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Royal Australian Mint open day to celebrate 50th anniversary of decimal currency

Five decades ago, Australians braced for a significant change in the way they used money as the country shifted from pounds, shillings and pence to dollars and cents. 

The 50th anniversary of decimal currency will be marked this Sunday and to celebrate the occasion, the Royal Australian Mint will showcase the history of coins at a special open day on Saturday. 

Royal Australian Mint chief executive Ross MacDiarmid in the circulation room that will be open for public tours on Saturday.
Royal Australian Mint chief executive Ross MacDiarmid in the circulation room that will be open for public tours on Saturday.  Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Visitors will be able to go on a special behind-the-scenes of the factory floor and have the rare opportunity to see up-close how Australian coins are made. 

Royal Australian Mint chief executive Ross MacDiarmid said the introduction of decimal currency was an important moment in Australia's history. 

At the time, "90 per cent of the world had already moved to decimal currency" and Australia's shift was important in terms of international trade, he said. 

"It was also the fact that it was a lot easier for the consumer to work with multiples of ten instead of multiples of variations as in pounds, shillings and pence," he said. 

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Mr MacDiarmid said then-Prime Minister Robert Menzies had at the time wanted coins to be called 'royals' because of his commitment to the Royal family. 

"Well before 1966, when the Mint was opened, a conversation was going on between the banks and the vending machine operators," he said.

"I think they spent $45 million in the change-over because it was that significant to Australian's. They were quite deliberate and even ran a trial program in Broken Hill to see how the launch would operate and what the implications might be."

Coin collectors will also have the opportunity to have their collections valued at Saturday's open day. 

The collectability of a coin depends on its uniqueness, Mr MacDiarmid said. 

"Whether that be the numbers of when it was minted or the theme associated with it. Sometimes it's a combination of both," he said.

A special release of the entire suite of Australia's circulating coins to feature commemorative designs has also been produced by the Mint to recognise the 50th anniversary of decimal currency. 

More than five million of each denomination will enter circulation and it is the first time unique designs have been applied to five and 10¢ coins. 

The 50¢ coin will be the first to enter circulation. 

The Mint will be selling a commemorative collector's edition gold plated coin for $20 at Saturday's open day.  

The open day will also feature a pop-up design studio showing how designers sculpt each coin and how the designs are chosen.

Children  will be able to make their own personalised coin plaster at the arts and crafts station or enjoy family friendly entertainment from Mr Minty, Kelly the Kangaroo, Charlie the Koala and much more.  

The open day is on Saturday from 8.30am to 4pm. Entry is free for children 16 and $5 for adults. 

For more information, visit ramint.gov.au