History Of Australian Currency

The currency of Australia had been the cumbersome British Sterling system since colonial days but all that changed in February 1966.

Since the early days of British Colonialism and following Federation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, the currency of Australia had been the cumbersome British Sterling system with its pounds, shillings and pence with twelve pence to the shilling and twenty shillings to the pound. Compounding an already complicated system was the Guinea with twenty-one shillings to the pound. All that changed in February 1966 when the Australian Government introduced decimal currency.

The Prime Minister of the time, Sir Robert Menzies, was a staunch Royalist with a strong loyalty to the British Crown and all it stands for. He announced the basic coinage was to be changed from the "˜Pound' to the "˜Royal'. The uproar in objection to this name was almost universal and it was decided to name the new currency the "˜Dollar' in line with many other worldwide currencies.

There were four note denominations in the first issue. The old ten-shilling note was converted to a one-dollar note and the pound to a two-dollar note. There was a five-dollar note and a ten-dollar note to replace the old five-pound and ten pound notes. The paper money was very colourful and each note was slightly larger than its lesser-valued companion.

The coins all had an image of Queen Elizabeth the Second of England on the obverse side and a native Australian animal on the flip side. The coin of least value was the one-cent piece. The next in value was a two-cent coin. Both were manufactured in a copper based alloy and placed the halfpenny and penny. The threepence; sixpence, shilling, florin (two-shillings) and crown (five-shillings) were replaced with silver alloy one-cent, two-cent, five-cent, ten-cent and fifty-cent coins. The fifty-cent coin initially was a round coin in almost pure silver but in a short time this was replaced with a silver alloy and was moulded with twelve sides.

As time progressed it was decided the value of the one and two-cent coins was too low to be considered viable coinage so they were removed from circulation. The one-dollar note also depreciated in value and the production of the paper note was discontinued in 1985 to be replaced with a dollar coin.

Progressively, as inflation increased and individual coinage depreciated in value, twenty-dollar, fifty-dollar and one hundred dollar notes were put into circulation. The two dollar note was also taken out of circulation and was replaced by two-dollar coin. That is how the currency stands at the turn of the century. Consideration was given to producing a twenty-five cent coin similar to the American quarter but the idea was abandoned.

All coins have Queen Elizabeth on the obverse side. The reverse sides are all designed with stylist depictions of Australian native fauna. The five, ten, twenty and fifty cent coins are manufactured in Cupra Nickel while the one dollar and two dollar coins are manufactured from Aluminium Bronze.

The five-cent coin is 19.41 mm in diameter and its mass is 2.93 grams. The echidna, Australia's native spiny anteater and only one of two monotremes in the world, adorns the reverse side. A monotreme is an oviparous mammal in which genital, urinary and digestive organs have a common opening.

The ten-cent coin is 23.60 mm in diameter and its mass is 5.65 grams. The Lyrebird, unique to Australia and renowned for its ability to mimic bush sounds is on the reverse side. The lyrebird has been known to mimic, not only naturally bush sounds such as other birds, but also the sounds of an axe chopping or the sound of a motor engine running.



The twenty-cent coin is 28.52 mm in diameter and its mass is 15.55 grams and has the platypus on the reverse side. The platypus is the other monotreme and found only in Australia. When the body of a platypus was brought back to England, following the discovery of Australia by Captain James Cook, the carriers were ridiculed and accused of fraud for nobody could believe it was a real animal.

The fifty-cent coin is 31.51 mm in diameter and its mass is 6.60 grams. On the reverse side of this coin is the Australian Coat Of Arms that shows the kangaroo and the emu standing on either side of a shield that, in turn, is ornamented with standard heraldry dating back to the foundation of the Federation of the Commonwealth Australia.

The one-dollar coin is 25.00 mm in diameter and its mass is 9.00 grams. The reverse side has five kangaroos in various stylised poses typical of the animal in the wild.

The two-dollar coin is 20.50 mm in diameter and its mass is 6.60 grams. A bearded, elder tribesman of the indigenous Australians, the Aborigines, is depicted on the reverse side together with the Southern Cross, the star combination which is also depicted on the Australian flag and which can be seen only in the skies of the Southern hemisphere.

The notes of Australian currency are unique in that they are the first and only ones in the world to be manufactured from plastic rather than paper. In addition, each has a distinctive hologram and that is a combination that has so far proven to be counterfeit resistant and is reputed to be impossible to copy. The notes are all the same width but vary in length and colours making them distinctive from each other and easier to identify in all conditions. Each note is made even more difficult to copy with intricate designs and complicated counter designs.

The five-dollar note is the only note with a portrait of the Queen. It is130 mm long by 65 mm wide. On the reverse the Australian Parliament House in Canberra is depicted. It is coloured in shades of mauve. All the other notes contain pictures and brief descriptions of pioneers and Australians of historic importance.

The ten dollar note 135 mm long by 65 mm wide and is coloured in shades of blue.

The twenty-dollar note is 145 mm long and 65 mm wide and is coloured in shades of orange.

The fifty-dollar note is 150 mm long and 65 mm wide and is coloured in shades of gold.

The one hundred dollar note is 155 mm long and 65 mm wide and is coloured in shades of green.

Every year the Royal Australian Mint, based in Australia's federal capital Canberra, produces full sets of uncirculated coins and mint condition coins. The quality of both sets is equal or better to any produced in the world and are always presented in extremely attractive packaging which shows the coins to the best advantage while protecting them from damage.

In addition, special event coins are produced that can have denominations of one dollar, five- dollars, ten dollars, twenty dollars, one hundred or two hundred dollars. Some are produced in silver and others in gold. All are highly sought after and are produced in limited numbers making them very attractive as an investment.

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