By the late 1800s the population of Western Australia was growing rapidly, due largely to the discovery of rich gold deposits in Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie and Murchison. Sir John Forrest, who was the first Premier of Western Australia, is considered the founding father of The Perth Mint. Foreseeing the importance of gold in the development of the Western Australian economy, he successfully lobbied the British Government to establish a branch of the Royal Mint in Perth. Designed by George Temple Poole, The Perth Mint is an impressive example of colonial-era architecture, having the highest classification from the National Trust and being one of the first buildings to be entered on the State Heritage Register.
Opening on June 20, 1899, one year prior to Federation, The Perth Mint remained under the jurisdiction of Great Britain until July 1, 1970 when it became a statutory authority the Western Australia Government. Those who flocked to the then colony in huge numbers from other parts of Australia and around the world to try their luck digging for gold would deposit their raw gold at The Perth Mint where it would be refined and minted into coins. Between 1899 and 1931 the Mint struck more than 106 million gold sovereigns and nearly 735,000 half-sovereigns for use as currency in Australia and across the British Empire. In 1931 Britain abandoned the standard and the Mint stopped producing sovereigns, however, they remained busy with the production of gold bullion bars.
During the Second World War, The Perth Mint began minting Australian coinage from base metals. In 1940 an urgent telegram arrived from the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra stating ‘Heavy demand for Australian coin and Melbourne Mint working full capacity. Could you undertake minting copper coin?’ Between 1940 and 1964 hundreds of millions of Australian pennies and half pennies were produced, with The Perth Mint completing an order for 1.3 million shillings in 1946. The introduction of decimal currency in 1966 served to boost their output considerably, producing 829 million 2 cent coins and 26 million 1 cent coins by 1973.
In 1957 The Perth Mint manufactured ‘arguably the purest of all gold’ with a 13-troy-ounce (400g) proof “plate” of close to six nines – 999.999 parts gold per thousand. The Royal Mint in Great Britain was so impressed that it ordered some of the gold as the benchmark for its own standards.
A new direction was established for The Perth Mint in 1987 through the creation of the Gold Corporation by a State Act of Parliament. Under a new agreement with the Commonwealth of Australia’s Department of the Treasury, the Mint now produced gold, silver and platinum Australia legal tender coinage to investors and collectors worldwide. In Sydney on April 23, 1987, then Prime Minister Bob Hawke launched the Mint’s new Australian Nugget Gold Coin Series, with the first day of trading yielding sales of 155,000 ounces of gold worth $103 million.
Up until 2000 the Mint’s refined gold output totalled 4,500 tonnes, representing 3.25% of the total weight of gold produced by humankind. In 2003 an 8,400 square metre state-of-the-art manufacturing facility was opened next to the original building. In October 2011 The Perth Mint created the world’s largest, heaviest and most valuable gold coin, breaking the record previously held by the Royal Canadian Mint. The coin is approximately 80 cm in diameter, 12 cm thick and made of 1,012 kg of 99.99% pure gold.
Today, The Perth Mint continues to provide refining and other services to the gold industry and manufactures numerous items for investors and collectors and is responsible for manufacturing most of Australia’s legal tender precious metal coins, including proof quality Australian Nugget gold coins, Australian Platinum Koala coins, Australian Silver Kookaburra coins and billion.
The Perth Mint has provided more than 100 years of minting excellence in Western Australia and today forms part of an elite group of world mints whose pure gold, silver and platinum legal tender coins are trusted without question. While mints did exist in both Sydney and Melbourne, The Perth Mint is the only operating Mint in Australia and one of the oldest operating Mints in the world.