The Perth Mint of Australia, located in Perth, Western Australia is a fully-operational mint producing legal tender precious metal coins for distribution in Australia and all over the world.
Three years after construction began in 1896, the mint opened its doors on June 20, 1899. The mint was initially founded as a branch of the Royal Mint of The United Kingdom. As at the time, there was no authority established in the state of Western Australia to mint British gold coins to be used as currency in the colony, then Premier Sir John Forrest asked the British Government to establish one to do just that. Starting in 1899, gold was mined in the Eastern Goldfields and transported to the refinery’s original location on Hay Street in East Perth.
After January 1, 1901, when the six separate Australian states federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia, plans were put in place for the mint to start coining Australian currency in addition to the British sovereigns and half-sovereigns that were already being produced. In 1910, the first Australian coins, including Florins, Shillings, and Sixpences were struck. Although the production of gold coinage ceased in 1931, the Perth Mint continued to produce much of Australia’s circulating legal tender until 1984. Since then, the sole responsibility of the Perth Mint of Australia, according to the Currency Act of Australia, has been the production of legal tender precious metal coinage.
As the Perth Mint is a hardened facility, it has never been burglarized. There was however, one famous incident wherein the mint was robbed by means of deception. On June 22, 1982, a total of 49 gold bars, weighing 68 kg, and constituting $653,000 were stolen from the Perth Mint. This incident later became known as the Perth Mint Swindle. Three brothers, Ray, Peter and Brian Mickelberg were accused by police of stealing checks from a Perth building society and then fooling the mint into accepting these checks in exchange for gold bullion. According to police, the brothers had a courier pick up the bullion, deliver it to an office in Perth, and then later to Jandakot Airport. After that, it is unclear what happened to the gold. As a result, the brothers were tried of the crime in 1983, convicted, and sentenced to varying terms in jail. Oddly enough however, six years later in 1989, 55 kg of gold, thought to be from the heist were found outside a Perth TV station with a note attesting to the innocence of the Mickelberg brothers, and implicating a prominent Perth businessman instead. In 2002, Tony Lewandowski, a retired police officer who was instrumental in building the case against the brothers confessed to fabricating evidence against them. He later committed suicide.
Today the Perth Mint stands as the oldest operating mint in Australia, and one of the oldest in the world. It continues its government-mandated role of producing legal tender precious metal coinage, and does so with excellence. Not only is the mint famous for its unique modern bullion coins such as the Australian Kookaburra, Australian Kangaroo, and Australian Koala coins, but it also produces commemorative coins of outstanding quality on an annual basis. Further to this, the mint achieved in 1957 what is considered the “purest gold of all gold” in a proof plate of 999.999 parts of gold per thousand. As a result of this outstanding reputation of excellence, the mint’s products continue to enjoy increasing demand (roughly 15% per annum). Through 2000, the Mint was responsible for producing 4,500 tonnes of refined gold – a staggering 3.25% of the total gold produced in human history.