The Birds of Australia Silver Bullion Coins

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With the announcement that the Perth Mint of Australia is releasing a new series of silver bullion coins called ‘Birds of Australia’, which will feature coloured depictions of a number of rare and unique Australian birds set against a backdrop of proof-type silver, many investors, numismatists, and even some people who just have a thing for birds are all patiently awaiting the release of the full set. It is not so well known in modern numismatic circles however, that prior to the Perth Mint’s release of the ‘Birds of Australia’ series (which many recent numismatists believe to be unique to the Perth Mint), an older Birds of Australia series was designed and minted by the now somewhat obscure yet nevertheless mightily reputable Royal Australian Mint.[1]

Now relatively unknown outside of the most precise of numismatic collectors and coin historians, the Birds of Australia series released by the Royal Australian mint was the first to feature the now highly flaunted and celebrated silver kookaburra coin, which has taken various incarnations in the Perth Mint’s capable and artistic hands. The original Birds of Australia series created by the RAM however did not feature any selective colouration, as it was not yet commonplace at the time. Unlike the Perth Mint’s recent versions however, the RAM’s own coins were minted in two distinct types – normal proof coins weighing twenty grams, with a face value of A$10, and special piedfort coins of twice the weight and thickness, also bearing the same face-value.[2] It should be noted that the proof and the piedfort versions carried some slight variations as to the avian specie depicted, although all the coins of the RAM Birds of Australia series were minted using sterling silver, unlike the 99.9% fine pure silver the Perth Mint’s current series.

The series kicked off with the introduction of the Kookaburra in 1989, and depicted a high-relief (for the time) image of the bird set against a mirror-finish background that truly offset the frosted details of the struck image (in both proof type and piedfort type). In 1990, it was followed by the white cockatoo which is depicted with wings outstretched, as it is perched on a branch (minted in two types as well).

The 1991 mintage features the obscure jabiru – a stork-like bird, in both proof and piedfort types. The 1992 release featured an even more unexpected release, as it depicted two emperor penguins with details of icicles near the edge of the coin’s border (in both proof and piedfort). 1993 depicted a ‘portrait’ of the palm cockatoo set in mirror finish, also in both types.

The last of the Royal Australian Mint’s Birds of Australia Series (1994 mintage) held the first ever high-relief depiction of the wedge-tailed eagle, done in both proof and piedfort varieties. At the time, the RAM’s Birds of Australia silver coins were prime investor and collectior material, owing to the then superior minting procedures of the RAM.

An obscure 1997 release of the Royal Australian Mint’s ‘Endangered Species’ series featured the , red-tailed black cockatoo (which is the initial Birds of Australia ‘introductory’ coin of today; then minted for the proof-type coins) in its first-ever minting, years before the Perth Mint would release its own coloured version.[3]

Nowadays, with the introduction of the Perth Mint’s 2013 Birds of Australia release, the value of the RAM’s own series has all but increased, owing not only to its having significantly more heft (the Perth Mint’s version only weighs a somewhat measly ½ ounces), but due to its relative scarcity – being, of course minted with a limit of only 15, 000 piedforts and an undisclosed number of proofs. Each of these coins came packed in a blue plastic folder with a booklet that depicted the animal in full-colour, along with some tidbits of information about the featured animal for the year. The Royal Australian Mint Birds of Australia silver bullion series is now a valuable and rare set that is worth trying to obtain for both investment and collection as the price of these unique and now relatively forgotten coins have steadily risen since its initial introduction twenty-three years ago.

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