The Perth Mint’s Changing Designs
Posted on December 08, 2022
It's sometimes said that the Royal Canadian Mint competes with the U.S. Mint based on fineness and the Perth Mint based on coin size. Indeed, Australia's mint is home to some of the largest-ever issued coins, as well as some gargantuan mintages that are actually still in circulation.
But talking about this particular aspect of the Perth Mint almost undersells the diversity of the coins and the attention they pay to regularly-changing designs. Remember how commemorative the change in design of gold and silver Eagles was? Well, the Perth Mint does it with their coins on an annual basis. We're sure our mint has its reasons...
Probably the most iconic of the Australian bullion coins, the Kangaroo
was initially called the Australian Nugget. But, just two years later, it was decided that a Kangaroo was necessary to properly depict the Australian landscape.
Then, in 2018, it was decided that one kangaroo wouldn't suffice: two were introduced to the reverse by designer Neil Hollis. It being a one-year thing only made coin collectors go even crazier. In general, the Kangaroo is the focus of a lot of the Perth Mint's activity. Besides it being the flagship for the huge coins mentioned above, it's also the mintage for some of the stranger gold coins you can find in circulation today, such as the 1/2g varieties. Unsurprisingly, these have their own design independent to the larger Kangaroos.
Nowhere near done with its series of wildlife-themed coins, the Perth Mint launched the Koala
coin in 2007. One might say we're out of order here, since the Koala is younger than subsequent coins on the list. Depending on who you ask, however, it might be the second most important coin from the Perth Mint.
Notably, gold Koalas are seen as an alternative to the "standard" bullion variety, which is silver. The gold Koala proof was minted in 2008, and both issuances have proven tremendously popular among investors. Not unlike the Kangaroo, the reverse depicts one or more koalas and changes every year. Also not unlike the Kangaroo, you're likely to encounter this coin in some stupendous sizes, with the larger pieces going all the way up to one-kilo.
The hardest to pronounce coin on this list, the Kookaburra
goes all the way back to 1990, making it almost as old as the Kangaroo. A common misconception is that the Kookaburra is a silver-only coin: just like the Koala, there are plenty of gold Kookaburras to be found, albeit in 1/10oz denominations. Small bird, small gold coin. Makes sense, right?
There are some other gold pieces, such as the 5oz gold Kookaburra, but with an annual mintage of 50 coins, you're unlikely to stumble upon them. The design of this bird is almost distinct enough to not warrant a new design every year, but the Perth Mint goes and does it anyways. Just as in the case of the Koala, the silver varieties are much more popular and numerous, with gold coins in this series coming off more as a collector's alternative.
Australian Lunar Series
Just when you thought we were done with wildlife, here comes the Lunar series. Not only do designs change every year, but so do the animals themselves
, corresponding to one of the twelve beasts in the Lunar calendar.
With the largest design variety, this is the series that perhaps feels largest out of all the coins on the list. The opal silver Lunar coins might be the most mesmerizing legal tender in circulation, and there are likewise plenty of colored limited-mintage silver coins to bolster it. Again, silver coins are the dominant Lunar issuance, with any gold variety being more of a "collector's collector" piece.
These unique Australian series of highly collectible coinage is already very popular among coin enthusiasts, but the ever changing designs gives collecting them a greater sense of urgency and will leave collectors with a much larger and diverse collection than many other notable series from other countries. The US Mint likes to shake things up with its quarter designs, famously rolling out the 50 State Quarters some time ago and more recently introducing the American Women Quarters Program. But we only get one Sally Ride or one Massachusetts, while the Australian Koalas are already on their 16th unique design!