One of the more prolific world mints is the Perth Mint (www.perthmint.com.au). Every year, Perth produces a plethora of coins for Australia and well as other oceanic countries. Some of the most interesting are the silver proof dollars. In 2012 alone, over 20 different designs have been produced, with more on the way.
While not as diverse, the Royal Australian Mint (www.ramint.gov.au) also contributes to the proof silver dollar series, in fact, most of the early issues came from the RAM.
Collecting the complete set of Australian proof silver dollars is certainly a challenge. The composite in the PCGS Set RegistrySM currently requires 228 coins which run from 1988 to date. Many of the issues have very limited mintages. The first coin was from a series called "Masterpieces in Silver." These were sterling silver issues of the standard coinage from the RAM. The 1988 dollar had the Aboriginal art kangaroo design and was a bicentennial issue. The same year, the Perth Mint produced the 1988 Holey Dollar & Dump also to celebrate Australia's bicentennial. This was a holed one ounce dollar in fine silver with a quarter ounce silver insert coin and came packaged with a full color album. Through the 1990s anywhere from one to four coin designs were released each year. The 1992 Barcelona Olympic sterling silver dollar is considered to be the RAM's first "official" commemorative coin. This coin came with plain and reeded edges, the reeded edge having a mintage of only 2,500. Compare this to our own U.S. commemoratives in the same period when 20,000 to upwards of 200,000 of each design were distributed.
Moving to the 2000s we see an increase in commemoratives being issued and some interesting experimentation. For example, in 2004, as part of the RAM's "Subscription Series," the Last Penny commemorative was released. This was a proof ring with a 1964 penny placed within the ring. The penny, which featured a kangaroo on the reverse was replaced in 1966 with one cent decimal coinage. When a hoard of about 16,000 1964 pennies was discovered, rather than withdraw the coins from circulation, they were cleverly used in a commemorative issue.
Likewise, also through the "Subscription Series," in 2007, another interesting design was created using silver with a gold plated silver insert coin. The Johanna was a Portuguese gold coin that was issued between 1722 and 1733. The coin was widely circulated throughout the world and was valued at four pounds, well out of the reach of many merchants. To allow collectors to own a replica of the Johanna, the Mint released just under 6,000 of this very collectible proof dollar.
Other interesting releases occurred throughout the decade. The 2004 35th Anniversary of the First Moon Walk, the 2005 End of World War II 60th Anniversary, and the 2006 50 Years of Television were coins featuring holograms. These lenticular designs show different images when the viewing angle is changed. The 2004 issue shows three different images. The 2005 issue is a dancing man taken from more than 20 original newsreel images. The 2006 coin, which is square shaped, shows six different images from Australian television.
Beginning in 2010, the Perth Mint really stepped up production. Along with the RAM, 38 issues were released in 2010 and 30 in 2011. The first Australian high relief silver coin was produced in 2010 in very limited quantities. It portrays the Sydney Cove Medallion made in clay by Josiah Wedgwood in 1789. The coin was released with a Wedgwood fine bone china blue and white plate edged in platinum and was mailed with gift box packaging which included a stand for the plate. 2010 also saw the release of the high relief boxing kangaroos. In 2011, the design of the coin changed to a kangaroo in front of the rising sun. The 2012 coin features a kangaroo in the outback with a bush scene and windmill.
The new "Celebrate Australia" series was introduced in 2010, featuring the various Australian states with colorized wildlife. 2011 saw the first "Famous Battles in Australia" series, also colorized. The unique map-shaped coin series started in 2012 with the release of the Emu and Kookaburra. These innovative coins have low mintages of 6,000 each.
Indications are that 2013 is going to be an equally exciting year for Australian silver dollars. PCGS population reports show low quantities graded for the silver proof dollars, especially for the earlier years. In fact, a total of only 1,054 have been graded to date with most being in the 2011-2012 date range. Considering the low mintages for many of these coins, the Australian proof silver dollars series seems to have been overlooked and undervalued by many collectors of modern coins. With the wonderfully diverse, experimental, and just plain FUN designs, don't expect these coins to be under the radar for long.