HISTORY AND HERITAGE
Prime Minister Bob Hawke launched Australian Nugget gold bullion coins just a few days after Easter in 1987.
The West Australian newspaper reported that Mr Hawke wrote out a $1,236 personal cheque to secure a mint set of the new coins!
The launch marked Australia’s official entry into the international gold bullion coin market. The Nugget “taps into the romance and nostalgia of the Australian gold rushes” and celebrates “the resurgence of Australia as one of the top four gold producing countries,” The Perth Mint announced.
The coins were offered in four sizes containing 1oz, 1/2oz, 1/4oz and 1/10oz of 99.99% pure gold. Each coin featured a different reverse portraying a famous Australian natural nugget.
The four portrayals were created by Australian-born Stuart Devlin, who was described by London’s Investor’s Chronicle as “arguably the greatest living goldsmith”. He’d previously designed Australia’s decimal coinage.
The fascinating stories of prospecting behind the designs were enthusiastically proclaimed by the Mint:
1oz - Welcome Stranger
The Welcome Stranger is the largest gold nugget ever found. It weighed 2,284 ounces and was unearthed in 1869 in Moliagul, Victoria, by John Deason and Richard Oates. They found their hidden treasure at the base of a tree, just ten inches below the ground. Not surprisingly their discovery sparked another gold rush to the area.
1/2oz - Hand of Faith
The Hand of Faith is the largest nugget discovered using a metal detector. It weighed 720 ounces (later corrected to 874 ounces) and was found in 1980 near Wedderburn, Victoria by the Hillier family. They unearthed the nugget, valued at $1million, behind the local church. This factor, along with the family’s religious leanings, was the reason for its name.
1/4oz – Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle is the largest nugget found in Australia this century. It weighed 1,235 ounces and was discovered 18 inches below the surface near Larkinville, Western Australia in 1931 by James Larcombe and his son. Other prospectors working the area heard their shouts and it is said they thought the Larcombes were carrying a dead eagle. Certainly the resemblance is undeniable and the nugget was aptly named.
1/10oz – Little Hero
The Little Hero was the first of a series of large nuggets discovered in Western Australia in 1890. It weighed 333 ounces and was found on a much travelled track where it had been ignored by hundreds of men who thought it was simply a piece of ironstone. The find, for prospector Jack Doyle and his mates, was a happy ending to a story of treachery, an earlier discovery at Shark Gully having been lost to claimjumping by other prospectors.
Famous nuggets continued as the design theme for another two annual issues. Inevitably, however, the number of noteworthy specimens grew thin. But The Perth Mint had already lined-up another iconic symbol for its official gold bullion series – the kangaroo.
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