Once upon a time, but not so long ago, the Royal Australian Mint released a group of commemorative coins for a children’s book called Possum Magic. The Royal Australian Mint is no stranger to releasing commemorative coinage for circulation and for collectors to purchase as non-circulating legal tender (NCLT). Yet, there is something quite sweet in the celebration of both Australia and a beloved children’s book being on a circulating coin.
Possum Magic, a book written by Merrion Frances “Mem” Fox, follows the story of two Australian possums, Grandma Poss and her grandchild Hush. Originally written in 1978, the book was rejected by nine publishers until one, Omnibus Books, asked for it to be reduced in size by two-thirds and that all of the animals be Australian animals to focus on the Australian theme. Thus, Possum Magic was published with the story of Grandma Poss using her possum magic to turn Hush invisible to protect the child from the dangers of the Australian Bush. Forgetting how to make Hush visible again, Grandma Poss and Hush set out on an adventure to tour Australia to find a cure. By 2011, Possum Magic had sold three million copies.
In 2017, the Royal Australian Mint issued commemorative coins to celebrate Mem Fox’s book Possum Magic with both collector-issue and circulation-issue coinage. Meanwhile, 50 Cent coins were issued in Possum Magic Six-Coin Baby Coin sets in 2018 and 2019. The uncirculated issues for the sets entail an uncirculated set of Australian coins with the generic circulation-issue 5 Cent, 10 Cent, 20 Cent, $1, and $2 coins and includes a special-issue 50 Cent coin featuring Grandma Poss using “Possum Magic.” The 2018 Uncirculated Possum Magic Baby Mint Set had a mintage of 26,275 and the 2019 saw a production figure of 11,641. Proof Possum Magic Baby Sets were also minted in 2018 and 2019 that also feature six-coins with a special Colorized Proof Grandma Poss Using Possum Magic coin included. These sets have a mintage of 9,953 for 2018 and 4,728 for 2019.
In 2017 a Possum Magic coin collection set was issued with featured a special One Cent coin designed by Julie Vivas depicting a possum holding a book. The One Cent coin had ceased production in Australia, so it is a special set-only issue. The set also include four different Possum Magic $1 coins each depicting special scenes from the book, including Grandma Poss magically turning Hush invisible, Grandma Poss and Hush riding a bicycle around Australia looking for food to turn Hush visible again, Grandma Poss watching Hush eat magic lamingtons, and Hush visible forever. The four $1 coins were not issued for circulation and the set had a mintage of 400,100. Also included in the set are the three $2 coins issued for circulation. These three coins are colorized with multi-colored rings around the internal design and feature Hush invisible hanging from a tree, Hush’s tail becoming visible after eating a vegemite sandwich, and happy Hush visible again. Besides the set issue mintage, the three $1 coins were issued into circulation with a mintage of 2,000,000 pieces each.
There is something quite magical about issuing a commemorative coin honoring a popular children’s book, especially as a legal-tender coin. By this point in time, multiple generations have enjoyed the Australian cultural-themed story book. And finding a piece in circulation brings back nostalgia while promoting numismatics and reading to children and literacy. So, while Hush might disappear in the story, colorized coins featuring the character are currently visible in circulation and will eventually disappear into collections assembled by both children and adults.