The Fading Future Of The 5 Cent Coin
'See a sixpence, pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck'.
Some of you might be old enough to remember the old rhyme – but bad luck! There aren't many old sixpences lying around any more. And their equivalent since 1966 – the 5 cent coins – might not be around for much longer either. They are not too popular these days, and not too many people would bother bending down to pick one up.
A Closer Look
The 5 cent coin was released on 14 February 1966, on 'changeover' day, when Australia switched to decimal currency. Its design features the Queen on the obverse (the 'heads' side) and on the 'tails' side is the Australian echidna, an image created by Stuart Devlin, who was engaged to design a special series for the new Australian currency.
The 5 cent coin hasn't changed during its history. One special commemorative version was released in 2016, on the 50th anniversary of decimal currency. In a tribute to the old coins, the kangaroo and star design that appeared on the Australian Penny was included, beneath the Queen's head.
By 2011, the 5 cent coin was already threatened with extinction. At a Senate hearing in 2014, the Royal Australian Mint’s chief executive, Ross MacDiarmid, again questioned the need for the coin. More than 58 million five-cent pieces were made in that year, and each one cost just over six cents to produce – more than 20 per cent above its face value.
The arguments against keeping it are consistent. It's expensive to make, and it isn't particularly useful or valuable. Basically, it's had its day.
The 1 cent and 2 cent coins have already been consigned to the scrapheap. Is this to be the fate of the 5 cent coin too? Almost certainly.
4 things to do with 5 cent coins
- Put them into a charity box. There's a good reason why community organisations place their collection containers on newsagents' counters and supermarket checkout. And 5 cent coins make up a large part of the haul. Big tick for this solution.
- Search for the elusive valuable pieces. In 2007, for example, there was an accidental release of about 700 'double headed' 5 cent coins – no echidna, and two Queen Elizabeths for the price of one. They are worth a lot!
- Collect them. Well you could – but these days you'll need about 80 to buy a reasonable cup of coffee. And if you're thinking of spending a whole bagful, you should know that shops and cafes aren't legally obliged to accept more than five dollars in non-dollar coins.
- Repurpose them. Use them to decorate everyday objects. Shiny 5 cent coins, especially if they were issued in a year that's meaningful to you, make beautiful coin jewellery.
Where has all the loose change gone?
If your house is like most, you'll find plenty of it between the sofa cushions, in the washing machine and on the floor. Somewhere there'll be a drawer or a bowl where you throw all the 'shrapnel' – after you empty your pockets or purse of all the change from cash purchases you might make from time to time.
And there's the point. In an increasingly cashless society, those times are few and far between.
Stop for a minute and think about the last time you used coins.
Did you buy a newspaper? Feed a parking meter or a vending machine? Use it in a supermarket trolley? Maybe. But there's a cashless solution in most cases.
The fate of the 5 cent coin is probably sealed, but for the rest of our currency, the arguments still go on.
The future of Australian dollars and cents? Best just flip a coin.