Jan 252012

The National Australia Day Council encourages proud Aussies to recite the Australian Citizenship Affirmation each Australia Day.

The words of the Affirmation are based on the Pledge made by new Australian citizens:

“As an Australian citizen
I affirm my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect,
and whose laws I uphold and obey.”

Coin collectors enjoying this year’s Australia Day can also celebrate with a special Australian Citizenship $1 coin minted by The Perth Mint.

Issued as Australian legal tender, it proudly portrays the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and comes on a presentation card depicting more iconic Australian symbols.

Jan 172012

“The son of a grocer, I was born on this day (17 January old style) in the mid-nineteenth century. I began writing as a means of supporting my family while I also studied to become a doctor. I am remembered for four dramatic masterpieces, hundreds of short-stories and many letters. Who am I?”

Here’s your chance to win a coin meticulously struck by The Perth Mint from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver celebrating this world-famous writer.

How To Enter

If you think you know who he is, email your answer to contest@perthmint.com.au. Mark your reply ‘January 2012 Blog Competition’ and include your name, telephone and Perth Mint membership number. (Not yet a member? Register here) Entries close by 17 February 2012. Eligible entrants will be included in the free draw and the winner will be notified by telephone. (T&Cs)

WINNER: The answer is Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Congratulations to the winner Prof. V. Jäger of Stuttgart, Germany.

Jan 122012

Reposted from CoinWeek. By Louis Golino.

This article discusses world coins from 2011 that I believe are the best of the year either because they are significant and interesting issues, or because I think they will appreciate in value over time.

It includes numismatic releases and collectible bullion coins with limited mintages. All were issued last year, but some are dated 2012. Australia and some other countries put the following year on coins issued during the last quarter.Almost all are silver coins, and the lunar dragon releases dominate this survey because they largely dominated the modern world coin scene in the past year.

The selection of coins is also based on in part on the past price performance of similar coins, or coins in the same series. Past performance with coins, as with stocks or anything else, is no guarantee of future performance.

These kind of coins are purchased primarily because the buyer likes the design, or the coin has some other personal significance or resonance for them.

But many also have solid worldwide demand and very low mintages and therefore may increase in value separate from their metal content.

1. Year of the Dragon releases: Perth Mint coins

The number and variety of dragon-themed 2012 coins is remarkable. It is the “largest annual coin program on the planet” as explained in an excellent recent survey that appeared in Numismaster .

The coins were issued by many countries, particularly in Asia and a number of Commonwealth countries, to mark the 12th and most popular sign of the Chinese Lunar calendar, the dragon. The Chinese Lunar season begins in February.

These various dragon coins have been so popular worldwide that bullion producers have even released a number of dragon-themed silver and gold bars and rounds to cash in on “dragon-mania”.

The coins issued by the Perth Mint in Western Australia have attracted the most interest of all the 2012 dragon coins because of a combination of attractive designs, low mintages, and Perth’s reputation for excellence.

The limited edition sets of proof silver dragons, the dragon lunar type set, and the rectangular colored dragon set elicited the most interest. These sets sold out in hours between September and December 2011.

Prices have moderated after peaking following the sell-outs, as almost always happens with limited issue modern coins – American and foreign.

But they still sell for substantial premiums over issue price, and as those sets change hands from speculators to collectors, prices should eventually go even higher given the limited supply.

American collectors tend to focus so intensely on U.S. coins that I think we can lose sight of what appeals to people in other countries.

Foreign collectors, as John Winkelmann of Talisman Coins explained in my interview with him last year, are much more interested in world coins than Americans are, although the number of world collectors in the U.S. is growing.

Jeff Garrett recently wrote a commentary for NGC in which he predicted that world coins will become more popular and more valuable this year.

The U.S. market for Perth Mint coins is strong. Just be careful to shop around and study e-Bay closing prices over time to get a sense of the real value of an item before purchasing it for an inflated retail price.

For example, a couple months ago I was able to purchase a gilded Perth dragon issued in 2000 and graded MS-69 by NGC (with a very low population) for less than $200 even though the same coin retails for $500 at several major dealers.

The 2012 one ounce silver bullion dragon, limited to 300,000, currently sells for about $90-100. If one looks at the performance of earlier Perth dragon releases from 2000, I think the 2012 bullion coin is worth purchasing.

In addition, the one ounce gold bullion dragon, limited to 30,000 pieces, which sells for about a $300 premium over the gold price also has good long-term potential. There are smaller gold dragons in the same design as well as two ounce and larger coins.

