Flop side of the coin

 Poring over some old holey dollars recently. Not the real thing, unfortunately. Rather, some slick website images of the real thing. At up to $500K apiece, you want something that looks pretty schmick.

Dripping with history, strange tangible aspect to them, intriguing artwork, high-end corporate nature to them. Hard not to love these things. Well beyond my modest stipend, sadly.

Nonetheless, I’ve secreted a modest 1800-year-old Roman coin on my person, which I like lugging around in my wallet. Weird, I know, but I’m still feeling that strange tangible aspect.

This coin has the sun god Sol on one side and the beak-nosed Emperor Gordian III on the obverse. Cost me $10 maybe 15 years back and it’s now worth around $150. Better return than my super, that’s for sure.

Maybe I should bung it on a nag, see if I can make some real lucci. Or better still, invest in some chump change. No, not that unregulated digital cash built on nothing, bitcoin, or any other dodgy cryptocurrencies. I’m talking about three-dollar notes.

Actually, I am talking coins – $3 coins. Nothing suspicious there, eh? You’d hope not, especially with Australia Post flogging them. Something has to finance all those Cartier watches they like throwing around, after all. Hold on, they’ve stopped doing that for the time being. I think.

Australia Post had been licking the competition with its parcel trade, so much so that Toll Global Express grabbed Christine Holgate with both hands when she ignominiously exited Auspost, with a nasty ScoMo boot up the clacker, for doing her job too well. Now it’s licking its wounds.

So it seems ironic that a three-buck brass razoo has assumed pride of place in its marketing catalogue, alongside the latest Great Aussie Coin Hunt. Mint stuff.

Actually, the $3 note holds a little-known place in Australian currency history. The $7 note, too, if you can believe that.

Back in 1966, when decimal currency was introduced, counterfeiters were quick to churn out high-grade forgeries. Lots of them. The Reserve Bank swiftly had the CSIRO research a new type of note to tackle the problem.

Author Nathan Lynch, in his new release, The Lucky Laundry, details the diffraction gratings, or holograms, moire interference patterns, photochromic compounds and polymer plastics they used to run out 1.25 million ‘optically variable device’ banknotes – as $3 and $7 notes, so they weren’t counterfeiting themselves. The tech was good but it wasn’t put to use until 1988.

Used to be a time when Australia Post’s stock in trade was stamps. Those sticky perforated squares people attached to things called letters. Spawned a creature called the philatelist. Kids collected them. I know I did. Still love them, too, great custodians of Aussie culture – everything from hairy-nosed wombats and sheepdogs to war heroes, natural wonders, lighthouses, explorers, scientists, Olympic medallists, you name it.

But I reckon Auspost kind of lost the plot when it started issuing entire footy and rugby teams at a time. All 34 teams. And then kids’ movies. Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Goofy, Harry Potter. Place has been turning into Maccas. Bubble-gum card stuff. Chips Rafferty would be turning in his grave. On Holgate’s watch, to coin a phrase, from what I can see, too.

You can even make your own stamps. Auspost has MyStamps offering personalised stamps for businesses. On special at the moment, as a matter of fact. At $25, you’ll save yourself $10 on a $35 set of 20 x $1.10 stamps. Showcase your logo, ad campaign, brand name, your own ugly head …

But it’s getting a bit out of hand now. All sorts of Aussie icons, idioms and idiosyncracies – cockatoos, bushrangers, magpies, jumbucks, the vanilla slice, Tassie devil, kelpies – are depicted on these coins Auspost is flogging. And it’s suss.

The term hooroo gets a guernsey ahead of hoon, howzat and headless chook. I’ll cop that. But gday, galah and grog all dip out because G’s been grabbed by Great Ocean Road. Hmm, what’s going there? Why not the Great Barrier Reef?

Darrell Lea’s snagged D ahead of drongo, derro, dropkick and dunny. R.M. Williams has usurped redback, ratbags and underwear impresario Reg Grundys. Product placement’s delivering Oz a good kick in the vernaculars.

Commercialism is cashing in on patriotism, that ideal considered politically as the last refuge of the scoundrel. Makes you wonder how long before you can mint your own vanity coins? Mullet boofhead on one side, pimped-up hoon car on the other. Could be legal tender for bogans.

Done it with the stamps, coins can only be a matter of time. I can see them already. Car dealers, estate agents and influencers with their own silver dollar two-up specials.

Mind you, if we could get one with Franco Cozzo, Australian imperator, 20th century, Norta Melbun anda Footisgray on either side, I’m in. And I’d keep it in my Auspost coin collector’s folder which, incidentally, retails for, you guessed it … $7.

Oh, one more thing, farewell to two of Auspost’s finest, Myrna and Terry, who took retirement leave of the Bareena PO last week after many years of diligent, professional and convivial care and attention to their constituents. Very much Newtown’s and Auspost’s loss. Many thanks and all the best, guys.

This article appeared in the Geelong Advertiser 31 May 2022

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