The Perth Mint opened in 1899 in response to the discovery of rich gold deposits in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. It was Australia's third branch of Britain's Royal Mint - the others being the Sydney Mint and the Melbourne Mint (both closed).
Diggers, who flocked to the then colony of Western Australia in huge numbers from other parts of Australia and from around the world, deposited their raw gold with us where it was refined and minted into gold coins.
Gold refining continually took place at our original Hay Street premises until April 1990, when the operation was moved to a modern facility in Perth’s eastern suburbs. Between 1899 and 1931, we struck more than 106 million gold sovereigns and nearly 735,000 half-sovereigns for use as currency in Australia and throughout the British Empire.
The visionary leader Sir John Forrest, the first Premier of Western Australia, is regarded as our founding father. 'Big John' foresaw the importance of gold in the development of Western Australia's economy, and successfully lobbied the British Government to establish a branch of the Royal Mint in Perth.
Forrest laid our foundation stone in 1896. Designed by George Temple Poole, our heritage building is one of Perth most impressive colonial-era monuments. In recognition of the quality of the architect's work, we possess the highest classification from the National Trust and are one of the first buildings entered on the State's heritage register.
We stopped making gold sovereigns when Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931. Nevertheless, our refinery remained busy as staff turned their skills to making fine gold bullion bars. But it was not long before we were involved again in the production of coins.
In 1940, with Australia on a war footing, an urgent telegram arrived from the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra: "Heavy demand for Australian coin and Melbourne Mint working full capacity. Could you undertake minting copper coin?"
We produced hundreds of millions of Australian pennies and half pennies between 1940 and 1964. We also fulfilled an order for 1.3 million shillings in 1946. Our considerable output was boosted further when Australia introduced decimal currency in 1966 for which we produced a staggering 829 million 2 cent coins and 26 million 1 cent coins by 1973.
Meanwhile, we achieved "arguably the purest of all gold" in 1957. Refinery Officer Leo Hickey and Senior Craftsman Alexander Osborne produced a proof 'plate' of almost six nines - 999.999 parts of gold per thousand - as measured by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London. The Royal Mint was so impressed that it ordered some of the gold as the benchmark for its own standards.
We remained under Britain's jurisdiction until 1 July 1970, when ownership transferred to the Government of Western Australia. The change came at a fortuitous time, preceding by a few years the beginning of a new gold boom. With the price of gold rising dramatically, we became the focus of renewed interest and opportunity.
Our new direction was formalised in 1987 with the creation of Gold Corporation by a State Act of Parliament. Under an agreement with the Commonwealth Treasury, our new operator was empowered to mint and market gold, silver and platinum Australian legal tender coinage to investors and collectors worldwide.
At a glittering ceremony in Sydney on 23 April 1987, Prime Minister Bob Hawke helped launch the Australian Nugget Gold Coin Series. The first day's trading yielded sales of 155,000 ounces of gold worth $103 million, well above the sales target of 130,000 ounces to the end of June.
Today, we are a member of an elite group of world mints whose pure gold, silver and platinum legal tender coins are trusted without question. Like the Australian Nugget, our Australian Kookaburra Silver Coin Series, Australian Koala Silver Coin Series, Australian Platypus Platinum Coin Series, and Australian Lunar Gold and Silver Coin Series are extensively sought after by bullion investors worldwide.
We also issue 'proof' quality collector coins featuring iconic Australian designs, and commemoratives celebrating major international and Australian anniversaries. The stunning quality of these coins reflect the importance of our traditional skills, and through the use of modern treatments such as colour and gilding, we demonstrate the ability to set new market trends.
In 2003, we officially opened an 8,400 square metre state-of-the-art manufacturing and commercial facility next door to our original limestone building. Dominating the Mint's heritage precinct, these two important buildings are powerful symbols of more than 100 years of minting excellence in Western Australia.