ACT News

Harley Russo camps outside Mint for a week and knocks back offers for first coin

Sixteen-year-old Harley Russo has spent three weeks of his life camped by the steps of the Royal Australian Mint, determined to hold on to the first minted coin of the year struck anywhere on Earth.

Sixteen-year-old Harley Russo is first in line to strike the first coin of the new year at the Royal Australian Mint.
Sixteen-year-old Harley Russo is first in line to strike the first coin of the new year at the Royal Australian Mint. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The quest began in 2013 when he arrived four days before New Year's Day and was the first of 100 people at the Mint given the opportunity to strike the first coins worldwide, due to Australia's time zone.

Since then, he has knocked back offers as high as $3500 for the number one ticket, travelled hours to and from his Sydney home and spent the past two Christmas nights in line for the treasured chip.

Despite arriving a week before the big day this year, he almost lost his chance at hitting the quadrella.

"Twenty minutes after we got here, someone pulled in and saw us and then pulled out because they weren't going to spend a week here," he said.


Harley would have been particularly devastated if he missed first place, as 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Australian decimal currency (when pennies changed to dollar and cents).

Royal Australian Mint CEO Ross MacDiarmid said the coin would have a special design to mark the milestone.

"The design is a reflection of the history of minting in Australia and it really is taking us back to 1850 when one of the first coins was ever minted," he said.

While there are currently around 10 collectors in line to strike the first 100 coins at 10am on Friday, Mr Macdiarmid expects many more to rock up between now and then, when the new coin design will also be unveiled.

"It is quite an ordeal when you are talking about 30-plus degree temperatures, so it is special, especially to people who have been doing it for years," Mr Macdiarmid said.

Collecting coins has been a family affair for Harvey, a third-generation collector who became interested when his mother Carolyn passed on the coins she had gathered over the years with her own father.

He hopes his coins will one day build up enough value to pay for a house deposit.

But for now, he is happy collecting.

"I have a nice spot for them in my room," he said.

"I just love the experience."

A lucky raffle winner will also have the chance to strike the last coin of the year with the current design, the Anzac Centenary, at 4.45pm on Thursday.