Australia got rid of $2 notes in 1988. I’m old enough to remember that though it probably seemed like an enormous amount of money to me at the time. The earlier replacement of the $1 note by the $1 coin in 1984 is at the very edge of my memory.
In early adulthood I headed overseas and was away for a long time. I soon adapted to using pounds sterling. I also spent six months in Spain and became used to euros, to the point where I could automatically tell all the smaller coins apart. I’m not sure I could do that now.
Australian coins are different to those for euros or sterling. For a start, Australia doesn’t have 1 and 2 cent coins. They were taken out of circulation in 1992 after inflation had made them nearly worthless. New Zealand had already done the same thing and the UK and the Eurozone ought to follow suit.
Australia’s 20c and 50c coins are heavy and clunky and as a kid I was told that it was because the 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins are all proportionally weighted, so that for example a 50c coin weighs ten times what a 5c coin does. That’s not actually true, a bit of research showing that a 50c only weighs a little more than a 20c. The real reason is that Australia used to have British-style pounds, shillings and pence and simply copied the coin sizes over when the currency was decimalised in 1966. Britain and New Zealand probably did the same but have since resized their coins. Australia hasn’t.
Still, an unofficial rule of the world’s currencies is that bigger coins of the same colour are worth more. The Australian $2 bucks this trend, being slightly thicker but significantly smaller than the $1. This was controversial when it came out in 1988 but everyone soon got used to it.
But it takes foreigners by surprise. I ran into a couple from New Zealand a few years ago in London and the conversation somehow got to $2 coins. “Australia has ridiculous tiny things,” they said. On my rare visits back to Australia I couldn’t help agreeing.
But you know something? Having been back in the country for about seven weeks, the $2 coins are growing on me. They’re fat enough that you don’t lose them and having a small but relatively high-valued coin turns out to be convenient. I don’t think I’d now want them any other way.