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Basilisk Coin Kicks off Austrian Legends Series
By World Coin News

April 15 marked the launch of the Austrian Mint's new six-coin series, "Tales and Legends of Austria." It is a new chapter in the mint's long-running "Austria and Her People" series.

The debut commemorative features the Legend of the Basilisk, the dragon-like creature that was said to live in the medieval city of Vienna.

The reverse of the coin depicts the Basilisk at the bottom of a well that was located in a bakery at No. 7 Schoenlaterngasse, or Lovely Lantern Lane. The Basilisk is standing in a bit of water and in the background is the brave baker's apprentice holding a mirror at the moment the Basilisk sees itself in it. At the top of the coin, the baker and city counselor are fearfully peering over the well's edge.

The obverse of the coin depicts the Schoenlaterngasse of modern times, still maintaining much of its mediaeval characteristics today. The baker's house is depicted on the right side of the coin. The street name "Schoenlaterngasse" is struck into the scroll at the top of the coin. The obverse also bears the face value of 10 euros, the year of issue 2009, and the country of issue "Republik Oesterreich," or Republic of Austria.

Legend has it that for centuries a monster had hibernated under the baker's building and in the year 1212, workers digging a well unwittingly uncovered the creature. The stench and poisonous fumes of the creature killed all those who inhaled them. The monster was identified as a basilisk, a mutant dragon-like creature that was part lizard, part toad and part rooster. To look into its eyes meant instant death. A city counselor well versed in such matters was consulted. He said that the only way to destroy the monster was to confront the Basilisk with its own horrid appearance. Someone had to go down into the well with a mirror.

No matter what was offered as a reward, there was no one prepared to confront the deadly monster. Finally the baker's apprentice, who had long been in love with the baker's beautiful daughter, volunteered. The young apprentice regarded this as an opportunity. He would agree to descend into the well if the baker would consent to give him his daughter's hand in marriage as his reward. Under normal circumstances, this marriage would never have happened. But the desperate baker agreed.

The apprentice, holding his breath, was lowered into the well with a large mirror. As the fearsome Basilisk turned to him, it caught sight of itself in the mirror held by the apprentice like a shield. In a fit of rage and revulsion at its own image, the Basilisk turned to stone. The apprentice climbed from the well to claim his bride, while the spectators began to fill the well with earth and stones to bury the remains of the monster and its deadly fumes.

The tale has been retold (with minor variations) ever since. Indeed, the Baroque house that stands on the site of the old baker's shop today has the legend and a fresco depicting the brave apprentice and his mirror on the facade. A stone purporting to be a petrified basilisk hatched from an egg found in the well also adorns the facade.

The 10 euro silver coin is struck in 925 fine or sterling silver and is available in either of two finishes: proof with a maximum mintage of 40,000 pieces, or in special uncirculated with a maximum mintage of 30,000 coins. The proof version comes in a box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. The special uncirculated coin is sold in a colorful and informative bilingual (German and English) blister pack.

For the first time a special collection album for all six proof "Legends" coins that will be issued in this chapter of "Austrian and Her People" over the next three years can be purchased separately. The album resembles a classic book of tales. The interior will house all six proof coins in capsules on the right side and the certificates of authenticity as well as the promotional brochure on the left side.

The "Tales and Legends in Austria" series will continue in October with a coin marking the capture of King Richard the Lionheart, who was held in the castle of D?rnstein on the Danube river, and the search for him by his loyal minstrel Blondel.


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