ACT News

'Can't believe it': Canberra boy claims world's first coin of 2018 at Royal Mint

When six-year-old Henry McArthur lent a hand drawing the raffle for the world's first coin of 2018, he didn't expect to pick his own ticket as the winner.

Royal Australian Mint chief executive Ross MacDiarmid looked just as surprised, having himself asked the young man to "do the honours" as collectors gathered for the historic moment on New Year's Day.

Henry McArthur of Hughes wins the honour of minting the first Australian coin for 2018 by pulling his own raffle ticket from the bag. Photo: Karleen Minney

"I can't believe it," Henry said, holding up the ticket in delight. He was one of first 100 people to line up for the coin at 6am on Monday.

This year, for the first time, a raffle was held to decide who would claim the newly minted prize, ending an annual tradition of enthusiasts camping out to secure the first spot at the doors come January 1.

Canberra public and collectors travelled from afar to gather at mint. Regulars Ted Silk of Gungahlin, Justin Maloney of Werribee and Barry Cromer of Ballarat.  Photo: Karleen Minney

After a Belconnen teenager was struck down with food poisoning, dehydration and sunburn during his week-long wait outside the mint last year, it was decided things needed to change.

"We were concerned about the health of people who were lining up for long periods of time," Mr MacDiarmid said.

"I think [this has] worked really well."

For the McArthur family, who moved to Canberra from Kangaroo Island only last month, it's already paid dividends.

Cooper, Sean and Rebecca Brown of Wollongong travelled to Canberra for the chance to strike the world's first coin of 2018. Photo: Karleen Minney

Just moments after drawing out his own ticket, Henry went on to pick his father's - winning proud dad Robb the seventh coin of the year.

"We thought we'd do something a bit Canberra and come along today," his mother Judith explained.

After being spontaneously chosen to draw the raffle winner, Henry collects his prize at the Mint. Photo: Karleen Minney

"Look how excited he is, he's shaking. I think we might go and buy a Lotto ticket now."

Mr MacDiarmid was quick to dismiss suggestions he had a hand in the family's success.

"It wasn't rigged, I was as shocked as anyone!" he said.

Henry paid just $3 to mint his coin, but it could likely fetch thousands. Mr MacDiarmid said the first coin struck in the world each year held "major value".

The youngest person to hold a raffle ticket was Jack Kuffner of Germany whose coin-loving parents Michael and Andrea also got married at the Royal Australian Mint.  Photo: Karleen Minney

But while Henry might have been the luckiest in line, he wasn't the youngest. Two-month old Jack Kuffner had come all the way from Germany to claim a raffle ticket.

It was something of a homecoming for parents Andrea and Michael, who got married at the mint in 2017, and have both worked in the coin industry.

"We even met at a coin show, so total coin nerds," Mr Huffner said.

"As a laugh, my wife calls Jack 'small change'."

Like most of those in line, they praised the new raffle system as "fairer" and "more exciting".

Collector Ted Silk has been waiting outside the mint almost every New Year's Day for the past two decades, even back before there were lines.

"In those days, you could just wander down the corridors into the mint," he said.

For many of the "regulars", New Year's Day at the mint is an annual reunion of sorts, he said.

"But I tell them we're not obsessives..."

As demand for coins continues to decline throughout much of the world, Mr MacDiarmid said the mint pulled in a record $5.1 million in earnings last year, and also enjoyed a spike in visitor numbers.

This year, the first coin recognises Australia's convict past, marking the 230th anniversary of the First Fleet's arrival, as well as 150 years since the last convicts transported to Australia set sail for our shores.

About 250 people turned out for the event on Monday, a spokesman for the mint said.