Aug 162012

It was the practice of the Romans to personify continents and countries as female figures and for the Province of Britannia they used the seated figure of Britannia. On coins of the emperor Hadrian (117-138AD) she was featured in classic flowing robes with a spear and shield, seated on rocky crags which probably provided the invaders’ first view of Britain.

Much later Britannia became a fitting symbol on the reverse of the copper coins of Charles II (r.1660 – 1685) when, in direct allusion to the shipping war with the Dutch, her image portrayed her ‘sovereignty’ of the seas.

Thereafter Britannia was never absent from British coinage and in subsequent years she became still more obviously a maritime figure. On the famous cartwheel pennies and twopences of 1797 her spear was replaced by a trident and she was shown seated on rocks in the sea, with a ship in the background.

She continued to reign supreme on the copper, later bronze, pennies of every monarch up until decimalisation and was subsequently chosen to appear on the definitive 50p coin.

Available in Australia from The Perth Mint, this 2012 Britannia £2 coin is struck in 95.84% ‘Britannia’ silver, a higher standard silver than sterling. Britannia standard silver was introduced as part of the great recoinage scheme of William III from 1696.

The Royal Mint says Britannia’s powerful, charismatic persona has inspired poets and artists to create new depictions throughout the ages. The latest portrayal by Philip Nathan shows her standing proudly on the shore, hair and gown streaming in the sea breeze. Armed with trident and shield, her love of peace is symbolised by the olive branch she grasps in her left hand. Her helmet with elongated visor and plume recalls her Roman ancestry.


Aug 142012

As readers will be aware we like a mystery here at the Vault, and this medallion raised some intriguing questions.

Research revealed that the inspiration behind the medallion was a 15th century woodcut depicting a monetary workshop in Europe. The original design is believed to be by Leonhard Beck (1480 – 1542) but may also be attributed to Hans Burgkmair, The Elder (1473 – 1531).

It is interesting to note all the steps in the minting process: the furnace for smelting is featured in the upper left, with the figures cutting planchets, beating metal and striking coins, respectively. The chief ‘moneyer’ (or perhaps die engraver) is depicted at the top centre and appears to be supervising the whole operation.

Moneyers have a long tradition dating back through history, and were considered personally responsible for the weight and fineness of the metal coins they produced. There are many recorded instances of moneyers who produced short-weight coins, who were subsequently punished.

For example, in England, King Henry I held an ‘Assize of Moneyers’ at Winchester in 1124. Ninety-four coin makers were convicted of issuing sub-standard coins. As a punishment, the moneyers were mutilated, losing their right hands and one testicle – not surprisingly, the quality of English coins improved substantially!

The medallion was cast by the Royal Mint and quite how it came  into The Perth Mint’s historic coin and medallion collection remains a bit of a mystery. But we’re working on it…


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Aug 132012

A question about the meaning of the letter ‘P’ on our coins recently appeared on a popular discussion forum (read the relevant Silver Stackers post here).

Many people are aware that a ‘P’ is our most famous mintmark. (There have been others, but that’s a story for another day!)

The practice dates back to the nineteenth century. Branches of the Royal Mint in Sydney and Melbourne used the letters ‘S’ and ‘M’ respectively to distinguish their gold sovereigns from London-made coins. So when the Perth branch opened in 1899, the sovereign dies supplied from Britain showed a small ‘P’ under Pistrucci’s famous St George and the Dragon reverse.

Between 1899 and 1931, more than 106 million sovereigns and 735,000 half sovereigns were made in Perth, differing from coins struck at other Empire mints only by the appearance of the letter ‘P’.

This custom was revived in 1986 when the initial proof Australian Nugget became the first Australian coin to bear our traditional mintmark.

From that time onward, the ‘P’ was used on other collectable issues, with a modified ‘P100’ appearing on some coins issued in 1999 – the Mint’s centenary.

More recently it was decided to display a ‘P’ on all proprietary Perth Mint coins, explaining why from 2008 onwards you will see it on our collector and investor releases.


Aug 082012

The Perth Mint is attending the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia. These Coin Show Specials, both housed in ANA Coin Show packaging, are currently available on our website.

ANA Coin Show Special – Australian Outback – Koala
2012 1oz Silver Coin

Mintage: 5,000


ANA Coin Show Special – Australian Lunar Series II
2012 Year of the Dragon 1oz Silver Coloured Edition

Mintage: 5,000



Aug 072012

On the day our Australian Map Shaped Coin Series – Emu 2012 1oz Silver Coin is launched, here are ten emu facts we hope you find fascinating.

  • The emu is the largest bird inhabiting the Australian continent.
  • One species exists today, although prior to European colonisation three other species occurred: the Tasmanian emu, the King Island emu and the Kangaroo Island emu.
  • The name emu is thought to be derived from an Arabic word for ‘large bird’ and later adopted by early Portuguese explorers.
  • The emu is part of a group known as ratites, which includes the Australian cassowary, from which it may have evolved.

  • Like other ratites, the emu has a ‘keelless’ breastbone and is therefore missing the part needed to anchor powerful flight muscles.
  • The flightless bird’s long legs are extremely strong and fast, allowing it to sprint at over 30 miles per hour.
  • With no teeth emus swallow large pebbles to help their stomach grind up food.
  • The emu and the kangaroo were chosen for our Coat of Arms as they are the only two Australian animals that can’t move backwards.
  • An emu egg can weigh about the same as 12 chicken eggs.
  • Emu egg shells have multiple layers ranging from an inner white layer through to a green outer layer, which led to Kalti Paarti – the art of carving emu eggs (see astonishing examples here).