Nov 172011

You may be as fascinated to learn that there are about 80 species of Surgeonfish. One of the most popular is the electric-blue variety represented by the optimistic, caring and sociable ‘Dory’ in the hit-movie Finding Nemo!

This striking fish is known by a bewildering variety of names. A few include Blue Tang, Regal Tang, Hippo Tang, Wedge-Tail Blue Tang, Palette Surgeonfish and Flagtail Surgeonfish. To avoid the confusion, scientists know it as Paracanthurus hepatus.

picture courtesy of

We were curious about how scientific names for plants and animals are devised. It didn’t take long to pick up the trail of Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, whose story (luckily for us) comes complete with an Australian twist!

Back in the 17th and early 18th centuries, plants were given long Latin phrases for names that reflected their particular botanical features. As more plants were identified, names became longer and longer, and more and more difficult to remember and use.

Carl Linnaeus

Linnaeus, who was born in 1707, was to change all that. In 1735 he introduced a method of naming plants that he later applied to animals. It brought simplicity and consistency to a befuddling array of previous systems, classifying each organism according to its physical attributes.

In the words of the Linnean Society of London, he gave “a one-word name such as Rhododendron or Equus to a genus and a two-word name such as Rhododendron ponticum or Equus caballus to an individual species within the genus.”

Known as ‘binomial nomenclature’, it answered the dire need for a standardised approach. No wonder it was applauded and universally accepted, and still provides the basis for naming organisms to this day.

During his work to catalogue all known living things, Linnaeus appointed students to undertake botanical and zoological expeditions throughout the world. Known as his ‘apostles’, they included a Daniel Solander, the first university educated scientist to set foot on Australian soil.

Linnaeus had advised Solander to go to England where, luck would have it, he met Joseph Banks. In 1768, the influential naturalists invited Solander to join the scientific staff of Cook’s Endeavour expedition to the Pacific.

As we know, after visiting Tahiti and sailing around New Zealand, Cook sighted the east coast of Australia, tracking it northwards to Botany Bay where the two scientists began collecting Australian plant specimens for description using the Linnaean method of classification.

Subsequently, the ship sailed into the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and area teeming with beautiful blue Paracanthurus hepatus.

Sugeonfish coin from Australian Sea Life II

Click to view the latest coin from Australian Sea Life II.

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Nov 162011

Two British students have had the honour of designing the official UK coins to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Architectural student Saiman Miah from Birmingham, and graphic and media design graduate Pippa Sanderson from Worcestershire, created the two £5 coins as mementos of London 2012.

Saiman Miah and Pippa Sanderson with their five pound coins for the official London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The winning designs were selected following a Royal Mint competition for art and design students in higher education. Students were challenged to create a design celebrating the capital’s role as host city of London 2012. Designs were requested that could be symbolic or literal and could involve the use of emblems or lettering.

Saiman said the inspiration for his design came from his love of architecture and it includes a detailed impression of London’s iconic skyline. “I wanted a classical design that represented old traditional British values,” he said. Saiman also incorporated pictograms of athletes around the edge of the skyline to create a clock face referencing another London icon, Big Ben.

Pippa took inspiration from the Games themselves. “My design idea came from the concept of rings and what they mean, from the track at the Olympic Stadium to the Olympic rings.” Split into these four sections, her design features a spoked wheel for manoeuvrability, a target for accuracy and a stopwatch for speed and includes the face of Big Ben to represent London.

The Royal Mint said Olympic coins can be traced back to 480BC.

Nov 112011

There’s a terific bonus in store for visitors to The Perth Mint this weekend.  Not only is entry free on both days, but you’ll also be among the first to see the spectacular one tonne gold coin on display among the gold bars, gold nuggets and molten gold on display in our Gold Exhibition.

Australian Kangaroo one tonne gold coin

Australia's one tonne gold coin has been installed in The Perth Mint Gold Exhibition.

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Nov 102011

Here are he latest issues sold out at The Perth Mint.

2012 Australian Lunar Year of the Dragon Individual Silver Proof Coins
Full mintage: 1oz – 5,000 sold out, 1kg – 500 sold out


2012 Australian Lunar Year of the Dragon Silver Proof Three-Coin Set
Full mintage: 1,000 sold out


2012 Australian Lunar Year of the Dragon Silver Proof Typeset
Full mintage: 1,500 sold out


2011 ANA Chicago Coin Show Special – Little Aussies
Full mintage: 2,000 sold out


2011 Bumblebee 1oz Silver Proof Coin
Full mintage: 5,000 sold out


The following releases are now close to sell out at the Mint:

Nov 092011

Looking for something the whole family can enjoy in Perth this weekend? Then why not visit Perth’s most valuable attraction – for free!

We’re supporting Heritage Perth’s Heritage Days initiative by throwing open the gates on 12 and 13 November, giving you a golden opportunity to benefit from:

  • Free guided heritage talks from informative and entertaining guides from 9.30am through to 3.30pm.
  • Free entry into the gold exhibition where stunning displays of pure gold bars and natural gold nuggets gleam from the darkness of the original 1899 vaults.
  • Free gold pouring performances in the old Melting House from 10.00am through to 4.00pm.  (Bookings essential on 9421 7223).
  • Coin prizes to be won every hour.
  • ‘Meet the designers’ of some of the most popular commemorative coin programs in Australia from 10am – 1pm both days.
  • 10% discount on selected jewellery, giftware and souvenirs purchased in the Shop.

Every visitor will also receive a Perth Mint copper medallion and a gold-plated kookaburra pin!

For further information visit the Heritage Perth website

Nov 092011

A £50 banknote featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt, pioneers of the Industrial Revolution, entered into UK circulation last week. We thought we’d draw that to your attention because one half of the famous partnership has a fascinating connection with early Australian coinage.

Portrait of Matthew Boulton

The son of a Birmingham metal product manufacturer, Matthew Boulton built the groundbreaking steam-powered Soho Mint in 1788. As well as medals and tokens, he produced high-quality coins from copper and silver for which he has been described as the founder of modern coinage

Boulton made the famous cartwheel penny at his Soho Mint, a coin which was exported to the colonies – including cash-strapped New South Wales. “Near four tons” of 1797-dated pennies arrived aboard the Porpoise, which docked in Port Jackson in 1800.

Each copper coin weighed 1oz. Designed to prevent wear, they were known as ‘cartwheels’ because of their large size. A bust of George III appeared on the obverse and on the reverse was seen a seated Britannia with shield holding olive branch and trident.

A ‘cartwheel’ copper coin made at Matthew Boulton’s Soho Mint in 1797. (source:

At this time, an assorted rag-bag of coins from around the globe passed for currency in Sydney Town. Unfortunately, relative values for each coin were often disputed.

With the arrival of the cartwheel pennies, Governor King took the opportunity to settle values “for all the specie legally circulating in this colony” by way of a Currency Proclamation.

King regarded the cartwheel penny as vital to “dealings of the ordinary customers of the business houses” and in a bid to prevent supplies being syphoned off by visiting traders, he decreed that it should circulate at 2d – twice its face value! By inflating coin values locally, he believed, visiting merchants would be reluctant to accept them.

The 1797 cartwheel copper penny is significant in being one of the very first coins made using Matthew Boulton’s steam-powered coining press. As the trigger behind King’s famous Proclamation, it occupies an important place in Australian numismatic history. Moreover, as the first coin formally exported to New South Wales, it can also be regarded as Australia’s first official coin.