Coins from across the world go on display

By Amanda James 1 December 2010
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From coins made of glass or diamond to others celebrating events, a treasure trove of currency has arrived.

FROM THE RISE AND FALL of ancient civilisations to the digital age, coins have served as placeholders in a sea of change. Decorated with art inspired by significant events and achievements, coins have been used as symbols of power, tools for trade and means for communication.

Since the time of the Roman Empire, they have linked people across the planet, but it’s not often that currency from all over the world can be seen in one place. That’s exactly what you can find in a new exibition at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, where circulating coins from more than 20 different countries, including Norwegian kroner and Kazakhstani tenge, are on display.

“If you have never been overseas or seen another country’s currency, this display is a rare opportunity to brush up on global currency and compare techniques, styles and designs,” says CEO of the mint Ross MacDiarmid.

The World in Your Pocket exhibit allows visitors to see unique coins that fill the pockets of people from Austria to Singapore. It also features award-winning circulating and commemorative coins that were recognised in the Mint Directors Conference Coin Awards held in Canberra this year.

World in your pocket

Other coins come from Japan, China and France (Photo: RAM).

Emblazoned with a gold tiger and two diamond studs, the 100-tenge (70-cent) piece from Kazakhstan, a coin not in general circulation, won the Most Beautiful Coin and Most Technically Advanced Coin awards.

Other award-winners on display are a 10-peso Mexican coin which recognises the 1910 Mexico Revolution, and a Polish 10-zloty coin with a glass centre which features an image of a man blowing glassware and an inscription commemorating the arrival of the first Polish settlers in North America.

The exhibition also features the Australian 12-sided, 50-cent coin, which the mint says is the largest and heaviest coin in circulation in the world.

Keeping up with its tradition of celebrating the Royal family, the mint will next produce a commemorative coin to celebrate the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The exhibition is on display until 28 January 2011. Find more information at the Royal Australian Mint.


It is believed that the origin of coinage began in the state of Lydia, east of modern day Turkey, in roughly 610 BC, when the King stamped his emblem of a roaring lion on discs that would become the first state-issued currency.

Coinage continued through the reign of Alexander the Great – who became King of Macedonia in 336 BC at the age of 20 – when he built a massive empire that covered most of the modern world. For decades following his death, coins were created to commemorate his triumphs in battle and were passed down through the centuries as reminders of his adventures and triumphs.

Another emblem of power arose when Julius Caesar decreed in 44 BC that his own image and likeness be depicted on coins circulated throughout the Roman Republic. Coins today still provide a platform for elevating and recognising the importance of heads of state, such as Queen Elizabeth II, whose image is found on Australia’s coins.