Friday, February 6, 2009

Why Is Money From Other Countries Much Prettier Than Ours?

As happens in other countries I've visited, my wallet wouldn't shut during my stay in Australia.  Not because I had a lot of money, but because I had a lot of coin money.  It's beautiful money, even though I couldn't tell the difference between their 50-cent pieces from their quarters.  Like Canada, Australia has $2- and $1-dollar coins, which adds to the weight and girth of one's wallet. 

One feature of Australian paper money that I found fascinating is the see-through spot in the corner.  The transparency, I assume, is a counterfeiting deterrent.  In fact, Australian money is printed on polymer banknotes, which, according to a website of the Australian government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is more secure and easily recyclable.  

Using the Australian currency made me curious about the people and animals featured on the bills and coins, so I searched online to gain insight into Australian history and culture through its money. (Isn't the Internet great?) 

Depicted on the $20 note is Mary Reibey (1777-1855), who was born in England, arrested for horse stealing, and sent to Australia as a convict.  She eventually became a tycoon in Australia's shipping business as well as a philanthropist.  On the flip side of the $20 bill is Rev. John Flynn (1880-1951), who founded the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world's first aerial medical service, which still operates today.  

Two poets appear on the $10 note:  A.B. "Banjo" Paterson (1864-1941) and Dame Mary Gilmore (1865-1962).  Paterson was an Australian bushman who chronicled the people of and life in the outback through such ballads as "Waltzing Matlida" and "The Man From Snowy River."  Dame Mary Gilmore helped found the Fellowship of Australian Writers, and in 1937 she became the first person to be appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire for her literary contributions.

The $5 note reminds me of Canadian money because Queen Elizabeth II is featured on it.  The Parliament House in Australia's capital of Canberra appears on the reverse side.

I can't explain my feelings, but I find $1- and $2-dollar coins worldwide to be bothersome, although they're not quite as annoying as receiving a bunch of Sacagaweas as change from a stamp vending machine at the post office in the United States.  Anyway, Australia's $2 coin took the place of its paper note in 1988 and combines the images of an Aboriginal tribal leader, native foliage, and the Southern Cross, the constellation that is part of the Australian flag. That's a lot of stuff to cram onto a fairly small coin.

The $1 coin came into being four years before the $2 coin, in 1984, and has five kangaroos bouncing around on it.  

The largest Australian coin, the 50-cent piece, has twelve sides that are squared off and bears Australia's coat of arms.

A platypus swims through the back of the 20-cent coin.  It is one of two mammals in the world that lays eggs.  The other, the echidna, appears on Australia's version of our nickel.  It's interesting that both of these animals are native to Australia.  Perhaps that's why they're featured on the country's currency?

Another native Australian animal is the lyrebird, who has a spot on the 10-cent coin.  (Do the Aussies call it a dime?)  The male has crazy tail plumage. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of the birds I saw at the Healesville Sanctuary.

In a brilliant move, the Australians stopped using 1-cent and 2-cent coins in 1991.  We'll never get rid of the penny in the States, even though it costs more than it's worth to produce and isn't accepted in vending machines.  Plus, Abe Lincoln is honored on the penny, making the case to eliminate the coin more difficult.

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