A new Royal Australian Mint exhibition is highlighting the works of the man who designed the artwork on Australian coins.
The Designer with the Midas Touch exhibition showcases not only the coins, but also intricately detailed silverware Stuart Devlin AO designed.
A gold and silversmith by trade, Devlin won a competition in 1964 to create Australia’s first decimal coins.
He designed all the circulating coins, with the exception of the $2 coin, including the no longer used 1 and 2 cent pieces.
But Australian Mint chief executive Ross MacDiarmid said winning the competition was just the start of Devlin’s career.
“After doing the decimal currency he became the goldsmith and silversmith and the jeweller for the Queen,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
“His artistry was recognised by her of course [and is] now recognised around the world.”
Mr MacDiarmid said every Australian carried around some of Devlin’s work in their pocket but many would not be familiar with his achievements.
“I think Stuart Devlin is probably someone under-recognised in Australia because it’s not sort of mainstream,” he said.
“I suspect many Australians will never see a platypus in their life so when they do pick up the 20 cent piece and have a look at it they should recognise that a lot the design work went into that.”
The free exhibition features highlights from Devlin’s career including a place setting and candelabrum from his personal collection and original sketches of his work.
A special collectible commemorative coin will also be released in Devlin’s honour featuring a kangaroo and joey, based on his original 1966 concept for the 2 cent piece.
Mr MacDiarmid said while the frill-necked lizard eventually won out, the image has stood the test of time, a testament to Devlin’s enduring appeal.
“It’s the value of telling the Australian story [and] this particular story is very unique and it’s one that’s obviously very much associated with the currency of Australia,” he said.
Monash University senior lecturer Ian Wong said Devlin had an exceptional understanding of his medium.
“He wasn’t just interested in the beauty and the elegance on an extraordinary level but he was interested in the practicality as well,” Mr Wong said.
“That’s the experience all Australians have, buying lollies, donating to someone who’s shaking a tin, the coins are a part of our every day.”
The exhibition runs at the Mint in Canberra until the end of April.