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Numismatic Collector Issues

By Richard Goodstein    |   Sunday, 25 September 2005

The following content comes from the Richard Goodstein personnal website, which not longer exist since 2018. To keep this information available to the public and for a perpetuity reason, we reproduced it here.

Australia now produces three categories of coins:

Circulating coins

Standard day-to-day currency used in normal commercial transactions.

Collector coins

Commemorative and other coins not in general circulation. They are legal tender and may be used for commercial transactions; however, most are sold at a significant premium above face value. Collector coins are classified as 'proof' or 'uncirculated', the latter often being referred to as 'specimen' releases.

Bullion coins

Gold, silver, platinum or palladium coins where the bullion value of the metal used in the manufacture of each coin is greater than its face value. These are classified as 'non circulating legal tender (NCLT)'.

The decimal series has spawned an immense array of collector-orientated material. Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets of Australia's coins have been produced by the Royal Australian Mint in 1966 and every year since 1969. In addition, commemorative issues are released on a regular basis. These issues are classified as Non-Circulating Legal Tender (NCLT). This means that, for example, you could take your gold proof $200 to your local bank and the teller is compelled by law to give you $200 (face value) for the piece.

You will very rapidly build a small fortune from a large one in this way, but it does make the point that these pieces, unlike medallic issues, do have a legal value. Some collectors resent this NCLT trend arguing that the pieces are no more than glorified medals.

The initial foray into this market by the Royal Australian Mint had its problems. The 1966 proof set was housed in either a dark blue wooden-framed box or a light blue metal-framed case. The coins were exposed to the atmosphere and a perfect set without any toning in now very difficult to acquire.

The withdrawal of the 50 cent piece then put paid to any plans for sets to be issued in 1967 or 1968. In 1969, clear plastic acrylic cases were used. The material had a tendency to emit corrosive vapours during the ultrasonic sealing process which stained or toned the coins. The process was rectified for later 1969 proof sets when a more inert type of plastic was used. Until the mid-1970's, demand for the sets was only luke-warm - it was possible for collectors visiting the mint to buy 'back-copies' of most sets.

Collector demand slowly picked up and the mint seemed only too happy to increase production limits. By the early 1980's, despite huge mintage figures exceeding 100,000 sets - ten times the figures of the early sets - demand was great enough to ensure quick sell outs. The bubble was about to burst. Huge numbers of sets were being salted away as investments, creating an apparent shortage in the marketplace. By the second half of the decade, it was realized that far more of the later sets existed than were necessary to meet normal collector demand - all collectors who wished to own a set already had one. The inevitable downward price spiral as no new buyers were found meant that investors quickly discovered that their hoards were worth far less than they had anticipated. It was not until well into the 1990's, with strictly imposed limited mintages in place, that the proof series regained its lost support in the collector community.

The economy version of the proof set - the Uncirculated Mint Set - has been popular with collectors from its beginnings in 1966. A number of differently packaged sets were released in that first year, presumably to gauge collector reaction.

Small plastic wallets became the standard packaging for Mint sets until 1984 when the coins were sealed in a colourful see-both sides fold-out card. The first dollar coin was released too late to be included in the set so it was distributed separately, sealed on its own card.

  • In 1993, Baby Gumnut Mint sets were first released. The sets were specifically designed to be given as a memento at the birth of a child. Their popularity was such that the mint has released proof versions of the set since 1995.
  • A 5 dollar aluminium-bronze (92% copper, 6% aluminium, 2% nickel) was first issued in 1988 to commemorate the opening of Australia's new federal Parliament House building. In 1990, in a joint program with New Zealand, two $5 coins were released to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli by ANZAC forces in 1915. In 1992, a $5 commemorative coin was issued to mark the International Year of Space.
  • The first 10 dollar coin was released in 1982. Made of sterling silver (92.5% silver, 7.5% copper), the coin commemorated the XII Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane. Subsequent designs have carried the theme of the coat of arms of each of Australia's States and Territories, birds of Australia and endangered Australian species.
  • A 200 dollar coin was released in 1980 manufactured from 22 carat (91.66%) gold. Early coins in this series depicted a koala design on the reverse. Subsequent $200 coins have depicted the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, the Commonwealth Games in 1982, the embarkation of the First Fleet to Australia in 1787 (1987) and the landing by Captain Arthur Phillip at Sydney Cove in 1788 (1988).
  • The 'Pride of Australia' series, begun in 1989, adopted Australia's unique wildlife as its theme until the series was completed in 1994, to be replaced by $100 and $150 denominated gold coins depicting Australia's native flora. The range of Australian Numismatic collector material released by the Royal Australian Mint continues to grow.
  • In 1988, a new concept - Masterpieces in Silver - was introduced which has seen the release, each year, of a set of exquisitely crafted proof coins in Sterling Silver. The 1991 set, containing silver examples of each of the eight circulation coin types (including the last 1 and 2 cent pieces) is a true masterpiece.
  • In 1992, the series moved away from circulation coin types to commemoratives, in that year celebrating the women of the Royal Family. A gold version of the set was also released. Since 1993, the series has concentrated on themes connected with the people, events and pastimes that made Australia what it is today.

