The Melbourne Mint as it once stood. Note the chimneys in the rear of the image – these are from the original coining factory!
In the early 1850’s, as Gold Fever struck the fledgling colonies in Australia, London’s Royal Mint approved the establishment of a local mint to convert the large amounts of gold being found into Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns of the Realm. This first local mint was created in Sydney, and began striking Australianised versions of the English Sovereign from 1855.
By the 1870’s, such was the volume of gold pouring from the Victorian goldfields that the need for a second branch of the Royal Mint was approved for Melbourne. Thus, from 1872, as construction was completed, the Melbourne Mint began striking Australian gold sovereigns and half sovereigns.
Initially striking both Shield and St George & Dragon design-type sovereigns, the Melbourne Mint went on to strike gold coins for almost 60 years until the Gold Standard was dropped as a basis for Australia’s currency in 1931/1932.
During this period of immense change, both worldwide and locally, Australia’s Government began issuing its first National currency in 1910. Initially struck at overseas mints, primarily at the Royal Mint in London and later with help from the Calcutta Mint in India, this currency was first struck in Australia by the Melbourne Mint when it struck its first silver shilling on January 11th, 1916. From that time, the Mint in Melbourne continued to strike the nation’s currency all the way up until 1964 when the final predecimal coins were issued. Over this period, Melbourne Mint produced several of today’s rarest and most sought after coins, including the 1930 Penny as well as the trial patterns in 1919-21 of a new – and ultimately rejected – square penny featuring various Kookaburra Designs.
In 1965, Australia’s first National Mint – the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra – was opened and the two remaining branch Mints in Perth and Melbourne were commissioned to help the new mint strike the incoming Decimal currency before its launch on February 14th, 1966. For its part in the newly introduced decimal system, Melbourne struck the copper 1c and 2c coins through until 1968 before ultimately ceding full responsibility to the national mint. In the first half of 1970, Queen Elizabeth II issued a proclamation for the Melbourne Mint to no longer act as a branch of the Royal Mint and, subsequently, the doors of the Mint were closed…