In January 2014, the Australian answer to the American Eagle silver dollar was
born: the Wedge-Tailed Eagle.
The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is an ongoing series of bullion and collector
coins minted by the Perth Mint in Western Australia.
This variety of eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia and
gets its name from its prominent wedge-shaped tail. Known as “wedgies”
in Australia, these birds of prey are similar in many ways to North
American bald eagles in appearance and symbolism. Both birds are
raptors that feed on other animals and both are symbols of power and
strength. In fact, wedgies are the symbol of the Australian national
Eagles are highly popular
Wedge-Tailed Eagle silver coins quickly emerged as one of the most
popular world coin series over the course of the past two years.
They are produced in a wide range of sizes, finishes, and reliefs,
and gold and platinum versions are issued in addition to the silver ones.
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All of the coins carry the traditional P Mint Mark for the Perth
Mint and an obverse that depicts the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Queen
The most widely purchased and collected silver versions are the
1-ounce bullion coin and Proof high-relief coin.
The reason these coins have been so popular and have such great
appeal all over the world comes mainly from two, related factors.
One is the stunning design of the coins that has received universal
acclaim from the time it was unveiled, and the other is that the
design is the creation of John Mercanti, the 12th chief engraver of
the United States Mint.
Mercanti connection to U.S.
Mercanti is best known as the designer of the reverse of the
American Eagle silver bullion coin, and, according to the Perth Mint,
he also designed more coins for the U.S. Mint than anyone else. The
fact that for the first time an American designer created a coin for
the Perth Mint is significant, especially since the largest segment of
the demand for these coins comes from U.S. buyers.
In addition, the entire series was created through collaboration
between the Perth Mint and Asset Marketing Services, a Minnesota-based
company that handles the initial distribution of the various versions
of the coins, making them available first to American buyers and
selling the vast majority of the coins in Professional Coin Grading
Service holders signed by Mercanti.
In late 2015 Mercanti signed a deal with Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
to hand-sign labels exclusively for that company, so starting with the
2016 issues, they being sold by Asset Marketing Services in NGC holders.
Each version was subsequently released in Australia and other
countries as ungraded examples, typically several months or more after
the U.S. release, and at lower price points than the graded coins,
especially the 70-graded coins.
Under Australian law, 10 percent of the mintage of all Australian
coins must be reserved for domestic buyers.
Design changes in program
For the 2014 and 2015 issues a superb, finely-detailed image of a
majestic wedge-tailed eagle in flight with its wings spread appears on
the coins’ reverse. Then at the start of 2016, a new design was
unveiled. This time the eagle is resting, perched on a tree after it
In addition, the new design has a larger field because the eagle
does not take up as much of the reverse side as it did with the
The Perth Mint told Coin World that further design changes
will come in the future.
Collectors appear to have embraced the new design, but the
longer-term impact of the change on sales and collector interest
remains to be seen. Some buyers prefer continuity in design, while
others embrace changes.
During 2014 and 2015 when the design did not change, buyers often
said that with so many different versions of the coin, it would be
nice to see a different design to keep things interesting.
The Perth Mint is known for being responsive to customer concerns,
and it appears the 2016 design was a response to those who wanted to
see something different.
Mintage levels have also been increased since the series was launched.
In 2014 the bullion version was limited to 50,000 coins, but since
then the mintage for those coins has been unlimited. In June of this
year, Perth plans to announce the number of 2015 coins sold. Prices
for the 2014 coins have risen because they are seen as a key date due
to the limited mintage.
The Proof high-relief version had a mintage of 10,000 coins for 2014
and 2015, but for 2016 that has been increased to 20,000, likely in
anticipation of higher interest because of the new design.
There is also a Proof regular version that has a mintage of just
5,000 coins that some collectors see as the sleeper within the silver
part of the Wedge-Tailed Eagle series.
And the other silver version, which is more expensive than the
others but very popular, is the Proof 5-ounce high-relief coin, with
an amazing depth of relief that brings out the beauty of the design in
a way the other versions are not able to.
Collectors will be eager to see the 2016 design in this version,
which will be released later in the year.
The 2016 silver bullion and high-relief Proof coins are currently
being sold exclusively by GovMint and ModernCoinMart, which are both
divisions of AMS.