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Author Topic: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage  (Read 753 times)

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Offline <k>

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Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« on: May 14, 2017, 11:22:26 PM »
OVERVIEW OF AUSTRALIAN COINAGE

   Denom      Width      Weight      Metal      Edge      Edge   
   5c      19.4      2.8      Copper-nickel      Milled      1.3   
   10c      23.6      5.7      Copper-nickel      Milled      2.0   
   20c      28.7      11.3      Copper-nickel      Milled      2.5   
   50c      31.7      15.6      Copper-nickel      Plain      2.5   
   $1      25.0      9.0      Copper-aluminium-nickel      Interrupted milled      3.0   
   $2      20.5      6.6      Copper-aluminium-nickel      Interrupted milled      3.2   

Weight is in grams; width and edge sizes are in millimetres.



Many collectors have noted that, by modern standards, Australia's coinage is large and heavy. We have had a topic that looked at the UK's coin specifications:

The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage

Forum members Alan71 and herfordian offered their opinions, and Alan71 concluded:

"These documents indicate that, whilst radical plans for the UK coinage existed, the actual changes were much more conservative. And the UK, in turn, has been much more radical than countries like Australia, that are still using its £sd-derived coins."

Perhaps they, or any other members, have suggestions on how to improve the Australian coinage. The main glaring anomaly of the coinage is that the $2 coin is significantly smaller than the $1 coin, despite the fact that both are round and made of the same yellow-coloured alloy. What would have been a better arrangement?

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2017, 12:00:22 PM »
Well, no response. None.  :(

So looking at the Australian coinage, what mistakes were made? The first one was to make the 5 cents coin a "white" (copper-nickel) coin. Its value was too low ever to justify being a white coin. The UK's lowest white coin is 5p. However, at the time of Australian decimalisation in 1966, the 5c was meant to replace the sixpence, and you can see that is has the same size, shape and weight, as well as being of the same metal alloy. The UK actually retained the sixpence coin until the end of the 1970s, and its circulated as the equivalent of 2½ decimal pence.

The UK kept the 5p and 10p coins at the size of the shilling and two shillings respectively, to aid the transition to decimalisation. And you can see that Australia kept the 10c and 20c coins in the same fashion. By the late 1970s, the UK was having problems with the weight of its coinage, and there was a limited number of size slots for new coins. So, the UK had legacy problems. Producing the 5p and 10p coins as physical counterparts to the 1s and 2s coins certainly aided the transition to decimalisation, but it left the UK with legacy problems. The same thing has happened with Australia. Nor was Australia's planning of the highest order. To introduce a medium-sized dollar coin then follow it by a small 2 dollar coin, of the same family, four years later, offends both logic and tradition. A better solution would have been to plan the decimal coinage from scratch - in both the UK and Australia - without any size reference to the pre-decimal system.


Offline Alan71

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Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2017, 09:57:34 PM »
An obvious reference point for a re-design of Australian coinage would be that of New Zealand's coins in 2006.  Up until then, both countries still used specifications derived from the sixpence, shilling and florin for their 5c, 10c and 20c coins. 

The two currencies were both called dollar, and both derived from the pound, but were otherwise separate.  It meant that 5c, 10c and 20c coins of one country were often being accepted in the other, despite the difference in values (I can verify this as I got at least one New Zealand 20c coin in change when in Australia in 2003).

New Zealand went for a radical re-sizing, removing the 5c altogether, making the 10c a smaller coin but copper-coloured, and knocking quite a lot of weight off the 20c and 50c coins.  At the same time, these coins became either nickel-plated steel or (for the 10c) copper-plated steel.  The $1 and $2 were left unchanged as they had only been introduced (together, unlike Australia's) in 1990 (though not actually entering circulation until 1991).

Australia would probably need slightly different sizes to avoid a repeat of the pre-2006 situation, and in my opinion they should definitely keep the 12-sided shape of the 50c, but New Zealand's successful re-sizing should be a good place to start.

