The Australian $1 Celebrates its 30th Anniversary!

1984 $1 First Dollar ProofExactly 30 years ago today, the Reserve Bank of Australia introduced the $1 coin into circulation, on May 14th, 1984. It replaced the $1 banknote that had circulated since the inception of Decimal Currency in 1966. Stuart Devlin’s now famous Mob of Roos featured on that initial circulating $1 coin and has been a favourite amongst collector and non-collector alike ever since.

According to the Royal Australian Mint, plans to replace the $1 note had been contemplated since the 1970s, due to the need for higher face value coins that could be used in coin operated machines, and to replace the short service life of the $1 note.

During its life there have been around 100 commemoratives issued by the Royal Australian Mint using the $1 denomination and its standard circulating specification - understandably making it one of the most popular coins amongst collectors today.

Some of the highlights of the series are:

Also worth mentioning, aside from the official commemorative releases, is the unofficial 2000 Mule Error - an error which was created when incorrect obverse and reverse dies were mistakenly matched. For those interested in reading more about this fascinating error, we featured it in a previous article here.

The introduction of the new $1 coin wasn’t the only interesting or important thing to happen in 1984. Some other events of note that occurred that year:

  • 1 February – Medicare comes into effect in Australia.
  • 2 February – Melbourne newspaper The Age publishes phone taps incriminating an unknown judge.
  • 6 February – A bomb blast wrecks the home of Judge Richard Gee in the Sydney suburb of Belrose
  • 30 March – Tennis player and 2011 US Open Grand Slam winner, Samantha Stosur is born
  • April - A 115g jar of Vegemite is the first product in Australia to be electronically scanned at a checkout
  • 19 April – Advance Australia Fair is proclaimed as Australia's national anthem, and green and gold as the national colours.
  • 14 May, Gary Abblet Jr, a modern day AFL football marvel, is born
  • 21 August – The Federal budget is televised for the first time.
  • 25 November – Ashes Winning Cricketer Peter Siddle is born
  • July 28–August 12 - Los Angeles hosts the Games of the XXIII Olympiad.
  • The $100 Paper Banknote is issued, becoming Australia’s highest Decimal circulating denomination.

But for many, it’s the introduction of the Mob of Roos $1 coin that marked the commencement of a new era in numismatics. To celebrate, the Royal Australian Mint released a spectacular 30th anniversary high relief silver proof coin, which has delighted thousands of collectors in Australia, and around the world!
2014 $1 30th Anniversary High Relief 1oz Silver Proof
Downies is fortunate enough to have a number of this spectacular coin in stock, so if you are interested in marking this special anniversary, click here to learn more!

Treasures in your change: 5c and 10c - What to look for

5c and 10c ChangeThe following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy…

As you may have seen in my previous blogs (here and here), there are quite a lot of rare, unusual circulating coins that are hotly pursued by collectors. This had a lot of people asking (along with myself), what else should we be looking for in our change? What might some of these circulating oddities be worth?

These questions have inspired a new series of blog posts from me, and, as I continue to search through my change, I will keep you up-to-date about what I'm looking for – and, in turn, what you should keep an eye out for! The coins that will feature in these posts are all found in circulation in Australia, meaning that you, the reader, have just as much chance of finding them as I have! My chances are slightly less now of course, as there are more people out there looking!

I thought I would start from the bottom and work my way up, starting with 5c and 10c. When it comes to Australian circulating coins, it appears that the 5c and 10c coins are the most consistent in terms of quality and lack of errors. This would have partly to do with the fact that there are no commemorative coins issued for either of these two types. The only varieties known are created as a result of die variations.

5c and 10cChronologically, the very first coin that collectors look for would be the 1972 5c piece. There are two possible reasons to keep a look out for this particular year. Firstly, only 8.3 million 5c coins were minted in 1972, well below the number normally minted (ranging from 25.2 million in 1978 to a whopping 305.5 million in 2006). Upon closer inspection of this particular date, it seems that two separate dies were used in the minting. When compared side by side, one coin appears to have a ‘low’ echidna, with the design close to the bottom of the coin, with the other distinguished by a ‘high’ echidna, with a larger space below the design. The ‘low’ echidna appears to be the scarcer of the two types, and is the one to look out for as it will have a slightly higher value than its ‘high’ brother.

