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7 Facts You Never Knew About Our Aussie Dollar

Alex Wilson, SavingsGuide.com.au Updated January 26, 2013, 9:00 am

Money is an intricate part of our daily lives. We touch it, withdraw it, spend it, save it and plan how to get more of it.

Yet regardless of how involved we are with money, there are a few money facts that most of us don't know.

Here are seven conversation starters about Australian money (perfect for your Australia Day BBQ).

1. What ever happened to 1 & 2 cent coins?

While some readers may not even remember the 1 & 2 cent coins, others will recall them with fondness. Made of bronze and ever the pain to carry around, bronze coins were removed from circulation in 1992.

Once collected, the coins were melted down to create the bronze medals awarded in the Sydney Olympics of 2000.

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2. Australia developed the first ever plastic bank note

Due to paper money forever needing to be reprinted due to damage, Australia was the first country to pioneer plastic money. To many countries, having money made of plastic is almost surreal and unimaginable.

The notes in turn now live 4x longer than their paper counterparts. Pair this with the fact they are harder to counterfeit, our polymer invention is the future of printed money. It even withstands the old washing machine, notorious for destroying currency worldwide.

As the notes are made of plastic, people often wonder whether they capable of withstanding the heat of an iron – the answer is yes, though only at a mild temperature. As with any plastic, it definitely has a melting point and is sure fire way to burn through your money (pun intended).

3. We nearly had a currency called ‘royals’

In 1965, Sir Robert Menzies was the Prime Minister and Australia was in the process of switching from the English pound to its own national currency.

Sir Robert Menzies suggested the new currency be called ‘royals’ – further showing his loyalty to the monarch. Eventually the dollar was agreed upon, though not after some other hysterical suggestions including: The Roo, The Digger, The Boomer, The Kanga, The Kwid, The Dinkum and more.

Imagine paying for something in Roo’s?

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4. People invest in actual money

The Australian mint often produces 'limited edition' coins and banknotes that are legal tender, like the rare $5 coin. This means the coin may be worth $5 exactly in a retail sense, however due to their scarcity investors actually pay more for the coin itself as a collectors item. This means they may invest $1000 for a note or coin that actually has a legal value far less.

Try and figure that out in your head – you invest $1000 for something legally worth $5 in the hope of making more than $1000. Confusing to say the least.

The 50 cent coin, introduced in 1966 (which used be round) was originally made with 80% silver, but as the value of silver increased the coins' bullion value became more valuable than its face value of 50 cents, and so were withdrawn from circulation in 1969 and replaced with the 12 sided coin we use today.

5. Fake $50 notes have flooded the market

Polymer plastic notes are reputed as impossible to counterfeit. However, some crafty individuals out there have still managed to copy the $50 note making it the most frequently copied note. Police have worked tirelessly to shut down these illegal operations and have since slowed the distribution of the illegitimate notes.

To spot a fake $50 note, the police have noted you should scratch a coin across the see-through windows of the bank note and see if the printed star comes off. If it does, it is fake. The real notes have a star that is unable to be removed as it is within the polymer itself.

Other security measures found on Australian bank notes include; micro printing, raised ink (you can actually feel the texture on the note), fluorescent ink (you will see the number ‘50’ on $20, $50 and $100 notes along with a square shape on $5 notes) and more. You simply need an ultraviolet light to view.

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6. It's a crime to damage money

The costs of producing our money are funded by the Government and in turn are property of the Government; any intent to willfully deface, disfigure, mutilate or destroy any coin or note is technically punishable by law and carries a fine of up to $10,000 or 2 years in prison (watch out for those of you ironing your money, see above).

7. Money is not that dirty

The bacteria found on bank notes is often believed to be extraordinary – however research conducted at the University of Ballarat indicates that coins and bank notes did indeed contain bacteria, though not on a scale that is seen as overwhelming or deadly. Like anything, germs are present (surprisingly salmonella was high) though still did not pose a concern to the researchers.

Source: Alex Wilson, writer for Savings Guide

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