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Mercanti designs Aussie eagle

Since early 2014 Australia’s Perth Mint has been issuing a series of coins celebrating the country’s largest bird-of-prey: the Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax).

John M. Mercanti at work on his Wedge-tailed Eagle design.

John M. Mercanti at work on his Wedge-tailed Eagle design.

When it comes to depicting eagles on coins the U.S. Mint has more than a little experience. It has been indulging in this pastime for well over 200 years. As a consequence Perth felt it appropriate to commission a design from the retired Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, John M. Mercanti. He is responsible for the reverse of the U.S.’s highly successful current silver American Eagle bullion pieces.

Mercanti joined the U.S. Mint in 1974 as a sculptor-engraver. He was appointed the Mint’s 12fth Chief Engraver in mid-2006 after the position had lain vacant for 15 years following the retirement of Elizabeth Jones in 1991. Mercanti retired from that position in 2010.

Down Under the Wedge-tailed Eagle is sometimes known as the Eaglehawk or “Wedgie.” It is not only the largest raptor in Australia and New Guinea but is one of the largest in the world with a wing span of 7 ft., 4 in. and a beak to tail-tip length of 3 ft., 6 in. The Tasmanian birds are the largest of all.

Adults are black and gold but youngsters are brown. The bird’s wedge-shaped tail, fully feathered legs, and dark coloring makes for ready identification even at a distance.

Although the birds take carrion with relish they can easily bring-down prey as large as a kangaroo with groups – probably family groups becoming involved in tackling such large prey. That said, Eagles living on the Australian mainland have undoubtedly benefited from the introduction of the rabbit.

For Perth’s series Mercanti has chosen to show the Eagle in flight, legs thrust forward toward its roost on a dead branch.

The one and only platinum Wedge-tailed Eagle coin - to date. Image courtesy The Perth Mint.

The one and only platinum Wedge-tailed Eagle coin – to date. Image courtesy The Perth Mint.

Up to the end of 2015 Perth has struck fourteen different versions of this common reverse design: seven .9999 fine gold, six .999 fine silver and one .9995 fine platinum. Of those, five are high-relief gold, one proof gold, four high relief silver, and two proof silver. One is BU gold and one proof platinum.

Details of these coins in order of release are:

• $1 high-relief silver proof (32.60 mm, 31.135 g, mintage 10,000) Jan. 7, 2014;

• $100 high-relief gold proof (27.30 mm, 31.107 g, 1,000) Jan. 7, 2014;

• $1 silver proof (40.60 mm, 31.135 g, mintage 5,000) May 6, 2014;

• $8 high-relief silver proof (50.60 mm, 155.673 g, 5,000) May 6, 2014;

• $200 high-relief gold proof (36.60 mm, 62.215 g, 1,000) Nov. 4, 2014;

• $2 gold (11.60 mm, 0.5 g, unlimited) May 5, 2015;

• $1 high-relief silver proof (32.60 mm, 31.135 g, 10,000), May 5, 2015;

• $1 high-relief silver proof (32.60 mm, 31.135 g, 10,000) July 7, 2015;

• $100 high-relief gold proof (27.30 mm, 31.107 g, 1,000) July 7, 2015;

Perth’s tiny $2 gold Wedge-tailed Eagle coin on its colored card mount as issued.

Perth’s tiny $2 gold Wedge-tailed Eagle coin on its colored card mount as issued.

• $200 high-relief gold proof (36.60 mm, 62.215 g, 500) Aug. 4, 2015;

• $1 silver proof (40.60 mm, 31.135 g, 5,000) Sept. 1, 2015;

• $500 gold proof (50.50 mm, 155.533 g, 99) Sept. 1, 2015;

• $100 platinum proof (32.60 mm, 31.120 g, 500) Oct. 6, 2015;

• $8 high-relief silver proof (50.60 mm, 155.673 g, 2,500) Nov. 3, 2015;

The word around the traps is that The Perth Mint is far from done with Mercanti’s Aussie eagle.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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