Harold Holt's decimal coins

This set of mint 1966 coins, complete with the round 50 cent piece, in a leather pouch embossed with gold initials ‘H.E.H.’ was presented to Harold Edward Holt for his role, while Treasurer (1958-66), in fostering Australia’s decimal currency system.

Australians had been thinking about the decimal system since 1901, but this would have put us out of sync with our then major trading partner, Great Britain. By the early 1960s Australians were ready for change and while the names Royal and Austral didn’t get off the ground the decimal system did.

A weathered light brown leather wallet sitting open with six silver coins.

Photo: Hilary Wardhaugh/MoAD Collection 

Stuart Devlin’s native animal designs reflected the nation’s growing pride in its unique identity and while Queen Elizabeth II remained on the coins’ obverse side, the new currency marked, for some, a symbolic and practical loosening of Australia’s cultural and political ties with Britain.