Apr 252013

Each year The Perth Mint issues an ANZAC Day $1 commemorative coin in tribute to all Australians who have served their country. This year’s Australian legal tender coin salutes the engineers of the Australian Defence Force.

RAE_badgeThe Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) was officially raised on 1 July 1902 from the permanent and militia engineering units of the separate colonies. Many of these colonial units were descended from the Royal Engineers units that accompanied Governor Arthur Phillip in the First Fleet that landed in New South Wales in 1788.

In 1835, the first engineering officer, Captain George Barney, was appointed to the Australian colonies and raised the first Australian military engineering company.

Today, the RAE is a corps of the Australian Army tasked with providing geospatial, combat and force support engineering capabilities to enable joint manoeuvre and survivability.

Combat engineers of the RAE specialise in bridge-building, minefield clearance, demolition using explosives, field defence systems, water purification, as well as road and airfield construction and repair.

Among other tasks performed by the RAE is geomatic engineering, which includes surveying, cartography, digital maps and other digital topographic projects.

Army engineers are often referred to a ‘sappers’. The term sapper derives from the excavation of trenches, known as saps, designed to advance troops towards the enemy’s fortifications.

The RAE has been involved in many conflicts from the trenches of France in World War I to the jungles of Borneo in World War II.

The corps motto is ‘Ubique’, which is Latin for ‘Everywhere’. The corps also uses the motto ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Pense’, which is old French for ‘Evil be to him who evil thinks’.



Apr 232013

This is a really exciting inclusion in our historic collection – a medal designed by eminent Melbourne sculptor and medal-maker Michael Meszaros.

These medals were presented to staff at the Footscray Ammunition Factory during its centenary celebrations in 1988. Now closed, the factory played a significant role in the protection of Australia from pre-federation times.


The 1988 Footscray Ammunition Factory medal by Michael Meszaros was struck in bronze (63.5mm) and also in cupro-nickel (40mm).

Calls for ammunition

When Britain withdrew troops in 1870, the self-governing Australian colonies assumed responsibility for their own defence. Under the new arrangement, pressure grew for the local manufacture of ammunition and other ordnance.

Victoria took the lead by encouraging private enterprise to establish Australia’s first ammunition plant, with the additional promise that all Government supplies would be procured from the factory.

In 1888, Captain John Whitney opened the ‘Colonial Ammunition Factory’ on land close to the Saltwater River at Footscray, four miles from Melbourne. Initially, “eight separate buildings were constructed to cover the various stages of the ammunition production,” The Illustrated Australian News reported in November 1890.

Subsequently, other facilities were added across Melbourne’s inner west, including an explosives plant at Maribyrnong for the home-grown supply of propellant. Ownership was transferred to the Defence Department in 1927 and the factory’s importance peaked during the 1940s when it employed many thousands of workers in the production of ammunition and related explosives for World War II.

Symbolism of the medal design

Michael told us his intention for the centenary medal was to put a positive slant on the manufacture of lethal products, a difficult position both philosophically and artistically.

“Since Australian defence was designed to keep Australia safe from external dangers, my design consists of a map of Australia filled with blooming flowers surrounded by seas consisting entirely of the products made by the factory – shells, bullets, fuses, grenades, etc, of different sizes and types. The symbolism is that the products surround and protect Australia and allow the flowers to grow within it.”

It was designed prior to the Government’s decision to export Australian-made arms and ammunition, a policy he says he regrets.

The medallist – Michael Meszaros

Needless to say, we’re pleased to have a design from such a renowned artist in our collection. Michael studied medal-making in Italy at La Scuola Dell ‘Art Della Medaglia, attached to Rome’s main mint. On his return to Australia, he became a full-time sculptor and medallist, working with his father Andor (1900–1972) in their Kew studio.

According to Museum Victoria, “Michael Meszaros medals are held by the British Museum, the Royal Dutch Coin Collection, and many private collections in Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In August 2011 he was awarded the American Numismatic Association’s ‘Numismatic Art Award for Excellence in Medallic Sculpture’. In 2012 he received an OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.”


Apr 222013

“Kapyong came to be the most significant
and important battle for Australian troops in Korea”

– Australian War Memorial.

On the night of 22 April 1951, Chinese forces launched a major offensive against United Nations forces defending the South Korean capital, Seoul. In the ensuing fighting in the Kapyong Valley, a key route into the city, Australian troops helped hold up the Chinese 60th Division. For their contribution to this action, 3 RAR was awarded a United States Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation.

