While visiting Philadelphia in July, I had the opportunity to visit the US Mint. Well today I am in Canberra, Australia. Canberra is home to the Royal Australian Mint. We visited on Tuesday.
Not to be confused with the famous Perth Mint, Royal Australian Mint is a federal agency that produces circulating and non- circulating legal tender coins. The Perth Mint is state owned and only produces non-circulating legal tender coins. All of the coin’s Australians use day to day come from the Royal Australian Mint.
Unlike the US Mint, we were allowed to take pictures in the Royal Australian Mint. One of the first sites on our self guided tour was a grand staircase. Look closely and you will see the stairs are decorated with thousands of $0.05 coins.
The Royal Australian Mint opened in February 1965. Since its opening 15 billion coins have been made. 255 million are minted each year. The mint and the banks work together to determine the amount of new currency created each year. The banks are responsible for removing worn coins from circulation. These are melted down and used to create the next batch of money.
One of the first exhibits we saw at the mint focused on Australian Bush Rangers. Bush rangers are a bit like the cowboys of the American West, a collection of outlaws and independent spirits rebelling against authority. The Royal Mint has created a commemorative coin to honor these notorious legends of Australia’s past. Along with the coin, the mint had a display featuring the death masks of some famous bush rangers, including Ned Kelly.
The next display at the mint covered the history of Australian currency. The first coins arrived to the shores of Australia via Dutch shipwrecks. Later, sovereigns and shillings arrived in the pockets of officers with the first fleet. The first fleet transported criminals to the Australian penal colony from England.
As the area’s population increased so did its need for currency. Spanish reals were widely exchanged until 1825 when the English parliament passed the “Sterling Silver Money Act”. This act standardized currency across Britain and its colonies and a shipment of these news coins was sent to Australia from the British Royal Mint.
The early 1850’s marked the arrival of the Australian Gold Rush. This discovery meant gold was readily available throughout the colony. Although a mint did not yet exist, a variety of gold coins and ingots were created in the years following the gold boom.
On February 14, 1966 Australia abandoned British currency and shifted to decimal currency. Australian notes are known as dollars, and at the time $0.01 and $0.02 coins were also available. Today cash transactions are rounded to the nearest $0.05 since pennies and 2 cent pieces are no longer issued.
Our visit to the mint ended with views over the factory floor. We saw the room where does were made and the machines used to press images onto the metal blanks. We even saw a HUGE container of blanks poured into the machine for minting.