriger. Catering to more than 400 guests in so short a time and with such scrumptious Austrian delicacies was no small feat.

Care to listen to the Heuriger music again? The following link contains a variety of Viennese songs with 50s charm.

Taking a look into the conference room.

Monday, 8:30. – the start time of the congress alone was something of a challenge. The room itself was enormous. At first, it seemed like the room was doubled by a mirror, but on second glance it became clear that it was simply large enough to accommodate the more than 400 participants.

Photo opening.

A group of Austrian bugle blowers bordered the opening, which was organized by the hosts, the acting director of the Mint Directors’ Conference, Mr. Gerhard Starsich, and by the current president of the MDC, Ross MacDiarmid.

The first general meeting was dedicated to the theme of “future payment systems,” with this reassuring message: According to Carmen Whateley of Vodacom, methods of payment are additive, meaning that they can coexist without any difficulties. Everyone uses different methods of payment depending on the situation, and because cash is simply practical for certain life situations, its continued use is guaranteed. A continually growing need for money, also means that the overall amount of cash will increase. 
These findings could, of course, also be seen in a slightly different light, but who wants to ruin such a lovely morning?

We have provided short content summaries for most of the lectures. If these are of interest, click here.

The Melk Abbey – destination of the women’s program.

While the delegates swapped ideas on current issues in coin production, their spouses and significant others were treated to a wonderful program.
The bus made its way to the famous Melk Abbey, whose magnificent baroque church and even more magnificent library rank among the most beautiful from the period.

This stretch of the Donau ranks among the most beautiful sights Austria has to offer.

From there, it was a trip by boat to Dürnstein, where Richard Löwenherz was once held captive. According to a rather charming legend, it’s said that the Vienna Mint first took up operations in an effort to develop and come up with the ransom money for his release. Recent research results suggest, however, that in actual fact Vienna already had an existing coinage.

If you’d like to relive just how beautiful Dürnstein looks from a boat, click here.

Meeting in front of the Musical Society.

All of the congress participants met once again in the evening to attend a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic at the Musical Society. It was a true delight for classical music fans. Since the mere act of securing tickets for concerts at the Musical Society can be an art form in and of itself, even for the Viennese, this was a truly unique and unforgettable experience that certainly resonated with the congress’s international participants and guests, reaffirming Vienna’s significance as a centre of classical music.

Reception in the Glass Chamber.

Participants first gathered in the so-called Glass Chamber, a marvel of modern architecture that first opened in 2004 to provide additional space for rehearsals, conferences and receptions.

The Golden Chamber.

Afterwards, everyone moved through to the Golden Chamber, the concert hall, which gets its “golden” name from its fantastic acoustics. It is regarded as one of the best concert halls in the world and, as such, has been replicated in Amsterdam, Basel, Boston, Leipzig and Zurich. We then enjoyed the sounds of the superlative Vienna Philharmonic, an ensemble already so world renowned for their New Year’s concerts that nothing else really needs to be said.

Caryatide in the Golden Chamber.

With Riccardo Muti conducting, we were first treated to das Lob der Musik Venite Gentes by Salieri, a contemporary of Mozart who became more widely known through the film “Amadeus.” Next, Haydn’s trumpet concert in E flat major with Hans Peter Schuh as soloist. Schubert’s Symphony Nr. 8 in C major followed the intermission.

To experience the Vienna Philharmonic and their famous Radetzky March for yourself, click here.

You can watch Ricardo Muti at the opening of the La Fenice Opera House in Venice here.

If you’d like to listen to the allegro of the trumpet concert with Hans Peter Schuh again – albeit with poor sound quality – click here.

You can find a recording of Schubert’s Achter from the Bavarian Broadcasting Cooperation here.

A look into the lecture room.

Those not part of the mints circle had the chance to sleep a bit later on Tuesday. The session addressing new measures to counter fraud was intended only for the innermost circle of those involved.

A look into the lecture room.

The morning lie-in was much appreciated, seeing as the second day was filled with 21 lectures divided into six sessions.

Coffee break.

Having enough breaks scheduled throughout was a good thing – they not only provided ample coffee to help stay alert until the end of every lecture, but also allowed the opportunity for relaxed and easy networking.
The congress ended at 16:30 with a recap from Ross MacDiarmid. Making mention of 35 lectures in just 20 minutes was no easy task!

At the Riding School.

The visit to the Vienna Riding School, with its famous Lipizzaner horses, was a program highlight for all those who didn’t have to attend the lectures.

If you’d like to watch a short report about the Spanish Riding School, click here.

Should you prefer to watch an actual performance, you can find the latest performance of the legendary stallion Mantua here.

Aerial shot of the Hofburg Palace from a balloon, 1900. Source: Wikipedia.

The gala dinner was held in what is quite possibly the classiest setting imaginable – the Imperial Hofburg Palace – residence of the Habsburgs and centre of the Habsburg empire for centuries.

The chapel in the Schweizerhof.

Much to the delight of all the tourists present, a chapel awaited us in the Schweizerhof, which gets its name from the Swiss mercenary soldiers that acted as gate guards under Franz I. Stephan and Maria Theresia.

A guards regiment acts as honorary guard.

Past the guards regiment, it was up the grand staircase to a reception before all guests …

The ballroom.

… took their places in the magnificent ballroom.

The MDC banner is carried into the ballroom.

A highlight of the event was when the MDC banner was carried in, in order to be handed over to the hosts of the next MDC, the Casa de Moneda de Mexico.

Gerhard Starsich and Marcelo de los Santos.

Gerhard Starsich, President of the Austrian Mint, handed the flag over to Marcelo de los Santos, CEO of the Casa de Moneda de Mexico.

Prizes for the most beautiful coins were also handed out during the gala dinner. If you’d like to know who won, click here.
Under this link you’ll also find the award recipients of the packaging competition.

The debutantes and their dance partners.

The appearance of the debutantes and their dance partners was a lovely surprise. They proceeded to give a perfect display of how to perform the Viennese Waltz and, with the words “Alles Walzer” (= everybody waltz), were then faced with some serious competition from some of those present.
When it came time for the Quadrille though, displays of perfection would actually have been rather boring …

If you’d like to see how the Vienna debutantes open the opera ball, click here.

To see for yourself that even the opera ball VIPs are still in disagreement as to how the Quadrille must be danced, watch this short film.

The journey to Salzburg upon the Majestic Imperator.

And with that, the conference was over. Those who had registered for the post-conference tour were taken to Salzburg aboard the heritage train the Majestic Imperator.
Accolades go out once again to the Austrian Mint and the preparation team headed by Kerry Tattersall. Vienna really showed itself at its very best.

All photos © Austrian Mint.