ROYAL AUSTRALIAN MINT, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2023
SUBJECTS: KING CHARLES III ON AUSTRALIAN COINS
ANDREW LEIGH, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES AND TREASURY: Morning everyone, thank you for coming along to today's exciting events. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury. I'd like to acknowledge the meeting today on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal People. [Ngunnawal language greeting omitted]. I acknowledge all Indigenous people present today.
I've also got to say how terrific news to have at our press conference today, students from Perth College. Thank you very much for coming along. I know we've got a number of coin collectors in the audience as well because the Royal Australian Mint's doing a new coin release. So it is, I think, one of the most diverse press conferences we've done in a while. Thank you all for being here, welcome to the Royal Australian Mint.
I'm here with Leigh Gordon, the CEO of the Royal Australian Mint, to formally unveil the effigy of His Majesty King Charles III, which will appear on coins produced by the Royal Australian Mint. The new effigy is designed by the Royal Mint in London and has royal approval. This is a historic day. For seven decades, Australians have seen a queen on their coins. This will be the first time for most Australians, that they have held the circulating coin which has a King on it rather than a Queen. Since 1953, every Australian coin has borne a Queen. That's been true since decimal currency came into effect in 1966. So this really is a historic occasion. People who look carefully at effigies will notice two things about this effigy. One is that the direction that the monarch faces has changed. Queen Elizabeth II faced to the right. As is tradition, King Charles III will face to the left. People will note too, that while Queen Elizabeth II bore a crown in her effigy, King Charles III appears without a crown. That's again another tradition. When Queen Elizabeth II first appeared on Australian coins, she didn't have a crown on her head.
I'm really excited to announce that the first circulating coin to have the effigy of the King will be the $1 coin. It will be the iconic ‘mob of roos’ coin which has been circulating in Australia since 1984. We expect to have those coins out in people's hands by Christmas, and the remaining denominations 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, and the $2 coins bearing the effigy of King Charles III will be progressively released in 2024. I want to thank the Royal Australian Mint, and officials in the Department of Treasury for their hard work in securing the effigy of His Majesty King Charles III with the Royal Mint in London. And I'll now pass to Leigh Gordon, the CEO of the Royal Australian Mint to make a few remarks about the effigy, before we'll be happy to take your questions. Over to you Leigh.
LEIGH GORDON, CEO OF THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN MINT: Thanks very much Minister. I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we're meeting on today.
Well it certainly is a really exciting day for the Royal Australian Mint. We've got an important role as a national institution not only to manufacture coins for the Australian economy, but also to connect with the Australian people, and it's great to see students from Perth. Perth has their own Mint over there that's a big partner of the Royal Australian Mint here and it's great to connect with you. And the effigy will be one of those things that link us together because we the same effigy that we use for the collectible coins made by the Perth Mint, and the circulating coins and new collectible coins made by the Royal Australian Mint.
The effigy has been designed by Dan Thorne, a young designer from the Royal Mint in the UK and it's an effigy that's available to the Commonwealth. It's called a Commonwealth effigy, so members of the Commonwealth have the opportunity to access this effigy which we have done to be able to put it onto our coins. Once we've received the effigy, we've started some work actually adapting and checking the design against the requirements of Australian coins. Coins around the world are made of different metals. A number of coins are made out of plated steel. In Australia, we use aluminium/bronze and copper/nickel. And so we needed to make sure that the effigy would work that the obverse will produce a beautiful design, but also something where the tools would last. So what we've got today, as well as the effigy being revealed, we've also got some examples of the prototype coins that we have been developing. Now that we've got to the point where we can publicise the design, we're now going to go into a into a stage where we're looking at how it goes through mass production to make sure that the tools last. And we get the sort of life that we want from a from a beautiful coin. So we'll be working through that mass production process. And then as the Minister said, we aim to enter a full production phase where we're looking to make around 10 million coins and distribute those $1 coins through the banks in the lead up to Christmas.