For those of you who don’t want to be measuring echidnas, this brings us to a different variation to look out for. One that may be slightly easier to spot (albeit with a magnifying glass) involves Stuart Devlin, the man behind the designs on the majority of Australia’s traditional circulating coinage. More specifically, his initials feature on the very bottom of the 5c reverse design, of which there are three different types – large, small and tiny! While people may not see this as a major collectable, large SD initials on a 1991 dated coin can fetch up to $40 when found – which is a great return on a 5c investment!

Stuart Devlin small and large initialsTwo other key dates to keep an eye out for are 1985 and 1986. Any of our eagle eyed followers would be jumping out of their seats right now yelling “that’s not possible!”, and they would be right. No 5c coins were minted for general circulation in either of these years, and if you find one, it would have come from the 1985 or 1986 Mint Sets from the RAM. Neither date should ever be found in change.

Now we move onto the 10c piece which, unfortunately, does not have much to look out for. Low mintages are our best bet here. The 1985 10c coin, with a mintage of 2 million, and the 2011 10c issue, with a mintage of 1.7 million, are the two gems. Besides those, there are, of course, the mint set only dates of 1986, 1987, 1995, and 1996.

So get out there and start checking your change, but more importantly, check back here soon for my next post in this series, which will focus on the 20c piece!

The Royal Australian Mint’s First Ever Triangle Coin?

It has been exactly one year since the Royal Australian Mint announced the groundbreaking 2013 $5 Parliament House Triangular Silver Proof on March 18th, 2013. The very first 3-sided Australian legal tender coin, this sensational release naturally attracted interest from news media around the world. It was exciting to see an Australian numismatic collectable receive such extensive international publicity – with the triangle coin selling out as a result – even if a few under-prepared news reporters frustratingly got some obvious details about coin collecting wrong.

Twelve months on from that groundbreaking announcement, we thought we’d take a look at the history of triangle coins around the world.

2008 Canadian 50c Triangle Coin – Milk Delivery 2008 Canadian 50c Triangle Coin – Milk Delivery

In 2008, The Royal Canadian Mint broke new ground by striking its very first triangle shaped coin. That coin was the 2008 50c Milk Delivery coin, featuring a beautiful translucent enamel effect. Public demand for this triangle coin was monumental, and it sold out at an astonishing pace. The second triangle coin came a year later, with the release of the 2009 50c Six String Nation Guitar coin, which featured a selective hologram, making the guitar strings appear as if they are resonating!

1996 Bermuda Triangle $30 Gold 1/2oz Proof 1996 Bermuda Triangle $30 Gold 1/2oz Proof

Fittingly, Bermuda has issued the odd triangle coin over the years too. Most recently, these were minted by The Royal Mint and, unsurprisingly, many feature ships or… shipwrecks!

The demand for these coins got us wondering about other triangle shaped coins. Along the way we learned a little known fact about the 2013 Parliament House Triangle Coin – it’s not the first triangle coin struck by the RAM! After a bit of research we discovered that the Cook Islands became the first modern country to issue a circulating three-sided coin! And guess what? From at least 2003, and possibly earlier, their $2 coin was struck by our very own Royal Australian Mint!

2003 Cook Islands $2 Triangluar Coin 2003 Cook Islands $2 Triangular Coin

And so, whilst triangles are a rare occurrence in Numismatics, there are a few out there. Perhaps, given the success of last year’s Australian legal tender triangle coin, we may even see another one soon?

We certainly hope so! While we wait, a question: what do you think would make a good theme for another Australian triangle shaped coin?

Mule Madness!

The following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy…

If you read my previous blog post – on the incuse Millennium 50c I found in my change – you would be aware that I have only worked at Downies for a short period of time. Before this, I had only a slight interest in coins, but not much more than occasionally noticing an interesting one in my change, and setting it aside.

$1 Mule Obverse

I never really bothered looking up information, such as mintage figures, or design details. However, as I mentioned in my last blog, I started flipping through the pages of my Maccas guide just after I started working here, and discovered that there was a lot more to our everyday money than a few random coins with different designs.

One of the more appealing circulating coins I mentioned in my previous blog is the 2000 $1/10c Mule. What exactly is this coin, I hear you ask? Well, for those that don’t know, a ‘mule’ is a coin struck with obverse and reverse dies that were not meant to be paired together. In this case, the coin was created using the reverse die of a 2000 $1 coin and the obverse die of a 2000 10c piece. This results in a double ring on the obverse side, as seen in the picture below.