Previous specifications (withdrawal dates should read 30 April 1990 for 1c & 2c and 31 October 2006 for 5c, large 10c, large 20c and large 50c):


Current specifications:
« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 10:18:52 PM by Alan71 »

Offline malj1

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2017, 12:01:54 AM »
Quote
Well, no response. None.  :(

Why are you worrying about Australia's coinage? we are quite happy to go along the way we are! in fact the only grizzle is the 5 cent which is said to be too small both in value and in size.

A bit of a niggle by the media occurred in 2008 which was quickly put to bed. This was reflected on WoC by Martin here

She'll be right mate!  ;D
Malcolm
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Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2017, 11:18:15 AM »
Why are you worrying about Australia's coinage?

I'm not worrying about it. I'm discussing it.  ;)  I pointed out the illogicality of the sizes of the $1 and $2 coins, which is already known, of course.

Quote
we are quite happy to go along the way we are!

Fine, if you're happy with it. I just thought that, as an outsider (English by birth) you might have some interesting insight into the situation.

Quote
in fact the only grizzle is the 5 cent which is said to be too small both in value and in size.

So 5 cents doesn't buy 5 cents' worth of stuff in the shops?  ???

Anyway, you'll know, malj1, that the Royal Mint produced lots of documents about the options it looked at before making any amendments to the UK coinage. Are there any similar documents relating to the options studied for the circulation $1 and $2 coins, before their first issue?

 
« Last Edit: May 17, 2017, 11:44:40 AM by <k> »

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2017, 12:06:35 PM »
New Zealand went for a radical re-sizing.

Australia would probably need slightly different sizes to avoid a repeat of the pre-2006 situation, and in my opinion they should definitely keep the 12-sided shape of the 50c, but New Zealand's successful re-sizing should be a good place to start.

It's interesting to recall that NZ resized three coins in a single year: 2006. Meanwhile, the UK's resizing of three coins (5p, 10p, 50p) was spread out over seven years: 1990 to 1997! Kudos to NZ for minimising the disruption.  8)

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2017, 12:24:26 PM »
Thanks to malj1 for finding this for me, about the advent of the $2 coin:



1986-87 CABINET PAPERS

Small change saved but $2 coin shrank

The Australian $2 Dollar coin today

    Mark Schliebs
    TheAustralian
    12:00AM January 1, 2014
   
IT was meant to be a larger, curved heptagon-shaped piece of metal in similar colour to a 20c piece, but the $2 coin envisaged by Paul Keating in 1986 was a far cry from the design that was eventually used.

In a bid to cut spending, the treasurer proposed the introduction of the coin to replace the costly $2 note - with projected savings to the government of $250 million - as well as the removal of 1c and 2c pieces from circulation.

Among the more extreme options canvassed was, instead of the removal of the smallest denominations, a surcharge of up to 100 per cent on the purchase of 1c and 2c coins.

"Obviously, however, there would be a strong public reaction to the notion of the government charging (say) $2 for $1 worth of 1c coins," he told cabinet in December 1986.

Instead, cabinet decided to begin preparations for a $2 coin and shelved plans for the restructuring of the coinage being circulated, including the removal of 1c and 2c coins.

The government, still dealing with a 50c coin that had not been well received by the general public and was unable to be used in vending machines at the time, believed the $2 piece should not be too large or heavy but needed to be "readily distinguishable".

"Against that background ... the best option at this stage would seem to be for a coin marginally larger but lighter than the $1 coin and having a curved heptagon shape, similar to the UK 50 (pence)," cabinet papers said.

Mr Keating proposed that the coins be made of the same metals as the 20c piece to keep costs in check. But in June 1988, the first $2 coin entered circulation that was smaller than Mr Keating's proposed version. It was made of the same metals as the other "gold" denomination, the $1 coin.




It would be interesting to know the diameter and weight of the proposed heptagonal coin.

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2017, 12:39:30 PM »
Here is the explanation given by the Royal Australian Mint:

Two Dollars

The two dollar coin was first introduced on 20 June 1988. Planning for a two dollar coin commenced around the same time as that for the one dollar coin. Like the one dollar, the two dollar coin replaced the note of the same denomination which had a short service life through high use.

Numerous designers were invited to contribute designs for the two dollar coin based on a brief to include a representation of the head and shoulders of a traditional Australian Aboriginal, the Southern Cross and Australian flora. The selected design was prepared by Mr Horst Hahne, with inspiration taken from a drawing by Mr Ainslie Roberts.

