I look with interest at the monthly New Issues listing and can’t
help but be confused by the dollar coins from Australia.
Some are made from precious metal and some are not, and some coins
are larger and heavier than the others.
How is a collector supposed to tell the difference?
The issue arises because Australia has two government-owned mints
that operate independent from each other.
The Royal Australian Mint and the Perth Mint each operate their
own collector coin programs, but only the Royal Australian Mint (in
Canberra, owned by the federal government) is charged with producing
circulating coins. The Perth Mint, in Western Australia, is owned by
the state government.
In 1988 Australia replaced the $1 bank note with a circulating $1
coin. The $1 coin is struck from an aluminum-bronze alloy, measures 25
millimeters and weighs 9 grams.
In addition to the occasional new design for circulation, the
Royal Australian Mint issues many non-circulating legal tender base
metal $1 coins. These are the same size and weight as the circulating
issues but many feature applied color. A recent example is the Black
Caviar Racehorse dollar.
Also, the Royal Australian Mint issues silver dollars with varying
themes that differ from the circulating and noncirculating base metal
dollars in size and weight.
The Perth Mint also issues an abundance of collector coins, and
the dollar coin figures prominently in those programs as well.
The base metal dollar coin from the Perth Mint weighs 13.8 grams
and measures 30.6 millimeters, and occasionally sports color but most
often does not. Sometimes these coins are sold individually and
sometimes the coins are issued only as part of philatelic covers
issued in conjunction with Australia Post. One recent standalone issue
honors engineers of the ANZAC forces.
These dollar coins should not be confused with the Perth Mint’s
bullion silver dollars, which annually celebrate a Lunar animal, as
well as Koalas and Kookaburras.
This scenario is similar to the situation in the United States:
Native American and Presidential dollar coins, are struck in an alloy
and size different from U.S. commemorative silver dollars, like the
2013 Girl Scouts Centennial silver dollar.
The silver commemorative coins, in turn, differ in size, weight
and alloy from the American Eagle silver bullion coin, which is also
denominated as a dollar.
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