2000 One Dollar/Ten Cent Mule Error Extremely FineNow, unfortunately, I didn’t find this coin in my change. This is one of two examples we have in stock here at Downies. The chances of finding one in change are remote indeed. Maccas listed the mintage at 400 until 2010, when it was changed to “unknown”. Many people have attempted to estimate the mintage, with figures ranging from 400 to 6,000 thrown about, but it seems unlikely that we will ever be sure about the actual number struck. There is no doubt, however, that this coin is extremely rare!

In my opinion, one of the more appealing things about this coin is the fact that it is a circulating coin. This means that, somewhere around Australia, right now, there’s someone with a 2000 $1/10c Mule in their pocket, unaware of its value. These rare coins will continue to circulate, and it therefore remains a possibility that you or I will discover one in our change one day. It is this tantalising prospect that keeps me checking my change every day!

Are any of our readers on the lookout for this particular coin? Or better yet, has anyone been lucky enough to find one in their change?

Insane Incuse Investigation!

The following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy...

On Saturday last week, I ventured to the shops to buy a coffee. Upon receiving my change, I instinctively started to sort through the coins, looking for anything interesting. This is a relatively new habit of mine, only picked up since I started working at Downies last October. Even then, ‘checking my change’ – and provoking worried looks from shop assistants thinking they had over-charged me – is something I have only started doing consistently since flipping through a McDonald’s Guide to Australian Coins & Banknotes.

‘Maccas’, as it is known, reveals the wealth of Australian coin types that one might find in change, and I started to keep a mental list of things I wanted to look for – from rare Errors such as the 2000 $1 Mule, to the odd varieties such as the 1966 Wavy 20c, to commemoratives such as the 2000 Millennium 50c. Indeed, it was the Millennium 50c that was staring at me when I got my change that particular Saturday – but not just any Millennium 50c. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be an ‘Incused Millennium 50c’!

Incused Millennium 50c Incused Millennium 50c

Distinguished by a recessed Union Jack and larger star, the Incused Millennium 50c is the rarer of the two Millennium 50c types. Approximately 16,630,000 Millennium Flag 50c coins were struck by the Royal Australian Mint, with the rare incuse type accounting for only 1-2% of the overall mintage! Seldom found in change, this unique type is naturally highly sought after by collectors.

I had been keeping my eyes open for the 2000 Millennium 50c in the days before my trip to the coffee shop, as I had only just learned of the existence of the 2000 Incused Millennium 50c. I had spotted two examples of the Millennium 50c, but, alas, both were standard types. I resigned myself to the fact that the Incuse Millennium 50c was going to be a tough one to find, and my hopes of finding one would probably have to be filed with my ambitious dreams of finding a 1966 Wavy 20c and 2000 Mule $1. Amazingly, it was just a few days later that I had one in my hands!

This was my first real experience with finding an unusual, potentially valuable coin in my change, and let me tell you, it sparked my interest enormously! I now have quite a large pile of commemorative coins at home, and am always searching through my change to find something interesting that others may have overlooked. I feel that this is just the beginning…

Which brings up the question: Have you found any interesting coins in your change?
Let us know below in the comments :)

Choice Change Challenge – An unusual Platypus for an unusual year

Here we have another entry from Choice Change Challenger Alex – he has done some digging and unearthed an interesting story behind a year that keeps showing up during The Challenge.

As Australia basks in the glory of only the third ever 5-0 Ashes cricket whitewash, it reminds us of the “King” of the Australian 20c series, the 2001 Donald Bradman issue – and, subsequently, our attempts to “Collect the Commemorative”…!

As you might understand, George and I tend to look at every coin we receive in our daily change. As such, we have noticed that as time goes by, a trend seems to be emerging – of all the 20c coins uncovered by our hunting, it appears that when we receive a 20c platypus coin … it is almost invariably dated 1981. Yes, a thirty-three year old, Platypus 20c coin! I’m sure it is not difficult to imagine our continued frustration at this as we attempt to hunt down those elusive Australian commemoratives. In this case, however, frustration has led us to uncover an interesting tale...