The best way for you to be able to access one of those coins, not surprising for the CEO of the Royal Australian Mint to say, is to use cash. If you use cash, if you get change, you increase your chance of getting a coin. But we also recognise that this is quite a quite an appealing item for Australians, and so we're certainly looking with the banks to make sure that we can get those 10 million coins out and be available. We also, through our Outreach Program, will connect with coin collectors. And certainly, there'll be a coin exchange activity as part of our Outreach Program. But that'll be a little way into the future. As the Minister said, we’re kicking off with the $1 coin. We are also going to then transition the remainder of the circulating coins across 2024.
But we also need to transition our collectible and investment coins across to the new effigy. And you can expect that the first coin of the year that we mint here at the Mint on the first of January next year will be a King Charles coin. We will continue to use the Queen Elizabeth II Memorial effigy of memorial obverse that we've been using across our collectible and investment coins, gradually withdrawing them as we make the change. And we think by May next year, we'll have fully transitioned to a King Charles effigy. As I've said, you know, we've got this licence from the Royal Mint in the UK to use the effigy which has been approved by Buckingham Palace. And that's the same effigy that we will be passing on to the Perth Mint for them to use on their coins. And that will be the coins that go through the coin determination process where the Minister exercises that delegation to turn them into legal tender.
As well as prototypes of the coin, we've also got some examples of coins here that show how we actually go through the process of ensuring that we can make a coin that is beautiful, and a dye that lasts. One of the things that we do is we meet with different pressures, we start off at about 12-tonne print meeting a coin. And if you look at an example of the 12-tonne coin, there's not a lot of detail. And we finished up with about an 80-tonne press load on the coin. And certainly, there's a lot of detail there. But at that sort of press the tool wears out very quickly. And we look for that sweet spot where we can get the lowest tonnage but the best coin, so there's some examples of that there in front of you. There's also examples of coins that have got Queen Elizabeth II on them that show the different profiles or different effigies that we have used across Queen Elizabeth's life. So while we're certainly releasing an effigy of King Charles today, that may not be the only effigy that's used on Australian coins, and it's interesting to look at the profile of Queen Elizabeth across her reign is a very important factor.
To conclude, it is great to be releasing this. There's a lot of people here from the public, but there's also a lot of people here from the Royal Australian Mint. And I certainly want to acknowledge the contribution that has to be made across the Mint to deliver an outcome like this. It's not just coin design. There's lots of manufacturing. There's lots of producing and packaging and those sorts of aspects. There really is a team sport, and it's really great for me to be able to do this reveal with the Minister here in front of so many members the Royal Australian Mint. So thank you very much.
ANDREW LEIGH: Thank you very much Leigh. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: This might be one more for Mr Gordon. The British Mint put out their first coin in very late 2022, so they've had more than a year in in circulation. I know you were talking before about the process to get to this point here, but how come there's been a year's difference almost between when the British coins with the King on it came out, and Australia's coins, for instance?
LEIGH GORDON: Yes, certainly, we were very respectful of the process. And we didn't want to jump the gun, if you will. We also wanted to allow the British Royal Mint to be in a position where it had an effigy to be able to release to the Commonwealth nations, so that took some time. And we worked with the Royal Mint on that to get to that particular point. And then as I said before, having got that effigy now we're going through that fairly deliberate process. I certainly didn't want to we didn't want to rush this activity we want to get particularly right. So that's why it's taken the time that it had. I can certainly recall that when we had the media conference just around the corner around here, where we talked about the fact that we would we would be making the change, I indicated it was going to take us about 12 months sometime in 2023. And that's certainly the way that has played out. It's not something that we particularly want to rush, we want to get it right. These coins will last for 30 years, or more, depending on that on the usage that they get. So we need to get it right.
JOURNALIST: Mr Gordon, you mentioned there will be around 10 million units released. Is that less than that the last iteration of Queen Elizabeth's latest effigy?
LEIGH GORDON: So to give a bit of a sense, we released about 120 million circulating coins in the last financial year, across all denominations. So 10 million $1 coins is maybe a little bit less than a normal circulation, there'll be more to go out. It varies a little bit from year to year, but 10 million against 120 million gives you an indication that there's certainly a lot going out in a small amount of time, released between now and Christmas. And there will no doubt be following coins that we make based on the demands that we get from the banks.
