The Perth Mint will soon be offering collectors an Australian bi-metal coin for the first time since 2003. Below we reveal that the bi-metallic coin is a surprisingly ancient concept and take a nostalgic look back at some of our classic releases incorporating both gold and silver.
Bi-metallic coins consist of two distinct metals or alloys. Generally speaking they comprise an outer ring with a centre made from contrasting coloured metal.
The idea is not new. The ancient Romans made commemorative bi-metal medals, presumably because the technique afforded greater prestige and artistic impact.
One of the best known was issued under Commodus, Roman Emperor from 180 to 192 AD. Such medals were made from copper and orichalcum – the latter a bronze alloy that resembled gold. In this case the design celebrated the arrival of grain ships from Egypt, providing relief from the famine that plagued Rome in 189.
Prototype bi-metal coins were made in Europe as early as the 18th century. Renowned Birmingham medal maker Joseph Moore crafted some of the most famous 19th century examples when he created experimental copper pennies with silver or brass centres. But not until in 1982 did the first bi-metallic coin enter modern circulation.
The Italian 500 Lira also featured a Roman theme – this time picturing the Piazza del Quirinale, which sits atop the highest of the city’s seven hills. The design appeared on the coin’s bronze centre and was encircled by a ring made of acmonital – a contraction of acciaio monetario italiano (Italian monetary steel).
Today, many nations issue bi-metal circulating coins from similar alloys – partly because they are more difficult to counterfeit. But they really come into their own as non-circulating commemorative issues made from stunning combinations of precious metal.
Before we unveil the exceptional Australian Wedge-tailed Eagle 2016 1oz Bi-Metal Coin, see if you remember these sought-after Perth Mint issues from the past.