The 2 ounce silver proof Dragon, which was only released as part of a 1,000-edition set, is my favorite coin from the vast Perth 2012 dragon line-up. It is a truly scarce coin with sold demand. It is a larger diameter than most two ounce coins.

Once in a while an NGC-slabbed example is offered on e-Bay, but this does not happen often, and I know of only one U.S. dealer who has carried this coin; John Maben’s Modern Coin Mart.

2. Other dragon releases

In addition, there are some beautiful and very low mintage dragon issues from other countries. Rather than list them all, I will highlight a couple that readers may not be aware of and which I find to be interesting coins.

France released an attractive lunar coin that has an intricate depiction of a dragon on the obverse, and an image of famous French fable writer Jean de La Fontaine on the reverse, and a mintage of 10,000. The coin is available in the U.S. from Royal Scandinavian Mint .

The Mint of Finland produced what is one of the more unusual dragon releases for the country of Fiji.

Many smaller countries have European mints produce their coins for them. Poland made a color pad dragon for the Asian-Pacific island nation of Niue.

The Fiji release is the Yin and Yang dragon, which uses color pad printing, and consists of two pieces that fit together and which are reversible. It is a very popular coin, but only 4,000 are available, which has already driven prices from about $135 to a current retail value of $200.

Finland also made a filigree dragon for Fiji. It is a very elegant coin also limited to 4,000 pieces.

3. Canadian Wildlife Series

This is a new bullion series modeled on the highly successful half ounce wolf coin released in 2006 and featuring animals that live in Canada. Each coin is limited to 1,000,000 pieces, and with worldwide demand most dealers regularly sell out of their relatively limited supply of these coins.

The coins released so far include the grizzly, wolf, and cougar. The first two already carry a premium and sell for about $50 each. The cougar, the most recent issue, is still available for about the same price as an American silver eagle (2011 mintage of almost 40 million), making it an excellent way to purchase silver.

4. Kookaburras

The Kookaburra is the national animal of Australia. Each year since 1990 the Perth Mint has issued one, two, and ten ounce and one kilo bullion coins depicting kookaburras.

The one ounce coins are limited to 300,000 and carry a premium over silver content. Retail prices for the coins vary a lot depending on the dealer.

From what I have seen the ten ounce coins seem to carry the highest retail premiums for past releases. Even the 2012 ten ounce coin is hard to find and usually sells for a relatively high premium over melt value compared to other large bullion coins.

6. Italian commemoratives

The Italian Mint issues very attractive 10 euro proof silver coins that are issued in limited numbers. They are among the harder to find world issues. Their level of artistic achievement is extraordinary.

The two from 2011 I would highlight are a coin honoring Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer for whom the American continent is named, and a coin marking the 500th anniversary of the birth of famous Italian painter and architect, Giorgio Vasari, who also founded the field of art history.

The Vasari coin is probably the most attractive world coin issued in 2011, in my view. It is also available from Royal Scandinavian Mint.  This coin is part of a series honoring Italian artists.

7. Silver Britannia

Finally, another well-designed bullion coin to consider is the 2012 silver Britannia from Great Britain. It is the latest in series that started in 1998. It is limited to 100,000 coins, but can be obtained for under $40. Some earlier issues sell for several multiples of that price.

Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.

Jan 102012

The pattern Kookaburra pennies & halfpennies were produced between 1919 and 1921 as part of a move towards a smaller and thus more cost effective national coinage. The kookaburra pennies were far smaller than the coins seen in circulation, and were made of a variety of metals – primarily various alloys of nickel, copper/nickel, tin & copper.

This move to an improved circulating coinage obviously did not succeed, and as a result the “Kookaburra” pennies & halfpenny patterns that remain in existence are highly prized by collectors & historians.

When considering what historical importance these coins have, we can see how they are a tangible reminder of the enormous changes brought upon the international monetary system by the financial consequences of World War I.

In my mind, the Kookaburra pennies were part of a raft of proposed changes to the Australian monetary system away from the bimetallic standard to a legal tender / fiat currency.

Other proposed changes to our coinage between 1918 and 1921 included a reduction in the silver content of the larger denominations (3d – 2/-) and the proposed introduction of a paper five-shilling note. Although none of these efforts came to pass, coins such as the kookaburra patterns do make for interesting study.

The exact number of these coins that exist is not known – Royal Mint records from the period do not indicate how many were produced, and so numismatists are left to guess just how many are still around.

Coin issuing authorities, both now and in the past, consult with coin vending machine manufacturers over the suitability of new coin issues. The mechanical restrictions imposed by coin vending machines in the early decades of the 20th century effectively killed-off a revolutionary idea to replace the heavy round pennies and halfpennies in the early 1920’s.