JOURNALIST: And how long do you perceive the next effigy of King Charles to be given that Queen Elizabeth had, I think, six?
LEIGH GORDON: Well, that's you know, that's a that's a very interesting question. We've been quite focused on getting this one out. It will certainly depend on you know, what sort of anniversaries and events that we might choose to commemorate. And indeed, it may depend also on the intention of the Palace, what they'd like to be involved with. We're very focused at the moment on getting this effigy out across our range of coins. And I think it'd be a number of years before we think about a further iteration of His Majesty.
JOURNALIST: How long do you think coins with Queen Elizabeth's face will be circulating among Australians for?
LEIGH GORDON: That's a really interesting question. As I mentioned before, coins have a life of 30 years, and they pop up from time to time. You can still find a 1966 coin occasionally in your change. Very occasionally, so based on that we could be seeing these coins in 40 or 50 years.
JOURNALIST: So perhaps when Prince William takes the throne, we could still be seeing Queen Elizabeth coins?
LEIGH GORDON: Well, it's not out of the ordinary, it's certainly not out of the ordinary. I think as people identify them, they tend to hang on to them a bit more, and so less of them are in circulation, but a lot of them are in stashes. And so that might certainly happen. I'm sure there's a whole bunch of people in here that have got penny coins that were handed down from their grandparents, that are still sitting there with with earlier kings on them. So I accept that they're not circulating, but they're certainly out there in the public.
JOURNALIST: Is this particular design based on a photo or an event? Or what age was King Charles when this was taken?
LEIGH GORDON: The designer, Dan Thorne, studied a number of different images of the king and certainly studied the King for a while when he came up with this, so it's a compilation of various views. And it's a generic view, I guess, if you will, that's not aimed to be specific "The King on this day." It's a representative view.
JOURNALIST: Minister Leigh, you've got a lot of kids here who have very rarely used a coin, ever. And you're a historian of money. What's the chance that King Charles will be the last to appear on a coin? And subsequently, what's the future of the five cent piece?
ANDREW LEIGH: No country in the world has phased out cash. Certainly its use has been declining, but there's still many moments at which Australians like to make use of coins. The phase out of the five cent coin is more challenging the phase out of the one on the two cent coin, because of the rounding problem. With one and two was clear that one and two goes down, three and four goes up, and that makes it straightforward. Removing the five cent piece gives you a round up / round down problem that isn't as straightforward. I would expect there's going to be a lot of coins in circulation throughout the lives of everyone in this room. Over the course of decimal currency, we've had some 15 and a half billion coins produced by the Royal Australian Mint, bearing Her Majesty's effigy, and they're holding up pretty well. So this [holds up coin] is a 1985 $1 coin - one of the mob of roos coins. I reckon this is doing perfectly well and will continue to be in circulation for for many years to come. Australians will be spending coins with Queen Elizabeth's face on them for decades yet.
JOURNALIST: Minister, obviously the RBA has a say over what's on Australia's banknotes, and though bank notes and coins are very different, after the Queen's death the decision was made that there'd be a new design of the five dollar note, not with the Monarch on, but there'd be a different design that's more Australian-focussed. Was there any further consideration as to whether there'd be a more Australian design or someone else on the coins following the Queen's death that wasn't necessarily a sovereign from another country, for instance?
ANDREW LEIGH: We were always going to continue to have the Sovereign on the coin. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Just from the collectors in the room about the first few currency determinations. Do we anticipate in the next month or two being likely to a currency determination to the collectible coins with the King's effigy on it? The first part, the second part will be for the Mint. In regards to the foreign coin anniversary $2 set, do we anticipate that will still have the memorial obverse on it? Or will it switch across to King Charles?
ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks very much. Certainly, we're keen to get as many of the new coins with the King's face on them out there as quickly as possible. So that'll just be a matter of for the Royal Australian Mint's production processes. As I understand it, that collectible $2 coin series will bear the Queen on the on the obverse. Is that your understanding Leigh?
LEIGH GORDON: Yes.
ANDREW LEIGH: Alright, thank you very much everyone. Really appreciate it.