Perth Mint Bullion Coins

The Perth Mint is internationally recognized as one of the world's most dynamic and innovative producers of gold, platinum, silver and palladium coinage. Originally founded as a branch of the British Royal Mint, the Perth Mint was established to provide a refining facility close to the goldfields and also to mint much needed coinage for Western Australia's rapidly growing population.

Until it opened in 1899, all the gold that was unearthed in Western Australia was shipped out of the colony, either to the mints in Sydney and Melbourne or to the Royal Mint in London. The Premier of the day, Sir John Forrest, was adamant that at least some of the wealth being dug from the ground should be used to the benefit of the state. He put a plan to the British Government that it open a branch of the Royal Mint in Perth to refine the gold from the goldfields and turn it into sovereigns and half sovereigns.

The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury in London agreed to the proposal and Forrest raced into action. After a construction period of three years, on June 20, 1899, Forrest pressed the button setting the coining presses in motion and the Governor, Sir Gerard Smith declared the mint open.

The Perth Mint continued to mint sovereigns and half sovereigns for the next 32 years until Britain went off the gold standard in 1931.

In 1970 the Perth Mint became a statutory authority of the Western Australian government. Subsequently, it was part of a redevelopment program and in the mid 1980's, the Australian Precious Metals Coin Program was begun, under agreement with and on behalf of the Australian Government.

The Australian Precious Metals Coin Program was initiated in 1985 when the Prime Minister and Federal Treasurer gave approval in principle to a proposal by the Government of Western Australia to launch a precious metal ounce-denominated gold coin into international markets. The coins, to be produced at the Perth Mint, were given the name the Australian Nugget and were first released in 1986. The Perth Mint was once more minting gold coins.

A new marketing organisation, GoldCorp Australia, was established. The aim of the program was to add value to precious metal products produced in Australia and market those products worldwide to benefit the Australian mining industry and the nation as a whole.

  • On 18 June 1987, following the enormous success of the Nugget coins, the Australian Government approved the issuing of legal tender coinage in platinum and silver to be produced at the Perth Mint. This decision resulted in the creation of the Australian Koala platinum coin series which was released in September 1988.
  • The three-year commemorative series of silver coins, the Holey Dollar and Dump were released in November the same year. In 1990, the Australian Kookaburra, a one ounce silver bullion coin was added to the family of precious metals coins, replacing the Holey Dollar and Dump.
  • The continued success of Australia's precious metals coinage led to further developments in 1991 when coins of one kilogram, ten ounces and two ounces were introduced to each of the gold, platinum and silver bullion coin ranges. These were the largest bullion coins ever minted and, at the time of its first issue, the kilogram silver Kookaburra was the biggest legal tender coin of any type issued this century.
  • Then, late in 1994, the Perth Mint received in principle approval from the Federal Treasurer to expand the Australian Precious Metals Coin Program to include a palladium issue and a new gold coin issue. Thus, in October 1995 the one ounce Australian Emu palladium coin was launched. In November 1995, the Australian Lunar gold coin series, featuring designs from the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, was released internationally.

The success of the Australian Precious Metals Coin Program has firmly established the status of the Perth Mint as Australia's specialist precious metals mint and cemented its international reputation for innovation and products of the highest standards of craftsmanship and quality. The issue of privy marked versions of many of the bullion releases since 1992, particularly 1 ounce and 2 ounce silver kookaburra coins, has opened up a whole new sector of numismatic collector interest.

The limited mintages and worldwide interest in these coins has ensured rapid increases in the secondary market valuation of almost every privy marked coin released. Buoyed by this success, the Perth Mint has significantly increased the mintages and varieties of privy marked coins released since 1996. The valuation of most privy marked coins issued between 1992 and 1995 has stabilized or even fallen in the last couple of years, providing evidence that the market has reached saturation point and that some collectors are moving out. The Perth Mint will need to be careful to avoid a similar fate for these issues to that of the Canberra Mint's proof coin issues of the early 1980's.

In 1996, a new annual gold bullion series was introduced specifically targeted towards the Asian market. The three coins, 1oz, 1/4oz and 1/10oz, were released to celebrate the Chinese Lunar Calendar - the first year of release being the Year of the Mouse. In 1999, the series was augmented by a five coin silver release - Kilogram, 10oz, 2oz, 1oz and 1/2oz. - the first year of issue being the Year of the Rabbit.

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