The size of the two dollar was determined after consideration of the needs of the visually impaired community, security considerations, a desire to avoid shaped coins, practical limitations to the diameter and thickness of coins, and to allow for future expansion of Australia's circulating coin array. When introduced, it was necessary to accommodate this new coin with seven existing denominations.




"Planning for a two dollar coin commenced around the same time as that for the one dollar coin."  Really? Do they think I was born yesterday? They deliberately made the $2 coin a SMALLER version of the $1 coin? The Australians must be the sort of people who walk into entrances backwards, pretending they're leaving.  ::)

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2017, 12:46:12 PM »
Here is the explanation given by the Royal Australian Mint about the problems surrounding the 50 cents coin:

Fifty Cents

The fifty cent coin was first introduced with decimal currency on 14 February 1966. The original design featured the Commonwealth Coat of Arms struck on a coin made from 80% silver. However as the silver price rose above the face value of the coin the Mint suspended striking of the coin in March 1968.

Although it was rumoured that the Mint had lost money striking the fifty cent, all the metal used in the manufacture of the 36.5 million coins produced was purchased before the price rises.

Apart from the uneconomic cost of continuing the issue of the silver fifty cent coins, increasing confusion arose regarding the similarity in sizes between the circular fifty cent and the twenty cent coin. The decision to reissue a fifty cent coin considered not only a change to materials but also different shapes to help solve the confusion with the twenty cents.

A new shape and alloy was reintroduced into circulation in September 1969.




Can't these Australians get anything right?  >:(

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2017, 12:48:56 PM »
See also: Australian Trial 50 cents

I don't know in which year the trial was minted. Interesting that they were thinking of using a heptagonal shape.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 01:46:07 AM by <k> »

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2017, 12:53:34 PM »
This reads like: "All the handy coin sizes were already taken. The coin-activated machine makers insisted on a round coin and we didn't want to overhaul the whole series, so we had to come up with a new combinations of size and colour. Reversing the sizes would have advantages, like [mumble, mumble]." Sounds like a good compromise between civil servants to me.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2017, 01:11:30 PM »
Sounds like a good compromise between civil servants to me.

Peter

Correction: BAD compromise.  >:(

Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2017, 01:49:09 PM »
Here's malj1 on the subject of the round 50c coin, issued in 1966:

People weren't keen on the 50c because it was too similar in size to the 20c with which I would have to agree. [think of the 'barmaids ruin' -  the 4/- compared with the 5/-]

Yes it did circulate for quite some time although it was withdrawn almost immediately but they were hoarded as soon as the information spread that it contained 80c cents worth of silver. [at the time] I did get one in change a year or two back.

It was also felt to be an unnecessary denomination due to having nothing between the 2/- and 10/- previously. It is however widely used today without hindrance once they changed the shape to make it more recognisable; this took three years of course. You always get a 50c in change rather than several 20c today.


In the UK, the Royal Mint recommends a minimum 3mm difference between conis of the same "family" (same metal/colour and shape). That was roughly the difference between the round 50c and the 20c. So what was the problem?  Before 1937, the British easily distinguished between 5 coins of the same family: the 3 pence, the 6 pence, the shilling, the florin and the half crown.

Offline malj1

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2017, 02:19:49 PM »
The 20c and 50c were quite different.

But when new to everyone, and if you only had one or the other in your pocket, then they could be rather confusing.

Remember too the fifty cent had a much greater purchasing power at that time, you even got change for something like a packet of cigarettes or a gallon of petrol.
Malcolm
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Offline <k>

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Re: Improving the specifications of the Australian coinage
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2017, 07:05:23 PM »
It takes time to get used to new coins. Even though the 50p is heptagonal, when it first appeared in 1969, some people mistook it for a 10p or 2 shillings coin. But the UK kept the 50p and got used to it. It seems that Australia needed to change the population, rather than the coins.  ::)  And the Australian civil servants appear to have been of low intellect too, if they really did plan the $1 and $2 at the same time but made the $2 smaller than the $1, even though it was also round and "yellow".  :-X