Australia kicks off 2018 by looking back at the convict era that began to build the modern nation

It was in May 1787 that the First Fleet, a fleet of eleven ships, departed Portsmouth bound for the east coast of Australia – specifically Botany Bay in what is now the city of Sydney. On board were 759 convicts sentenced to transportation for infringing a variety of laws,  generally quite petty ones like theft of food or clothing, for example. They were to help found the first European colony on the new continent, arriving between 18-20 January 1788.

Over the next eighty years some 162,000 convicts were transported to the various penal colonies by the British Government, the last one at Cockatoo Island closing in 1869. The Hougoumont, an 875-ton Blackwall Frigate, was the last ship to transfer prisoners to Australia, landing at Freemantle, Western Australia on 9 January 1868 with 280 convicts on board.

The Royal Australian Mint launches its 2018 numismatic program with a coin commemorating Australia’s convict past and is titled Rascals & Ratbags as a nod to the petty criminal past of most of the people transported there. The design is a heavily symbolic one, depicted a tree with a canopy in the shape of Australia pushing through a chain and broad arrow patter representing the convicts. A simple design, but a hugely effective one that we like a lot here. Just the coin title, ‘AUSTRALIA’S CONVICT ERA 1788-1868’, along with a ‘C’ mintmark, are inscribed here.

The obverse is the typical Ian Rank Broadley effigy of Queen Elizabeth II that sits on all RAM-issued coins and is a straightforward affair as usual. Two variants are on offer. The fine 0.999 silver coin sells for $60.00 AUS and is a little over a third of an ounce in weight. Limited to 5,000 pieces, it comes in the standard RAM coin box with a c.o.a. and that’s all enclossed in a pretty cool and light-hearted themed shipper box. The 0.9999 gold variant is smaller at just a tenth of an ounce and sells for $300.00 AUS. Packaged in a very similar manner to the silver coin, just 1,500 of these will be struck.

A great 2018 debut for this Australian mint, with an interesting subject well handled. We’re pretty sure we’ll be seeing more issues featuring this subject as the year goes on, but this is a great start. Available to order now.



Mint CEO Mr Ross MacDiarmid said “Between 1788 and 1868, 162 000 convicts arrived in Australia and some of those were hardened criminals, whilst others were victims of poverty and desperation or political rebels.”

The coin also marks the 230th anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival and the 150th anniversary of the voyage of the Hougoumont, which bore the last of the convicts transported to Australia.

SILVER: Australia’s convicts were a mixed bunch, but their stories make up part of Australia’s history and folklore. One of the convicts was Irishman John ‘Red’ Kelly – a powerful character who was transported for pig-stealing and ended up as a farmer in Victoria. His strong Irish political views influenced his son, who went on to become notorious bushranger Ned Kelly.

This fine silver coin recognises those convicts, such as Kelly, who shaped Australia’s history, and commemorates their descendants who have helped to create modern Australia.

GOLD: Australia’s convicts were a mixed bunch, but their stories have impacted on Australia’s history. Among them was convicted forger William Henshall who won the job of designing and minting Australia’s very first coins, the Holey Dollar and Dump.

With this gold coin, the Royal Australian Mint recalls the influence of convicts such as Henshall on the following generations, who contributed to the building of modern Australia and eventually took pride in their creative convict ancestors.


COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.9999 gold
WEIGHT 11.66 grams 3.11 grams
DIAMETER 25.0 mm 17.53 mm
FINISH Proof Proof
MINTAGE 5,000 1,500
BOX / COA Yes / Yes Yes / Yes