Blog History of the Australian Gold Nugget

History of the Australian Gold Nugget

We’ve delved into the stories behind America’s Gold Buffalo and Gold Eagle coins, and now we turn our attention to Australia’s iconic Gold Kangaroo.

australian kangaroo front and back

The Origin and Design of the Gold Kangaroo

Introduced in 1986 by the Gold Corporation, a company wholly owned by the government of Western Australia, the coin was originally known as the Gold Nugget for the depiction of an Aussie gold nugget on its reverse side (the obverse showcased a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II). Two interesting design features were noteworthy: a “two-tone” frosted design effect, and individual hard plastic casing of each coin. The Gold Nugget’s original incarnation lasted up to the 1989 proof edition, when the gold nugget design was replaced by an image more emblematic of Australia — the kangaroo — and the unofficial moniker of “Gold Kangaroo” was born.

Weights and Sizes

Technically speaking, the Australian Gold Nugget/Gold Kangaroo is a gold bullion coin minted by the Perth Mint in various sizes and weights since inception, including 1/20 oz., 1/10 oz., 1/4 oz., 1/2 oz., 1 oz., 2 oz., 10 oz., and 1 kg. of 24-carat gold (with face values in Australian dollars). The latter three sizes were introduced in 1991 and are some of the largest gold coins ever minted. In 1992, the face values on these large coins were lowered to keep them proportional to the 1 oz. gold coin. The reverse of these coins does not change annually like the lesser denominations, with the same “red kangaroo” design being used every year.

australian coin

A Record-Breaking Kangaroo

In October 2011, a one-ton gold coin was created, breaking the record for the biggest and most valuable gold coin ever produced, previously held by the Royal Canadian Mint. The coin is approximately 80 centimeters (31 in.) in diameter and 12 centimeters (4.7 in.) thick. It features a red kangaroo on one side complimented by the aforementioned portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the other. The face value of this extraordinary coin is $1 million AU, but when minted it was valued at over $53 million AU.

Garfield Refining: History of Australian Gold Nugget, Kangaroo Coin

No Mistake About It

Gold Kangaroos continue to incorporate unique nuances with a different kangaroo design each year; however, they should not be mistaken for Australian Lunar Gold Bullion coins. The Perth Mint mints both gold coins and both have .9999 purity, but Lunar coins use images of different animals from the Chinese calendar instead of just the kangaroo.

Now in its fourth decade of minting, the Gold Kangaroo remains an integral part of Australian gold coinage. The coin’s notable lineage, annually changing kangaroo imagery, and limited minting have caused these gold coins to become highly collectible for numismatists and investors worldwide. One could say that they’re as “good as gold”!

If you’re an international gold buyer or coin collector, go to Garfield Refining’s online store to see the Gold Krugerrand and other rare choices from around the world.