2016 marks the 27th year of production for the Australian $1 Silver Kookaburra, one of the Perth Mint’s flagship silver coin series.
Kookaburras, which are birds known as terrestrial tree kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea, are one of the three most iconic Australian animals that are strongly associated with that country. The other two are koalas and kangaroos, which are also topics of silver coin series from the Perth Mint.
Kookaburras have long bills as well as colorful wings and tails, and they are probably best-known for their loud call that resembles human laughter. They are true carnivores, eating almost anything, and do not need to drink water because they get all their moisture from their food.
First launched in 1990 as a silver bullion coin, this series has depicted a different image of a kookaburra each year on the reverse side, except for the 2015 25th anniversary coin that used the original 1990 design. These coins have over the years become one of the most popular and widely-collected modern world coin series.
The appeal of these coins spreads far beyond Australia, as these coins are collected by people all over their world! Anyone can appreciate their beautiful changing reverse designs, top-notch production standards, high silver purity, and limited mintages.
These coins have long been considered a smart way to stack silver. Initially, they sell for a relatively low premium over spot value in the range of $5. Overtime, this premium grows since the previous issues are hard to find. For example, the 2015 issues already retails for a $10 or higher premium over silver value.
The older issues carry substantial premiums, selling for as much as $80 or more for the first issue. That is largely because they were issued with a mintage of just 300,000 coins from 1990 to 2010. With time, as the coins are absorbed in collections and silver holdings, they become scarce. But even at 500,000 coins the pieces issued since 2011 are still one of the lowest-mintage modern silver bullion coins in the world. Compar these to American Silver Eagles with mintages in the tens of millions!
Like all commonwealth coins, Kookaburras carry an obverse design that features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. The namesake Kookaburra reverse designs however feature a variety of poses and views, sometimes with more than one kookaburra.
To the left of each Kookaburra design is a “P” Mint mark for the Perth Mint. The 1999 issue features a special “P100” Mint mark for the 100th anniversary of the Mint, and the 2015 issue has a “P25” Mint mark for the 25th anniversary of the series. Each coin also indicates its weight and silver purity, which is .999 fine.
In addition, silver bullion coins from Perth Mint are one of the very few that are released in original Mint capsules. The combination of one of the highest production standards of any Mint and the use of these capsules to protect the coins means that Kookaburras can survive in exemplary condition!
The 1 oz. silver bullion series is not easy to complete as few coin retailers carry more than the current and perhaps one or two previous years. Putting together a complete set of graded coins, especially in Mint State 70 condition, is a very challenging undertaking! It can be highly rewarding one however for those looking for the fun of collecting and for the long-term potential for appreciation of these coins. That makes this an excellent series for specialization!
For buyers interested in larger silver versions of the Kookaburra, the Perth Mint also produces 2 and 10 oz. coins, as well as a 1 kilogram piece. Many of the older, large coins exist in very small numbers, often just a couple thousand coins or less, and of course sell for solid premiums. A number of the 10 oz. and kilo coins have mintages under 3,000. The 2 oz. version is no longer made, but the 10 oz. and 1 kilo coins continue to be produced. These versions do not have a pre-established or declared mintage like the 1 oz. coin, but after production ends, the Mint declares their final sales levels.
Beyond the basic 1 oz. silver bullion series that currently consists of 27 coins, there are also certain special issues such as 1 oz. proof coins issued in 2015 and in 1996, 1992, and few other early years. Lunar privy-marked 1 oz. bullion coins starting in 2012 with mintages of 50-80,000 each; and other special versions in very limited numbers, usually colored, made for release at major coin shows. These come in ½ oz. and 1 oz. sizes as well as two-coin sets paired with Koala coins for some shows.
Since 2013, 1 oz. high-relief proof coins have been issued, and then starting in 2015, a 5 oz. silver proof high relief coin has also been issued. While the 1 oz. HR coins have a current mintage of only 10,000 pieces, the 5 oz. HR coins had a mintage of a mere 500 coins last year for the inaugural issue. Those coins carry a substantial premium and are difficult to locate.
For 2016 the mintage was increased to 1,000 coins for the 5 oz. HR proof issue, which reflects the high-demand for these gorgeous coins. The 2016 high relief issues, which use the same design as the bullion coin issued this year, depicts a laughing kookaburra perched on a fence in a typical Australian outback landscape setting. The design was prepared by artist Natasha Muhl.
No other world Mint is better or more experienced at producing high-relief issues than the Perth Mint, and the 5 oz. HR coins truly need to be seen in-hand to be fully appreciated. Like most high relief coins, they have a smaller diameter than regular 1 oz. issues, coming in with a 40.6 millimeter diameter and are extra thick at 4 millimeters.
The amazing depth of relief of these coins creates a three-dimensional effect. They really pop in high relief and are works of numismatic art that resemble medallic sculpture.
You will treasure and enjoy these beautiful coins for many years.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|