The project is believed to have been the ‘brainchild’ of the then Treasurer, Mr Watt, who suggested the kookaburra design. Struck in lighter, hard-wearing cupro-nickel, the coins were to be square in shape to avoid confusion with sixpenny and threepenny pieces.

This innovation proved to be their undoing, as coin vending machine operators successfully argued that the coins were impractical by demonstrating just how easily they jammed in the coin acceptor mechanism. The harder nickel alloy proved difficult to work with in striking the coins and there was a greater cost in importing nickel compared to the cost of locally produced metals.

Between 1919 and 1921, several hundred trial coins were distributed to officers of the Treasury, Parliamentarians and selected members of the public to gauge their reaction.

The coins were struck at the Melbourne and London mints, with the task of designing the coins being shared by Stokes and Son, Sir Bertram MacKennal (the London issues) and Douglas Richardson. All but one design shows King George V without his familiar crown. All the reverses show a kookaburra perched on a branch.

Different designs can be distinguished by the length of the branch and its relationship to the wording ‘One Penny’ or ‘Half Penny’. On some of the two-line designs (stating the denomination) the branch appears to be hovering over the ‘H’ of ‘Half’ or the ‘O’ of ‘One’. On others, the branch appears alongside the wording. Other designs have the words of the denomination on the one line. The kookaburra changes from design to design. On some he appears to be pitifully undernourished, while on others he is quite plump.

The square penny was a contentious issue at the time, with a huge volume of correspondence occurring between the Treasury and the Royal Mint over the acceptability of using an uncrowned portrait of the King. The mint eventually experimented with a crowned portrait in 1920 (Type 10).

Despite the controversy, the King did approve the uncrowned portrait and by February, 1921, the Royal Mint had prepared and despatched master dies to Melbourne. However, with the resignation of Watt as Treasurer, the incoming Minister showed little interest in continuing the project.

Consequently, the Treasury did nothing to further the necessary Government regulations to authorise the Mint to proceed. The Kookaburra pattern series ended, unissued, in 1921.

(First published by Andrew Crellin on Sterling and Currency.)





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Jan 092012

A brief history of Australian coins and minting from colonisation to the modern era.

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1800 Currency Proclamation

Coinage is a low priority when Britain establishes the penal colony of New South Wales in 1788. Money circulating in Sydney Town comprises a few English coins (including this 1787 shilling) and a mix of guilders, ducats, rupees, johannas, mohurs and Spanish dollars. Disagreements about the value of each coin are common. In an effort to solve the issue, Governor King issues his famous Currency Proclamation, thereby establishing each coin’s official value.

1800 Cartwheel Penny

The cartwheel penny becomes the first coin officially exported to New South Wales and therefore Australia’s first official coin. Known as a ‘cartwheel’ because of its large size, the copper coin is struck at Matthew Boulton’s groundbreaking steam-powered Soho Mint in Birmingham in 1797. Like other coins listed in Governor King’s Currency Proclamation, it circulates at a value beyond its face value – a ploy aimed at retaining much needed coins within the colony.

1813 Holey Dollar & Dump

As the colony expands, coinage remains in desperately short supply. Governor Macquarie seeks a solution with the import of 40,000 Spanish dollars. Convict forger William Henshall is given the task of removing a central plug and counter stamping the resulting issues. The colony’s first distinct coins are valued at five shillings for the “holey dollar” and 1 shilling & three pence for the “dump”.

1851 Discovery of Gold

Early gold finds are kept quiet on fears of how convicts may react. But Edward Hargraves, who is party to the discovery of gold near Bathurst in 1851, is determined to be feted as a hero for discovering Australia’s first goldfield – and claiming a Government reward. Although later discredited as the person solely responsible, Hargraves’ actions spark Australia’s first gold frenzy.

1852 The Adelaide Pound

Australia’s first gold ‘coin’ is issued to meet the urgent need for currency in South Australia. But there’s a problem. Made by the short-lived Adelaide Assay Office from gold brought back from the Victorian gold rush, it is issued without approval from Britain – and is thus technically illegal. Nevertheless it is backed by the colonial government and used extensively in circulation.

1855 The Sydney Mint

The discovery of gold and its circulation in raw form as ‘money’ prompts the New South Wales Legislative Assembly to make an unprecedented request for an Australian mint. Remarkably, permission to open the first branch of the Royal Mint outside England is granted in 1853. Established in the southern wing of Governor Macquarie’s ‘Rum’ hospital, the Sydney Mint operates between 1855 and 1926.

