Australia has issued a new circulating commemorative $2 coin that comes roaring onto the numismatic scene like a wildfire. That’s because the coin marks the recent wildfire season by honoring the firefighters in Australia who risk their own lives to save the lives and properties of others.
According to Royal Australian Mint General Manager Mark Cartwright, “‘The Mint is immensely aware of the bravery and sacrifice that goes into being a firefighter. Providing some financial benefit back to the firefighting community is a tangible way for us to assist these critical organizations to prepare for the summer ahead.”
Cartwright continued, "These coins serve as an everyday reminder of the ongoing commitment of our firefighters and emergency service personnel to protect our lives and property."
It is the everyday reminder part of the quote that should hit a cord. The color enhanced coins are being issued into general circulation through banks. Proceeds amounting to $125,000 from sale of these coins will be going to fire and emergency service organizations across the country. Thus, the coins are a fund raiser.
The firefighter $2 coin follows on the heels of Australia’s 2020 Donation Dollar coin released on September 5, which is International Day of Charity. The center of the Donation Dollar is green, while the coin carries the legend Give to help others.
Business Insider Australia reported, “The Mint expects three in five Australians to donate the $1 coin when they see it amongst their change. If all Australians donated the coin, then an eye-watering $300 million a year would be raised for those less fortunate.”
RAM Chief Executive Officer Ross MacDiarmid said of the Donation Dollar, “We’re extremely proud to introduce the world’s first Donation Dollar and tap into the Australian spirit of generosity. Like any other one-dollar coin, the cycle of a Donation Dollar is ongoing, as is its potential for positive impact.”
It appears the RAM is beginning to encourage charity through specially issued coins. As the September 3 Daily Mail newspaper reported, “The twin shocks of coronavirus pandemic on the heels of a catastrophic bushfire season triggered an up-swell of generosity peaking in December.”
Looking at an even bigger picture, is Australia paving the way for commemorative coins, circulating commemoratives or not, that are in touch with current events?
Going back in time, the completion of monuments and stadiums were celebrated on circulating coins in the Roman Empire. Military victories were celebrated on coins as well, the coins being issued quickly following the achievement. The Romans on occasion went overboard, in one instance celebrating a victory when in fact the emperor had been defeated.
Births, deaths, and coronations appeared on German taler coins during the early modern period of numismatics. Coronations are still celebrated on coins about the time when the event occurs.
The Olympics are celebrated on coins just before the Games occur. Movies have been promoted on coins. Australia’s coins are recognizing current events in real time. Sporting events and movies may entertain us, but where are the truly current events on coins?
Take the commemorative coins of the United States as an example. When was the last time a coin was issued that doesn’t celebrate the anniversary of some past person or event? We continue to celebrate everything from the anniversary of our first landing on the moon to the invention of the incandescent light bulb on non-circulating legal tender coins. We depict national parks on circulating commemoratives.
Where are the coins acknowledging the doctors putting their lives on the line over the coronavirus, recently achieved international trade agreements, new peace treaties, acknowledging the people currently involved in our military, or those fighting the wildfires of epic proportions now being experienced in the western United States? Once a cure for some disease has been approved will that be celebrated on a coin in a time sensitive manner or will we have to wait for the 100th anniversary before the achievement is recognized?
Yes, coins have been a vehicle for propaganda in the past. Yes, there is the danger this could invite a new wave of propaganda-oriented coins worldwide, some of the events being a misinterpretation of the truth. Is a new James Bond movie more important to celebrate on a coin than are those volunteers rescuing people following a major headline grabbing natural disaster?
Australia’s two circulating commemoratives should give coin issuing authorities a chance to rethink what might be the next subject to appear on a new coin.