Three mints, an industrial strike, 3.5 claws... the story behind one of Australia’s largest mintage 20c dates is an intriguing one. During 1981, an extended period of Industrial Action at the Royal Australian Mint caused a cry for help to fulfil the year’s quota for new coinage. Thus, the Royal Canadian Mint and The Royal Mint were sought out for assistance across all denominations. In terms of 20c coins however, it was believed that only the Canadian and Canberra Mints struck anything dated 1981. Whilst this view was soon altered, it was actually the Canadian Mint strikes that provided one of the more intriguing and sought after varieties of the 20c series – the 3.5 Claw Platypus!

Twenty Cents 1981 Canadian Mint 3.5 claw Twenty Cents 1981 Canadian Mint 3.5 claw

Distinguishing the Canadian Mint-struck 1981 Platypus 20c coins from those struck elsewhere, it is on the Platypus’ left claw, directly beneath the ‘2’ in 20c that this variety can be recognised. Whilst Platypodes, both in the wild and numismatically, are known to have four claws, the Canadian minted platypus coins possess only three and a half claws! An easy variety to spot, once you know what to look for, this oddity provides a highlight for any 20c collector! Cataloguing today at $170 in Unc, this issue offers an interesting juxtaposition to a 20c date that George and I are finding everywhere!

But what about those coins purportedly struck at the Royal Mint? It would seem that genuine, confirmed numbers are difficult to track down. And, there are references that suggest that no 1981 20c coins were struck by the Royal Mint. However, just a few months before the end of 1982... The evidence was found. A very excited collector (no doubt!), walked into a Sydney Coin store with a 1981 20c coin, struck on a scalloped-edged Hong Kong $2 blank! Upon further investigation, it was unearthed that, at the time, The Royal Mint in Wales was striking the Hong Kong $2 coins and thus, by simple deduction, it became clear a third Mint churned out Australian 20c coins in 1981! Today, there are just 6 or 7 examples of this extreme rarity out in the marketplace. And, coincidentally, Downies Australian Coin Auctions has one example consigned in their February Sale! For more info, or to see this coin, click here.

Twenty Cents 1981 on a Hong Kong Two Dollars blank Twenty Cents 1981 on a Hong Kong Two Dollars blank

Laundering Money - Cleaning dirty banknotes worldwide!


In great news for conspiracy theorists everywhere, the next major monetary policy introduced by the governments around the world could be laundering money – literally. Researchers Nabil M. Lawandy and Andrei Smuk have identified a cleaning technique using "supercritical" CO2 that could save billions of dollars and reduce the environmental impact that would otherwise result from destroying and reprinting 150 billion worn and dirty banknotes worldwide.

The research, outlined in a paper published in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, demonstrates that the major culprit behind notes being pulled from circulation prematurely is the oil our skin produces to protect itself. Known as sebum, this oil oxidizes and causes notes to yellow. Another reason to make sure you handle your banknote collection carefully!

One way to make the notes last longer, and therefore reduce the financial and environmental cost of destroying, reprinting and reissuing the notes is to clean them, but this has a few challenges of its own. The most important issue is that many traditional cleaning methods also damage sensitive security features used in notes worldwide, such as phosphorescent ink and holograms.

The researchers solved that particular conundrum by turning to "supercritical" CO2, a substance that behaves like both a gas and a liquid when brought to the right temperature and pressure. It has commonly been used in other cleaning applications, such as environmentally friendly dry cleaning and – would you believe it – the production of decaffeinated coffee.

There is no doubt that this is potentially a fantastic money-saving process that could also help the environment and should be of interest to major note printing authorities around the world.

On the whole, this is a clever idea that could, if you will pardon the pun, save the government a lot of money. Time will tell if it ever goes in to practice.

Australia has already dropped the 1c and 2c coins; should we go one step further and ditch the 5c too?


The article was prepared by Archie S., who joined our team recently during his Year 10 work experience. We think he did a great job – how about you?

In a previous post we discussed the doing away of the penny by the Canadian treasury due to increased production costs and it seems that Australia’s own five cent coin is facing the spotlight for the same reason. Today, the five cent coin makes up $198 million worth of Australia’s hard currency, but is this humble coin still a valuable part of Australian currency or has it overstayed its welcome?

One of the main reasons for the debate is the market price of copper and nickel. Fluctuations in the two raw materials that are used in making the five cent piece can drive the cost higher than the actual face value of the coin! In some ways, these low denomination coins are also becoming irrelevant in our day to day lives; with scarcely any items in retail stores priced at five cents - and most vending machines and parking meters no longer accept the coin!

