Sketch of The Perth Mint
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).
The Perth Mint under construction circa 1897
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 at The Perth Mint where it was refined and minted into gold coins.
Gold refining continually took place at the Mint’s original Hay Street premises until April 1990, when the operation was moved to a modern facility near Perth Airport. Between 1899 and 1931, The Perth Mint struck more than 106 million gold sovereigns and nearly 735,000 half-sovereigns for use as currency in Australia and throughout the British Empire.
1899 Perth Mint gold sovereign
The visionary leader Sir John Forrest, the first Premier of Western Australia, is regarded as the founding father of The Perth Mint. '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.
Sir John Forrest
Forrest laid the foundation stone of The Perth Mint in 1896. Designed by George Temple Poole, the Mint is one of Perth most impressive colonial-era buildings. In recognition of the quality of the architect's work, The Perth Mint has the highest classification from the National Trust and was one of the first buildings entered on the State's heritage register.
The Mint stopped making gold sovereigns when Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931. Nevertheless, the refinery remained busy as staff turned their skills to making fine gold bullion bars. But it was not long before the Mint was involved again in the production of coins.
Fine gold bullion bars
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?"
Hundreds of millions of Australian pennies and half pennies were produced by The Perth Mint between 1940 and 1964. The Mint also fulfilled an order for 1.3 million shillings in 1946. Its considerable output was boosted further when Australia introduced decimal currency in 1966. It had produced a staggering 829 million 2 cent coins and 26 million 1 cent coins by 1973.
The “purest of all gold”
Meanwhile, The Perth Mint 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.
The Perth Mint remained under Britain's jurisdiction until 1 July 1970, when ownership transferred to the State 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, The Perth Mint became the focus of renewed interest and opportunity.
The Mint's new direction was formalised in 1987 with the creation of Gold Corporation by a State Act of Parliament. Under a unique agreement with the Commonwealth of Australia's Department of the Treasury, the Mint's new operator was empowered to mint and market gold, silver and platinum Australian legal tender coinage to investors and collectors worldwide.
Prime Minister Bob Hawke launches the Australian Nugget in 1987
At a glittering ceremony in Sydney on 23 April 1987, Prime Minister Bob Hawke helped launch the Mint's new 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, The Perth Mint is 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, its 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.
The Mint also issues '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 the Mint's traditional skills, and through the use of modern treatments such as colour and gilding, they demonstrate the Mint's canny ability to set new market trends.
Modern production facilities at The Perth Mint
In 2003, The Perth Mint officially opened an 8,400 square metre state-of-the-art manufacturing facility next door to its 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.