THE Vienna Gold Coin was a world best-seller in both the first and second quarters of this financial year. During the second quarter, in particular, sales of the 0.9999 pure gold coin were 431 per cent up on the same period last year - from 27,750 to 147,337 ounces. According to the World Gold Council, the Vienna Gold Coin commanded a 42 per cent world-wide market share. The master and president of the Austrian Mint, Paul Berger, attributed the rise to a low gold price and a weak US dollar. He said gold was still considered 'one of the best hedging tools against inflation, economic uncertainty and currency instability by the world's serious long-term investors and is a must for every sound investment portfolio'. Sales of the Vienna Gold Coin in Europe and Japan rose 262 per cent and 66 per cent respectively as investors in the two regions saw the low gold price as a signal to buy. In addition to taking advantage of currency fluctuations, Mr Berger said investors opted for the Vienna Gold Coin rather than others because it was denominated in the Austrian schilling, which was pegged to the deutschemark and was one of the world's strongest currencies. 'It is a very simple mathematics equation - when the US dollar goes down against the mark, the US dollar equivalent face value of the Vienna Gold Coin goes up,' he said. Although the market price of coins is dependent on the price of gold, the coin's face value, or denominated amount, is independent of the price of gold. Apart from being a sound investment when the US dollar is weak, the Vienna Gold Coin is also Austria's legal tender, backed by the Austrian National Bank. Manufactured by the Austrian Mint since 1989, it is the only European bullion struck in pure gold and has the highest face value of any competing bullion coin. Immediately recognisable as Austrian, the first coin was dedicated to the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The Vienna Gold Coin, available at all Hang Seng Bank branches and easily converted, comes in weights ranging from an ounce to one-tenth of an ounce. Since its introduction, more than 2.1 million ounces have been sold world-wide. The Austrian Mint first produced coins in 1194 when it was founded to produce a ransom for the release of King Richard the Lionheart. Since 1991, two commemorative coin series have been issued a year. One celebrates 'Austria and Her People'. The second, Millennium Series, honours the history of Austria, which next year celebrates its 1,000th anniversary. Furthermore, the Austrian Mint, along with the mints of four other countries, has been appointed by the International Olympic Committee to produce an international series of coins to mark the centenary of the modern Olympic movement. Austria has assigned the theme 'Art, Music and Sport' for this year's coin issue.