Australian Gold Coin History

The first gold coins put into circulation in Australia arrived on the First Fleet. These coins contained gold matching their face value. However, this system was failing as the value of gold fluctuated just like we see today. In 1816 the British introduced a new gold coin, the sovereign, as a remedy to this problem.  The sovereign was worth one pound and contained one pound worth of gold.

Australia began minting their own sovereigns in 1855 at the Sydney Mint.  Each Australian colony had to claim the sovereign as legal tender before the coin could be used in circulation within that colony.  Victoria was one of the last colonies to accept the sovereigns as they were holding out for a mint of their own.

From 1871 to 1931 the sovereigns made in Australia were made to look like British sovereigns in every way but one. A tiny mintmark was imprinted on the coin which reflected whether it was made at the Sydney, Melbourne or Perth mint – each were branches of the Royal Mint in London. The Australian mints had to send samples of coins from each production back to London for testing. London’s standards were high and it resulted in the Australian mints advancing the world standards for purifying gold.

There are four process involved in turning gold into coins – assay, purification, alloying and striking. All you needed to do was take your gold to the mint and return a few days later to collect your coins. Once a sovereign started to show wear they were no longer considered to be legal tender. The coins would be withdrawn and replaced with a new coin at the expense of the British government.

Commemoration coins were also made by the mints and as a result they have become rare and highly valued by collectors. For Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 and King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902 the Sydney mint produced five and two pound coins.

The Perth Mint is the only one still striking coins to this day. Click here to visit the Perth Mint.

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