Each New Year’s Day at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, the first person in line wins the right to strike the mint’s first coin of the year. And thanks to the world’s time zones, that coin is also the year’s first to be struck anywhere in the world.
From 2013 through 2016 the honor went to Sydney teenager Harley Russo. This year, however, the first collector in line was 16-year-old Luke Marshall, of Canberra, who won the coveted spot by showing up first on Christmas Day. Marshall has been trying for years; the Sydney Morning Herald reports that during the four years when Russo got there first, Marshall’s spot ranged from 7th to 10th in line. The determined young collector has endured food poisoning and brutal sunburns during his camp-outs on the mint’s doorstep. Each year, he still was able to strike one of the first 100 coins, which is a treat in itself—but only one coin is first. This time, it was Marshall’s turn.
At 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Marshall walked into the Royal Australian Mint ahead of everyone else in line, and, using the mint’s visitor press, struck the first coin minted anywhere in 2017. In addition, he received a one-off coin set that held the coins from the mintmark and privy-mark set as well as the fine silver Proof coin, accompanied by certificate number 1.
In a press release, the mint’s CEO, Ross MacDiarmid, said, “One hundred years ago the wide brown land of Australia was a spectacular, but impassable, terrain—the east and west was divided—but then a 1,698-kilometer track was opened, stretching from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, crossing the scorched Nullarbor Plain.
“Since then, freight, mail, and passengers have all been carried across the railway line with journeys ranging from practical and functional to whimsical and extravagant.
“It is important for Australians to celebrate the infrastructure that assisted in our country’s advancement through the 1900s, resulting in Australia becoming a more united and progressive nation—the Trans-Australian Railway did just this.”
MacDiarmid continued, “As is the case each year, a certificate [was] provided to the first 100 people in the queue authenticating that they were amongst the first people worldwide to strike a coin in 2017. For many of our collectors and the general public, this is a memento of great personal value.”
Harley Russo (the teen who was first in line the previous four years) has reported being offered a lot of money for his first-of-the-year coins, and even turned down $3,500 (AU) to give up his spot at the head of the line. This year, Russo decided to take a pass on the event, as his brothers wanted to do something else for New Year’s Eve.
Adding to the annual excitement is the fact that the design chosen for striking is not revealed until New Year’s Day. In 2013, the coin was a $1 Holey Dollar and Dump bicentennial. In 2014, the $1 coin marked the bicentennial of publication of A Voyage to Terra Australis, while the 2015 coin honored the centennial of the Gallipoli Campaign and the role of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs). The 2016 coin paid tribute to Australia’s first sovereign coin.
This year’s Trans-Australian Railway motif is available in the following denominations and formats:
- $1 Uncirculated, aluminum-bronze (25 mm, 9 g). Mintage: 15,000.
- $1 Proof, .999 silver (25 mm, 11.66 g). Mintage: 4,500.
- $10 Proof, .9999 gold (17.53 mm, 1/10 oz.). Mintage: 1,000.
The coins can be purchased directly from the Royal Australian Mint’s eshop. ❑