That’s Mint: a 50th birthday bash

The Royal Australian Mint (RAM) will celebrate its 50th birthday this weekend by throwing open its factory doors to the public and releasing a golden commemorative coin.

Since the RAM first opened its doors in Canberra in 1965, it has churned out about 15 billion coins for circulation.

Fifty years ago, the mint was officially opened by His Royal Highness Prince Philip, along with prime minister Sir Robert Menzies and federal treasurer Harold Holt.

At the time, a postage stamp cost 4 cents, newspapers 5 cents and the average weekly wage was $63.

RAM chief executive officer Ross MacDiarmid said the anniversary marked a monumental occasion for Australia.

“The Royal Australian Mint was purposefully built to make Australia’s new coinage in time for the introduction of decimal currency the following year,” he said.

“Over one billion coins had to be made and they unveiled not only a new system of currency, but also six new coin designs – one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins showcasing Australian wildlife.”

‘They used to do it all by hand’

Planning officer Wayne Hennock has worked at the mint for 39 years and in that time has seen a lot of change.

“There’s a lot of automated stuff, a lot of robots have taken over now,” he said.

“They used to do it all by hand before … now it’s all computerised.”

He applied for job at the age of 17 and was selected from 120 candidates.

Me Hennock said his favourite aspect of the job was having the opportunity to see the new coin designs as they came through the factory.

A career highlight was making the medals for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

“Knowing that they were going to hold those medals that we made here, the best athletes in the world,” he said.

Rattana Tran from the Royal Australian Mint

Rattana Tran has been a production operator at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra for 25 years. Photo: ABC

On Saturday, visitors will be able to see exactly how coins are made at the 50th anniversary open day.

They will be able to walk through the factory, while coin production is underway.

It is a rare opportunity, at a facility that is usually subject to strict security measures.

The open day will also feature family activities and birthday cake cutting at 10:30am.

To mark the mint’s golden anniversary, a limited edition, gold-plated collectible coin has been produced.

Appropriately, it will only be available for 50 days – and the total number made, 22,265, matches the anniversary date of 22 February, 1965.

The coin and can be purchased at the mint and online from February 21.

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