Royal Australian Mint & Australian Money

A.C.T, The Culture

We went to the Mint on a Saturday of a holiday weekend, so there were no workers there and the factory was not running.  However, we still got to look over the factory floor and see the robots that do the heavy-lifting.

The staircase up to the factory viewing was coated in 5 cent coins, which made for a cool effect.  And the barrel in the lobby overflowing with 1 dollar coins is one used in the factory.  Each full barrel weighs 700 kg, so the robots are necessary to lift it.

Australia switched to a decimal can system in 1966 and they held a contest for the designs.  At the mint, there was a great exhibit on the designer of all the coins, Stuart Devlin.  I love that they feature Australian animals!

Inspired by our visit to the mint, my mom, Sue, writes about Australian money in general.

I have been enamored of the Australian money since we have been here–not only for its purchasing power, but because of the size, shape, color, and illustrations on both coins and paper currency.  Here is a brief description of what I love:

The paper currency comes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollar bills.  They are different sizes, with $5 as the shortest , and the $100 as the longest, progressively getting longer as the denominations increases.  The colors: purple, blue, orange, yellow, and green, again from smallest to largest.  They have portraits of famous Australians, like Banjo Patterson, Mary Reibey, David Unaipon, Dame Nellie Melba, Sir John Monash, and others.  There is usually a woman’s and a man’s portrait on each bill, with the exception of the $5 bill, which has the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the front, and Parliament Bridge on the reverse.  The ‘paper’ currency is made of plastic, so there are very sturdy and almost impossible to rip.

The colors, sizes, and material make the bills very easy to use.  I enjoy learning about the famous Australians.  Quite frankly, these bills make our greenbacks appear quite boring.

As someone who works in retail and deals quite a bit with cash, I can attest to the fact that it is much easier to differentiate bills because of the size and colours.  The $100 is not used often and I haven’t even seen that many.  The $50 dollar bill is probably the most commonly used bill and I would say is the use equivalent of the American $20 bill.

I also love the Australian coins: 5, 10, 20, 50 cents and $1 and $2.  The $1 and $2 are gold colored; the others are silver-colored.  The colors are also used to identify level of donation requested–for example, the Tram Museum asked for a “gold coin donation” and we were happy to oblige.  The $1/$2 coins are very convenient to use and carry–love that there are no small denomination bills.  Also, there are no pennies–all prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents.

The other great thing about the coins are their illustrations–they are primarily based on Australian animals.  Because Australia is in the British Commonwealth, on one side of each coin is the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.  But on the reverse side, the 5 cents has an echidna; the 10 cents has a lyrebird with its fancy plumage; the 20 cents has a platypus; and the 50 cents has a kangaroo and emu (on the coat of arms of Australia).  The $1 has a mob of kangaroos.  The $2 coin, the newest denomination from 1988,  has a scene of an Indigenous man, native flora, and the stars of the Southern Cross.

Within the silver coins, the size correlates to the value (unlike American coins).  That makes it a lot easier to count coins quickly.  The same is not true in the gold coins.  This is because they made the $1 coin first and then, when they decided to make the $2 coin, did not want to go any bigger.  The largest coin is the 50 cent coin; it is a dodecahedron because as a circle, it was too similar in size to the 20 cent coin.  The current currency discussion is whether to get rid of the 5 cent coin or not.  Most prices are in even dollars and I’ve only ever been given 5 cent coins in pairs to make 10 cents.  Meanwhile, the US still has (and needs to use) pennies.  I really like and appreciate the order and sense of the Australian money system, but I do miss the fun names American coins have.



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