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A Bird’s Eye View of The Australian Wedge Tail Eagle Series

A Bird’s Eye View of The Australian Wedge Tail Eagle Series
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Posted: 01-14-2019 10:16:00 AM

The Perth Mint’s landmark Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle series boasts the first ever collaboration between a former United States Mint Chief Engraver and a foreign mint. The series features one of Australia's most iconic birds of prey, the Wedge Tailed Eagle. Learn more about the series, its history, and the Australian Eagle it celebrates. 

What is the Wedge Tailed Eagle series?

The Perth Mint’s landmark Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle series boasts the first ever collaboration between a former United States Mint Chief Engraver and a foreign mint. John Mercanti, former 12th Chief Engraver of the US Mint, has crafted the designs featured on this popular series, while the reputable Perth Mint strikes them.

So far, the series has showcased the habitats and activities of Australia’s largest bird of prey, the Wedge Tailed Eagle. Since its inception in 2014 through this year’s 2020 release, five unique designs have been issued depicting the iconic bird, including the Eagle about to stick a landing (2014-2015), the Eagle surveying his territory while perched (2016-2017), the Eagle tending to its young (2018), and the Eagle soaring in the sky sizing up its prey (2019). This year’s issue continues the narrative as the Eagle descends upon its prey, talons extended in anticipation. The series is struck in both silver and gold, and in a variety of sizes. It is offered in proof and bullion finishes, and often features a low mintage limit. It continues the tradition of the Perth Mint celebrating iconic, and uniquely Australian wildlife.

Why the Wedge Tailed Eagle?

The wedge tailed eagle is the apex bird of prey in Australia and has a long, unmistakable wedge-shaped tail, which is unique to this Australian Eagle species. Wedge-tails are found throughout Australia in a variety of habitats, but they gravitate towards forests and open country. The birds are known to soar for extended periods of time, up to 90 minutes, and have been seen over 6,000 feet above the ground. They eat both live animals including small mammals, reptiles, and other birds, as well as carrion. They have the ability to hunt in teams to target larger animals, and are able to overtake kangaroos.

 In many respects this uniquely Australian animal has similar habits to its cousins, the American Bald Eagle and the Mexican Golden Eagle. Like the American Bald Eagle, the Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle is used as a symbol on badges for various branches of military, various municipal police forces, and domestic governmental services and agencies, like the Australian parks service. The wedge tailed eagle is also used as a mascot, symbol or emblem for schools and sports teams all over Australia. 

John M. Mercanti 12th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint  

John M. Mercanti has had one of the most storied and celebrated careers in the numismatic field. He joined the staff of the U.S. Mint in 1974 and rose to the post of Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint in 2006. By the time he achieved that elevated and historic post, he had designed over 100 coins and medals that were produced by the mint including the reverse of the American Silver Eagle, the obverse of the American Platinum Eagle, and the designs of eight US commemorative coins. Although he retired from the U.S. Mint in 2010, Mr. Mercanti has remained an active force in the field of numismatic design.

The partnership with Mr. Mercanti was a natural one for the Perth Mint when the Wedge Tailed Eagle series was in the planning stages. Mr. Mercanti spent a career in the United States rendering images of the American Bald Eagle on U.S. coinage. He was the obvious choice to carefully render the Australian Wedge Tailed Eagle, ensuring that this beloved series would capture the essence of Australia in the same manner the American Silver Eagle series captures the heart of the United States.  


The Artisans of Australia’s Perth Mint 

The engravers and designers of the Perth Mint are responsible for the beauty of the Perth Mint coins, including the widely collected Australian Kookaburra Silver Coin Series, the popular Australian Koala Silver Coin Series, the tough to find Australian Platypus Platinum Coin Series, and the massively successful Australian Lunar Gold and Silver Coin Series. All of these Perth Mint coin issues are sought after and collected on a world wide basis. Each issue features a new reverse image annually.

Today, the Perth Mint enjoys a reputation as a world leader in the precious metals space and in the production of proof, bullion, and commemorative coinage issues. They have an advanced technical capability and create some of the most collected coins in the world.

History of the Illustrious Perth Mint

The Perth Mint began striking the legendary British Gold Sovereign coin as part of the British Royal Mint system on June 20, 1899.  Between 1899 and 1931, the Perth Mint struck over 106 million sovereigns and over 700,000 half sovereigns for use all over the British Empire. In 1931, Britain and the Empire abandoned the gold standard and the Perth Mint stopped the production of gold sovereigns. They continued to refine gold and craft gold bars from the fabled Western Australian gold strikes that were still producing gold then, and continue to produce today.

The Perth Mint has struck literally billions of coins for Australian circulation including: pennies and half pennies, 2 cent coins, shillings, half sovereigns and full sovereigns and a variety of “decimal coinage.”

The Perth Mint has always operated as a refiner, taking raw gold from local miners and “diggers,” purifying it and converting it into gold sovereigns originally, and then later into gold bars. In 1957, the Perth Mint produced gold of an astounding purity, .999999 pure gold.

In 1987 the Perth Mint began offering gold, silver, and platinum Australian legal tender coinage to collectors world wide. The first series struck was the iconic Australian Nugget Gold Coin Series. The first day's orders were for a total of a whopping 155,000 ounces of gold, significantly above projected demand.

As of the year 2000, the Perth Mint had refined roughly 3.25% of the total weight of gold produced in the history of mankind.

In October 2011, the Perth Mint created the most massive gold coin in the history of the world. The coin is approximately 31 inches across and just over 4 ½ inches thick. It weighs 2,204 lbs. It is struck on a 99.99% pure gold planchet. The reverse design is that of the iconic Australian Red Kangaroo with rays of sunlight emanating toward the rim. The obverse design is the timeless Ian Rank-Broadly effigy of Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia.

Sources 

 http://www.perthmint.com/visit_the_mint_the_perth_mint_history.aspx

http://www.perthmint.com/about_us_the_perth_mint_group_profile.aspx

http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/wedge-tailed-eagle

https://www.ngccoin.com/news/article/4990/john-mercanti-signature-label/

https://www.perthmint.com/1-tonne-gold-coin.aspx

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Ray James

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