Collective Coinnoissuer

Australian Coins

Overview of Australian Coinage

Australian coins have our country’s history and momentous milestones struck into the metal of their surfaces. These small, metal treasures are more than mere tokens of exchange; they reflect the evolution of Australia’s monetary system and display historic and commemorative events and milestones. Over many years, Australian coinage has endured through evolution, taking us from the bygone pre-decimal era to the decimal coins we use today. Australian circulating coins are exclusively produced to the highest standard by the Royal Australian Mint (RAM), which currently operates at 62-114 Denison St, Deakin, ACT, 2600.

In the history of Australian coins, there have been two categories of our currency: pre-decimal and decimal. Our present-day coins, used for purchasing goods and services, fall under the category of decimal coinage. Australian decimal coins include the 5 cents, the 10 cents, the 20 cents, the 50 cents, the one dollar, and the two-dollar coins. Distinguishably graceful at a glance, our cents are minted to have a silver hue, while the dollar coins display a golden colour.

Significant Symbols of Australia’s Current Currency System (Decimal)

Two symbols dominate our understanding of Australian currency today: the dollar symbol ($) and the symbol for cents (¢). At the bottom of the value ladder sits the 5-cent piece, the smallest denomination in Australian decimal coinage. Ascending to the top, we find the two-dollar coin, representing the highest denomination in Australia’s current coinage in the decimal era.

Australian Currency Symbol

Distinctive Designs of Decimal Currency

Each decimal Australian coin has an intricate and distinctive design, capturing the beauty of Australian wildlife. The 5-cent piece displays an echidna and the numeral 5. With the 10-cent coin, a graceful lyrebird takes centre stage, adorned with the number 10. The 20-cent coin depicts a playful platypus. As for the 50-cent piece, it displays the emu and kangaroo, iconic figures from Australia’s coat of arms. Lastly, the one-dollar coin depicts a lively mob of kangaroos, followed by the words, 1 dollar.

Phased-Out Decimal Coinage

Australian Penny

There also used to be two decimal coins, the one and two cent pieces, which circulated around Australia. Unlike other cents, which have a silver hue, these two coins were made of copper and were copper-coloured. The Royal Australian Mint (RAM, for short) decided to discontinue the production of the one-cent and two-cent pieces because the cost of manufacturing them outweighed their face value. The one-cent coin featured a feather tailed glider with the number 1, while the two-cent coin depicted an Australian frill-neck lizard with the number 2. Both coins were removed from circulation in February 1992. Despite being withdrawn from circulation, they are still considered legal tender in Australia.

Potential Phasing-out of Five Cent Coins

Similarly, there have been discussions about phasing out the five-cent coin due to its production cost exceeding its face value in today’s economy. However, as of now, there are no concrete plans to phase out the five-cent piece in the foreseeable future in Australia.

It does make cents though! So, it might be worth keeping a special stash of these enduring echidna coins.
Australian 5 cent coin

Aboriginal Aesthetics on the Australian $2 Coin

However, wandering from this Australian animal theme, the Australian decimal 2-dollar coin displays an image of an indigenous Australian named Gwoya Tjungurrayi. This exceptional inclusion celebrates the rich cultural diversity of Australia and its Indigenous Australians.

Australian $2 Coin

The Era of Pre-Decimal Currency:

Australian Pound

While decimal coins continue to circulate today, there was once an era when a different currency prevailed on Australian shores. This earlier system was known as pre-decimal currency and comprised pounds, shillings, and pence coins; its symbols were £, s, and d. Yet, these symbols that were once utilised daily have now become unused since the beginning of the decimal currency takeover on February 14th, 1966. On this date, the Australian dollar and cents emerged and mixed into circulation, gradually replacing the old system. Before 1966, halfpennies, pennies, threepence (also known as a thruppence), sixpence, shillings, and florins were all the pre-decimal coins of Australia.

Distinctive Designs of Pre-Decimal Coinage

Like the decimal coinage we know today, pre-decimal coinage also had its own intricate designs. Halfpennies depicted a design of a kangaroo and the Commonwealth Star. The Australian penny had two different designs: from 1910 to 1936, “One Penny” and “Commonwealth of Australia” detailed the frontside, but from 1937 to 1964, the design was identical to our halfpennies, the kangaroo and the commonwealth star. Moving onto the threepence (thruppence), this coin had two designs as well: from 1910 to 1936, the threepence bore the design of Australia’s coat of arms; however, from 1937 to 1964, the design was more refined to three stalks of grain. The Australian sixpence had only one design: the design of Australia’s coat of arms. Moving on to the shilling, this had two designs: from 1910 to 1936, it depicted Australia’s coat of arms, but from 1938 to 1964, the design changed to that of a ram’s head. Lastly, the Australian florin had only one design as well, the Australian coat of arms.

Pre-Decimal Currency Challenges

But Australia’s pre-decimal currency system had a certain issue associated with using its coins. There was quite an elevated level of difficulty in performing calculations when using pre-decimal currency across Australia. To explain the complexity, consider that in the pre-decimal system, there were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. This arrangement was coinsiderably more confusing when compared to the decimal currency system we have today.

Decimal is Easier

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In the current decimal currency system, we find that the calculations are much simpler. For example, it takes 2 fifty-cent coins to make a dollar, or just 5 twenty-cent coins to make one dollar. The introduction of decimal currency made the calculations easier and more straightforward for everyday transactions.

Australian Coins

Evolution of Excellent Effigies

Despite the change in currency from pre-decimal to decimal, there has been a remarkable constant. Throughout the years, the effigy of the reigning monarch has been placed on the obverse side, or backside, of Australian coins. Since 1953 to 2023, Queen Elizabeth II has reigned as the sovereign whose portrait is depicted on our Australian coinage, transitioning seamlessly from the pre-decimal to the decimal era. Interestingly, whenever there is a transition in royal portraiture on the obverse (front) side, monarchs always face the opposite direction. Queen Elizabeth II faced right, thus implying that when the new king, King Charles, is minted on Australian coins, his portrait will face left.


Australian 20 cent coin
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