The Melbournese Coin Press, commonly known as Melbournese Jewellers' Association, Collective, or Press, were a group of jewellers who produced a set of coins annually from 1996-2001. Although the coins resembled art medals in their appearance and intention, they were technically coins as they were struck from a die, rather than cast.
The group was led by Marcos Davidson with most of the jewellers based in the Melbourne central business district, in studios in buildings such as Carlow House in Flinders Lane.
The aim of the Melbournese Coin Press was to develop the jewellers' skills in die sinking. Each jeweller would take die (a cylinder of steel) and carve the design in reverse. Once a year, one of the jewellers would host the striking at their studio. No jeweller would strike more than 12 coins per year and every jeweller would receive a set of each other's coins. Each coin had the same design on the obverse, crossed jeweller's tools and the words 'MELBOURNESE JEWELLERS'. The group videoed and photographed the annual coin striking and one year held a public striking in Flagstaff Gardens. Each year, the coins were mounted on to glass platters. The 1996 platter, made by glass artist Anna Charlesworth, is in Museum Victoria's collection.
The group held an annual exhibition of the coins with the first Melbournese Jewellers' Annual Coin Exhibition held at Maker's Mark Gallery in December 1996. The exhibition was opened by John Sharples, Senior Curator of Numismatics, Museum of Victoria, contributing jewellers were Robyn Allen, Jacqui Archer, Glen Bakker, Ina Barry, Roseanne Bartley, Vito Billa, Justin Boehme, Julie Carter, Marcos Davidson, Anne Davern, Peter Eccles, Sean Fitzgerald, Will Francis, Caz Guiney, Jude Huntley, Nicky Hepburn, Benjamin Hillard, Zinya Langsford, Ali Limb, Tony Marling, Karl Millard, Siri Omberg, Jason Patterson, Dan Scurry, Deborah Sullivan, Lynley Traeger, John Vecchio and Stephen Woodroffe-Hill. For their inaugural exhibition the group produced thinner versions of the coins, to be worn as badges. These were available on the opening night, they are now rare.
Coin designs from the 1996 strike varied in subject matter and style. Karl Millard's coin used the circular format quote to accentuate a physical vortex and commemorate the discovery of anti-gravity in Finland. 'Coneman of the Burbarians' by Marcus Davidson exploited the close physical contact coins have with their owners by using a variegated surface. While Justin Böehme's 'Hive' drew on a traditional crest design to evoke plenty.
Over the six years the Melbournese Jewellers Association was active various jewellers participated in the coin striking and annual exhibitions.
The Triennial Triptych Medallion was created during the 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons. In 1999 the jewellers used silver to strike a coin with a square hole. In 2000 they struck a square coin of fused pure silver and pure gold which fitted into the middle of the 1999 coin. In 2001 they made a large brass coin with a central hole into which the 1999 and 2000 coins were inserted.
The group's final exhibition was at City Lights Gallery in 2001. Most of the jewellers have since moved out of Melbourne's CBD. Some of them have changed careers, but others still make handmade jewellery, with wedding rings always in demand.
Davidson, Marcos 2012, Personal Communication [phone call], 28 February, Melbourne
Melbournese Jewellers' Collective 1996, Melbournese Jewellers' Collective: Australian Gallery File, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
Murray, Kevin 1996, 'Numismatica beckons…' Craft Victoria, Melbourne, available online http://www.kitezh.com/texts/coin.htm
Patterson, Jason 2012, Personal Communication [informal interview], 22 February, Museum Victoria, Melbourne