In any given year the Royal Australian Mint produces hundreds of thousands of circulating and numismatic coins. Few people know exactly who is responsible for designing, minting, and releasing a particular coin.
So, with that in mind, we have peeled back the veil in order to introduce you to people who are instrumental in producing some of the finest numismatic coins on the planet.
They call themselves "Minties".
The multi-talented Aleksandra Stokic has worked as a senior coin sculptor and coin designer at the Royal Australian Mint since 2011, and is the artistic mind behind the Centenary of Canberra and Australian Mining designs.
Like many who now call Canberra home, her story starts half a world away.
Aleks grew up in Kučevo, a small town in north-east Serbia, where she developed a passion for art at an early age.
At just 14 she attended the internationally renowned School for Design in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, where she studied packaging design. Even at such a young age, the budding artist had decided where her future lay.
"When I was young I was always sketching and drawing," said Aleks.
"Later, during high school, I got into sculpting."
"In any case, I always knew that my life would have something to do with art."
In 1998, Aleks began a five-year course at the University of Applied Arts in Belgrade, where she was able to apply her acquired technical knowledge in a more practical sense. With her courses focusing increasingly on sculpture, she was able to hone her skills in three dimensions.
Importantly, it was during her time at university that Aleks was introduced to the tools that would eventually let a world-class coin designer.
“During the third year of my course I studied jewellery making, and learnt how to work with precious metals,” she said.
“This was the first time that I had been able to do work with these materials, and I really enjoyed it.
It was through working with precious materials that Aleks also began to recall marvelling at precious family keepsakes.
“When we were young, my brother had a small coin collection and I can remember looking at the coin surfaces and wondering how anyone could get such intricate designs on such a small space,” she said.
“You could almost say that an idea about my future was born back then.
In 2005, Aleks was accepted into the prestigious School of Metallic Arts in Rome, where she learnt ancient artistic techniques from the best metallurgists in the world. The daunting prospect of moving to another country, and any associated nervousness, was quickly overcome by a sense of excitement - and a sense of belonging.
“Rome is where great art is born; and has been born for centuries,” said Aleks.
“So it made sense to me that I go there.
“I went to Rome without knowing Italian, so it was hard in the beginning - but everyone was so kind, and that made it easier to settle in”.
“All my teachers were professionals all worked at the Italian Mint - so I learnt from the best.”
Over the next three years Aleks won three International Coin Design Competition awards, including her International Year of Astrology 2009 design, which was developed into a coin by the Japanese Mint.
Her time in Rome also saw her design a number of medals for international sports events and Vatican celebrations.
After a three-year ‘apprenticeship’ at the School of Metallic Arts, Aleks successfully went on to work at the Italian Mint, the Istituto Polografica e Zecca dello Stato. It was from the Italian Mint that Aleks came to Australia.
Since 2011 Aleks has been pivotal in creating some of the Royal Australia Mint’s most celebrated coins.
Aleks has been kind enough to give an insight into how coins are conceived.
“Marketing briefs come to use from the product development department, and we create sketches and drawings, which then form the basis of 3D models,” she said.
“We use plaster as well as 3D imaging software to create a model of the coin.”
“We have to take special care when building the heights of certain elements; to make sure everything is precise. Everything on the finished product has to be exactly as it is in the design.”
This eye for detail and desire for perfection has been the foundation of many of the Royal Australian Mint’s coins in recent years.
And how has the Mint’s import coin designer found living in Australia?
“It’s a little bit far from home, and I found myself getting a little bit homesick in the first few months, but I have settled in well now,” said Aleks.
“It is very much a different culture here, but I’m learning all the time.
“Besides, it’s exciting to be able to help show the history of a country through my work.”
Keep an eye out for some exciting new designs by Aleksandra Stokic in the near future, and stay tuned for the next instalment of Meet the Minties.