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Coins were introduced to the Australian market in 1966 with several different denominations, from 50 cents at the high end to 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent at the lower end. The original 50 cent coins were minted with a large amount of silver and were removed from circulation shortly after a year because there was concern that the intrinsic value of the sliver included in the coin would surpass the stated value of the coins themselves. In 1984, one dollar coins were brought into circulation, while two dollar coins entered circulation in 1988. One and two cent coins were removed from circulation and discontinued after 1991. The 40th anniversary of the use of decimal currency in Australia was in 2006, and in commemoration of this milestone, the mint proof and uncirculated sets in 2006 added one and two cent coins. Transactions in cash in Australia are rounded up or down to the nearest five cents. Seignorage has continued to play a role for coins that have been discontinued, which is common with the majority of public changes to systems of currency. Every coin in the current currency shows the face of Queen Elizabeth II, the head of state, on the obverse, and coins are produced through the Royal Australian Mint.
Australia has made a tradition of issuing 50 cent coins for commemorative occasions. The first commemoration occurred in 1970 to remember the exploration James Cook made along the Australian continent's east coast. The next was in 1997 when a coin was made for the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, Prince of Wales in 1981 was another event, while the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games was another, as was the 1988 Australian Bicentenary. There were more issues in the 1990s as well as in the 21st century; these were made in response to increased demand from collectors. In the last few decades, Australia has also issued special versions of the existing 20 cent and one dollar coins.
The portrait used to depict Queen Elizabeth II located on the opposite side of the coin has been changed to some degree over the years. In 1966, the first change occurred, which was also when the decimal system came to the currency. The next change occurred in 1985, when the Queen was given a new pose and crown. The most recent of the changes occurred in 1999, when the portrait of the Queen was changed further to make it more appropriate for her age. A commemorative 50 cent coin was circulated in 2000 by the Royal Australian Mint in order to celebrate the Royal Visit conducted by the Queen at that time. This coin made use of a different kind of portrait of the Queen than that found at the time on other pieces of Australian currency. It was the first time in the history of the currency in which the Australian coin did not have the same kind of representation of the Queen as that found in other realms of the Commonwealth. The regular portrait of the Queen reappeared on the 50 cent coins in the following year.
There are several types of five dollar coins currently in circulation. Some are made of bi metal or of aluminium and bronze, and many gold and silver bullion coins can be found in higher denominations. These are typically not used to pay for items, although they can be as they are considered to be legal tender.
The current 20 cent, 10 cent, and 5 cent coins in circulation look exactly like the sixpenny, two shilling (florin), and shilling coins that were used formerly in Britain, New Zealand, and Australia. These coins were replaced by smaller versions in the United Kingdom in 1990, and New Zealand did the same in 2006, while they simultaneously stopped issuing the 5 cent coin, effectively removing it from circulation. The 50 cent Australian coin has approximately 15.55 grams of mass and is approximately 31.51 mm in diameter, which makes it one of the largest coins currently used anywhere on Earth. New Zealand coins at the 20, 10, and 5 cent denominations were frequently mistaken for their equivalent value Australian coins, since they looked very similar in size and shape.
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