1855 Australia’s First Sovereign

The Sydney Mint makes sovereign coins with a distinctive design incorporating the word ‘Australia’ to distinguish them from their Imperial counterparts. They are accepted as legal tender within New South Wales only. Fears about the new Mint’s production competence are dispelled however and the quality of Sydney sovereigns sees them declared as legal tender elsewhere, including Britain in 1866.

1872 The Melbourne Mint

Vast gold discoveries in Victoria persuade the British authorities to approve Australia’s second Mint, which begins producing sovereigns in Melbourne in 1872. With both colonial Mints now authorised to strike sovereigns of the same design as London, their output is distinguished by an ‘M’ or ‘S’ mintmark. The Melbourne Mint is also responsible for making Australian circulating coins from 1919, but is closed by 1972.

1899 The Perth Mint

The third branch of the Royal Mint in Australia opens in 1899 following the discovery of large quantities of gold in Western Australia. Like the Sydney Mint and Melbourne Mint it produces gold sovereigns – more than 106 million by 1931. Instead of closure like its elder siblings, The Perth Mint finds new purpose in the modern era under the ownership of the State Government of Western Australia.

1910 First Commonwealth Coinage

The Commonwealth of Australia is proclaimed on 1 January 1901 and under the new Constitution the control of currency is vested in the Commonwealth. British coins continue in circulation until the Government takes steps to introduce distinctive Australian coins under the 1909 Coinage Act. The first Australian florin, shilling, sixpence and threepence are issued in 1910. A year later, the Commonwealth issues its first penny and halfpenny.

1919 Kookaburra Patterns

In 1919, the Commonwealth Government considers replacing bulky copper coins with smaller and lighter issues. Between 1919 and 1921, a memorable series of square-shaped penny and half-penny prototypes are struck, each featuring a kookaburra design. But they’re never officially circulated because of technical problems and resistance from, among others, vending machine operators!

1930 Australian Penny

No pennies are officially ordered by the Commonwealth Government for release in 1930. Nevertheless, a small number made in Melbourne are released into circulation. The 1930 penny is destined to become the best known rare Australian coin and the proof examples, of which there are just six in existence, represent the holy grail of Australian numismatics.

1965 Royal Australian Mint

The Royal Australian Mint is established in the national capital, Canberra – the first mint in Australia not to be a branch of the Royal Mint in London. The Duke of Edinburgh opens its doors on 22 February 1965, a year before the introduction of decimal coinage, for which it is primarily intended. As well as billions of circulating coins, the national mint also makes medals, medallions, tokens and Australian collectable coins.

1966 Decimalisation

On the 14th February 1966, Australia introduces decimal notes and coins, marking the end of its British-style currency system of pounds, shillings and pence. To emphasize Australia’s link with the Crown, it is planned that the major unit will be known as the ‘royal’. But public disquiet compels the Government to change its mind and adopt the ‘dollar’. Initially there are six coin denominations with designs by Stuart Devlin and four banknotes.

1966 Round 50 Cent Coin

The round version of Australia’s new 50 cent coin is short lived. Composed of 80% silver and 20% copper, its intrinsic value soon outstrips its face value. Only ever issued in 1966, it is replaced by a cupro-nickel dodecagonal (12-sided) coin in 1969. Even though vast numbers exist, hoarding the round coin becomes a national obsession because of its bullion value.

1986 Australian Precious Metal Coin Program

In 1986, the Commonwealth Government appoints The Perth Mint to design, make and market Australia’s official precious metal bullion coin program. With series like the Australian Nugget, Kangaroo, Kookaburra and Lunar, The Perth Mint establishes an outstanding reputation as a manufacturer of high-quality precious metal coins for investors and collectors.

2000 Olympic Coin Program

Sydney 2000 presents an opportunity to produce the most significant commemorative coin program in the history of Australia and the Olympic Games. The Royal Australian Mint, The Perth Mint and the world’s foremost coin designer, Stuart Devlin, deliver with an unrivalled 53 gold, silver and bronze coin collection of outstanding quality. Innovative gold and silver releases set new standards in Australian numismatic production.

2012 One Tonne Gold Coin

The record for the largest coin ever made is claimed by The Perth Mint. Created from a mesmerizing one tonne of 99.99% pure gold, the record-breaking Australian Kangaroo legal tender coin is almost 80cm in diameter and over 12cm thick. A proud symbol of Australia’s leading international role in the production, refining and coining of fine gold, it is regularly on public display at the Mint’s exhibition of unique gold objects.