09 September 2019
The Royal Australian Mint (the Mint’s) first ever coin featuring a secret code releases today (9 September 2019) to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
ASIO was established in 1949 in the post-World War II Cold War era. At the time, its role was defensive, to protect Australia’s national security as well as that of its close allies.
During the 1940s and 1950s the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB, used One-Time Pads to encrypt their cables to and from Moscow. Poor encryption practices allowed the 5-EYES allies to decrypt some of the cables under Operation VENONA, revealing the presence of a Soviet spy ring active in Australia and prompting the United Kingdom to urge Australia to establish a security service, leading to the establishment of ASIO in 1949.
The 50c coin is legal tender in Australia and features a secret code similar to that used ASIO operatives in the Cold War to encrypt and decode messages. The design shown here has the code blurred out - and it is only revealed to those who see the coin in person.
Duncan Lewis, Director General of Security at ASIO, said of the coin: 'This project has been a wonderful collaboration between the Royal Australian Mint and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)”.
'Spooks and spies is an intriguing theme and often the stuff of novels and film. It is exciting to see this theme interpreted in such a creative and enduring way.'
“2019 is a milestone year for ASIO offering a natural point of reflection, to commemorate our history, and celebrate our success, our people and our culture—it marks 70 years of ASIO’s service protecting Australia and Australians.
'As ASIO’s thirteenth Director-General of Security, I am immensely proud to have led an organisation of such calibre.'
Win the coin!
Royal Australian Mint is offering the chance to win the only proof version of this commemorative coin, open to anyone who buys the coin and deciphers the message. Full details here.
Designer: A Ball
(report and image copyright Royal Australian Mint)