To pay homage to Australia Day, Nodifi takes a look at some interesting moments and milestones in Australian finance history.

Fair Dinkum Finance

  • The first Australian ‘legal tender’ coins were Spanish coins in 1813
  • A century later, in 1913, Australia printed its first banknotes
  • Financial crises are not a modern phenomenon as the 1893 banking crisis confirms
  • The Australian economy fared well after WW2
  • Pounds turned into dollars in 1966 (but they almost turned in to ‘koalas’)
  • Our superannuation is the world’s second-largest pension fund

The First Straya Bucks

1813: The first-ever ‘cash’ to be used in Australia was actually Spanish dollars. The British government commissioned these coins to have their centres punched out – known as ‘dumps’ and the leftover rings – known as holey dollars (¼ of one pound sterling), to be used as currency in NSW. Dumps were valued at ¼ of a holey dollar.

Holey Dollars

(Holey dollars from 1813. Source:

Got a holey dollar in your wallet? They are valued at $500,000 today.

The first Australian minted coins which appeared in 1852 were the Adelaide Pounds made of solid gold.

Got an Adelaide Pound? These are worth up to $150,000

Adelaide Gold Pounds

(Adelaide gold pounds. Source:

1913: The first banknotes in Australia issued prior to 1913 were private banknotes – notes that banks issued themselves and weren’t considered Australia-wide legal tender. That changed in 1913 with the printing of the first Australian banknote: The 10 shilling denomination note.

These notes with early serial numbers can fetch up to $250,000.

Australian 10-Shilling Note

(An Australian 10-shilling note from 1913. Source:

Deadset Gold

The Australian gold rush began in 1851. In this year, gold was discovered near Orange in New South Wales and near Ballarat in Victoria.

The gold rush caused Australia’s population to boom. In fact, it more than tripled over 20 years from 430,000 in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871.

Australia’s gold rush era ended in 1914.

Gold Nugget

(If only: A replica of the ‘Welcome Nugget’. Source:

Australia’s largest gold nugget ever found: The ‘Welcome Stranger’ nugget, discovered in 1869, weighing in at 72kg. Today’s value: $4 million.

Bank Dramas of 1893

With 2020 just gone and the Global Financial Crisis a not-too-distant memory, it’s easy to forget that financial crises aren’t a modern problem.

In the 1880s, Australia experienced a property boom fueled by almost non-existent banking regulations. Some financial institutions were allowed to operate almost autonomously. This caused many enterprises and individuals to declare bankruptcy and become unable to repay debts.

The situation was so bad that Victoria declared a five-day bank holiday to let things settle and help avoid people withdrawing their savings – aka; a bank run.

Flat Out in WW2

The economic policies developed in Australia during World War 2 dramatically stimulated our economy. John Curtin, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, increased production and manufacturing, ending unemployment.

Prime Minister John Curtin

(Prime Minister John Curtin (1941 – 1945) was extremely popular with the Australian public)

This allowed Australia to finance its war effort from domestic sources and essentially come out on top at the end of the war in 1945. Australia was able to quickly reconstruct and retool for peacetime.

You Beaut Dollars

Valentine’s Day, 1966: Australia replaced its previous pounds with Australian dollars. One previous pound was worth AUD$2.

$10 Note

(Nostalgia: The old paper $10 note with Australian writer, Henry Lawson pictured)

Many names were put forward for the new AUD, for example, Robert Menzies – the Australian PM at the time – suggested the Australian ‘royal’ – one dollar would be ‘one royal’. Other names included the austral, the roo, the digger, the dinkum and even the less-than-original, koala.

Fortunately, Nodifi partners and their clients don’t need to enter loan amounts for ‘40,000 koalas’.

In 1988, Australian money went plastic – more accurately, polymer. This was a world-first at the time. The last paper banknotes in Australia were withdrawn in 1996 – these were $100 denominations.

How Good’s Super?

Heaps good. Superannuation was introduced in Australia in 1991 and, for the most part, has been hugely popular – and a success.

As of 2018, Australia was the 4th largest holder of pension fund assets in the world. By June 2019, Australian superannuation assets hit $2.9 trillion.

The Australian National Superannuation Scheme is the world’s second-largest pension fund, the first being the United States Social Security.

Stoked with Centrelink

1997 was the year Centrelink launched and established offices nationally. Most Australians have received at least some form of Centrelink at some stage in their lives.

Highlighting the importance of technology, in 2016, Centrelink began comparing records against data from the ATO. Prior to this, Centrelink issued around 20,000 debt recovery requests per year, but that number has now shot up to around 170,000.

The Australian Government hasn’t stopped there. The JobKeeper, JobMaker, HomeBuilder and Asset Write-Off Scheme are continuing to bolster the economy.

Happy Australia Day from Nodifi!

Subscribe to newsletter.

The latest asset finance news and resources.