People find the masses of small change in their wallets annoying and unnecessary, even more so as more and more transactions these days are performed electronically. Similarly, back in 2006, New Zealand dropped the five cent coin from their currency, whilst also reducing the physical size of all of their coins thus fixing that excessive change issue. Many people now believe Australia should follow suit, including Deakin University marketing professor David Bednall, who says that the nation could easily adapt to living without the five cent coin.

Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Shorten is hesitant about the decision however, as he realises how this change would affect charities - the main recipients of 5 and 10 cents coins as donations. Organisations such as ygap - organisers of the charity - base entire donation drives around the 5c piece. The change would also potentially affect the retail world, changing the way we round numbers in prices, most likely to the system in New Zealand (1,2,3,4 –round down &  5,6,7,8,9- round up). Store owners fear a consumer backlash over perceived price increases.

Finally, the smallest coin in our pockets has also found its usefulness around the house. If it is discontinued, how else will we open the backs of our fiddly electronics or scratch our lotto tickets?

The last time Australia dropped a denomination was the 1 and 2 cent counts in 1992. Is it time we take the next step and drop the five cent coin too?

Choice Change Challenge: A challenger speaks out!

oct-coinchangechallengeThe entry below was contributed by Alex, one of the brave contestants in the Choice Change Challenge.

The life of a coin collector is, at times, tough. George and I, after an early flurry of commemoratives, have now come to a grinding halt. We now know… collecting coins can be tough! Having said that though, the other lesson learnt by this budding pair of Downies coin collectors is that finding a much desired piece is fiercely rewarding! It was just two days ago that our team all came into the office to find an email dripping with pure, unadulterated joy. George had received a 2001 Centenary of Federation ACT 20c coin in the change from his morning coffee. Aside from indicating the strength of coffee that George indulges in, his exuberance is perhaps the perfect example of why so many collectors out there simply cannot stop! Both he and I are seemingly many years from completing our ‘Collecting the Commemorative Challenge’ and yet, somehow, we’ve become hooked.

For those with an interest, I’ve packaged up where we sit on the table of commemoratives. We’ve done well! Yet, ultimately there is a long road ahead…

George Alex
20c Series
2001 Fed ACT 2005 Coming Home
2001 Fed NSW 2010 Tax
2003 Volunteers 2011 Women's Day
2005 WWII 2011 Royal Wedding
2010 Tax
2011 Royal Wedding
2011 Volunteers
2011 Women's Day
50c Series
1977 Silver Jubilee 1970 Capt. Cook
1981 Wedding 1977 Silver Jubilee
1982 Cth Games 1981 Wedding
1994 Family 1982 Cth Games
1995 Weary 1988 Bicentennial
1998 Bass & Flinders 1994 Family
2000 Millennium 1995 Weary Dunlop
2001 Fed CofA 1998 Bass & Flinders
2001 Fed NSW 2000 Millennium
2001 Fed NT 2001 Fed ACT
2003 Volunteers 2001 Fed CofA
2004 Comm Games 2001 Fed NSW
2005 Comm Games 2002 Outback
2005 WWII 2003 Volunteers
2010 Aust Day 2004 Student Design
2005 Remembrance
2005 Student Design
2010 Aust Day
$1 Series
1986 Peace 1986 Peace
1988 Bicentennial 1988 Bicentennial
1993 Landcare 1993 Landcare
1996 Parkes 1996 Parkes
1997 Kingsford-Smith 1997 Kingsford-Smith
1999 Older Persons 1999 Older Persons
2001 Federation 2001 Federation
2002 Outback 2001 Year of Vol.
2003 Volunteers 2002 Outback
2003 Suffrage 2003 Suffrage
2005 Dancing Man 2003 Volunteers
2007 APEC 2005 Dancing Man
2008 Scouts 2007 APEC
2009 Pension 2008 Scouts
2010 Girl Guides 2009 Pension
2011 CHOGM 2010 Girl Guides
2011 CHOGM
$2 Series
$2 Poppy $2 Poppy

And, my sneaky addendum to the above? For all of you who may be reading this in the Nunawading area, get out there and spend those spare commemoratives! Give George and I a chance at glory!

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