Kapyong_Coin-case[www.anzacday.org.au says:] “The ANZAC spirit was alive and well; the 3rd Battalion had remained true to the legend. When others had retreated before an imposing enemy, the Australians stood their ground and defended their position. In doing so, they prevented a massive breakthrough from occurring that would certainly have seen the enemy recapture Seoul and with it, thousands of UN troops.”

Coin collectors can mark this famous battle of the Korean War with The Perth Mint’s Kapyong 2012 1oz Silver Proof Coin.


Apr 162013

In 1944, Australian soldier Maurie Isenberg was assigned to a forward radar station at Jensen Bay on Marchinbar Island in the Northern Territory. While fishing in his spare time he spotted several coins in the sand and placed them in an airtight tin where they remained for 35 years.

In 1979, Isenberg sent the coins off for examination. Several were identified as Dutch East India Company coins, with one dating back to 1690. The other five were copper coins from the medieval Kilwa Sultanate, centred on an island off the east coast of Africa.


One of the ancient African copper coins discovered on Marchinbar Island in 1944, which could raise the possibility of shipwrecks along an early maritime trading route. (Picture: Michael B. Owen, SEP Consultancy.)

How and why do five Kilwa coins, dating from the 1100s to 1300s, find their way to a remote Australian island on the other side of the Indian Ocean?

One man who is hoping to find out is professor of anthropology Ian S McIntosh, an Australian who works at the Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. Later this year he is leading a team including an historian, anthropologist, archaeologist and geomorphologist to survey the discovery site with a view to applying for an excavation permit.

An expert in Aboriginal religions and cultures, McIntosh is superbly qualified for the task ahead. He’ll work in partnership with the site’s senior Aboriginal custodians and has Aboriginal rangers on the team.

Their starting point is a map on which Isenberg marked an ‘x’ shortly after finding the coins. The initial work, which has financial support from the Australian Geographic Society, includes site surveys, mapping, recording, soil testing, and coastal erosion analysis. Hopefully, it will provide clues to so many unanswered questions about the discovery of ancient African coins in Australia.

“Multiple theses have been put forward by noted scholars and the major goal is to piece together more of the puzzle,” McIntosh said. “Is a shipwreck involved? Are there more coins? All options are on the table but only the proposed expedition can help us answer some of these perplexing questions.”


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Apr 122013

Share_Your_StoryIt was a chance find by a young lad on a New Zealand beach that inspired his life long passion for coin collecting. Thanks Jim (name changed by request) for recounting your delightful story and becoming the second recipient of an Australian Mini Roo pure gold coin under our invitation to Write for Us.

“In 1980, I was seven years old. My parents rented a lovely house on a clifftop overlooking the East Coast Bays of Auckland, New Zealand, which had panoramic views of the sea. Every evening after school, I would spend hours on the beach, playing in the dunes and fossicking for crabs, sea-glass and limpets in the rock pools.

It was a late summer evening with the sun hanging low in the sky, when I happened upon an old Chinese “I Ching” coin half-submerged in the sand, right on the tide line. But to my juvenile eyes, it was nothing short of pirate’s gold! An exotic treasure cast up upon the shore, wet with sea-foam, and glinting in the fading light.

Later that night, the coin was hidden from sight in an impressive fortification I had made of Lego.


(Administrator note) In Chinese culture, these coins were used to tell a person’s fortune under the I Ching method of divination. They are round with a square hole, representing Heaven and Earth. One side of the coin denotes Yin, the other Yang. In feng shui the coins are said to bring prosperity and wealth.

From this early age, I was obsessed with coins. At the age of ten, I inherited a small collection from a man in his seventies… a family friend who recognised in me, the same passion he had nurtured in himself as a young man. I displayed them proudly – presenting them to my peers at school each individually sellotaped to large pieces of card that had been labelled in marker pen, written with a shaky hand.

More than thirty years have passed, and today, I now work just a stone’s-throw away from The Perth Mint. I visit regularly to peer through the glass counter-tops, and admire exquisite coins through the polished vitrines. I have amassed many coins from this Mint, and others I’ve visited around the world, but I have a soft spot for The Perth Mint Proof Australian Gold Sovereigns and the Silver Proof High Relief releases. They’re exceptional in both quality and design.

Whilst I regard my collection as a nice investment for the future, I feel preserving gold and silver coins is a fantastic way of recording a vivid snapshot of our culture and times.

I often think about my chancing upon the I Ching coin, and how it changed my life. The coin itself, unfortunately, has since been lost to time. I suspect it may turn up one day in an old piece of furniture at a garage sale somewhere, or in my old back yard in New Zealand… perhaps waiting to be plucked by the fingers of another boy, his mouth gawping in amazement, and with the glint of gold in his eyes.”