May 312012

Silver coin marks clash of mighty WWI fleets

The Battle of Jutland was history’s biggest ever naval battle. Involving 250 ships, the fighting took place in the North Sea on 31 May 1916 between the British Grand Fleet, commanded by Admiral Jellicoe, and the German High Seas Fleet, under Admiral Scheer.

Battle began when a task force of German ships lured Britain’s battle cruiser fleet out of Rosyth on the Firth of Forth and into the path of Scheer’s main group. Realising that they were victims of a trap, the surviving British ships retreated northwards.

Unfortunately for Scheer, Jellicoe’s battleship squadrons had also put to sea from Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands and were now approaching their damaged battle cruiser fleet, which had the entire German flotilla on its tail.

With full-scale confrontation unavoidable, the two huge navies fought an intense battle in which 14 British and 11 German ships were sunk. Thousands of men perished during the terrible encounter. Although Germany claimed Jutland as a victory, in reality Britain’s command of the North Sea remained in tact.

HMS Iron Duke and (inset) The Perth Mint's 2011 Battle of Jutland 1oz silver proof coin.

A recent Perth Mint issue from the Famous Naval Battles Series commemorated the Battle of Jutland with a portrayal of the legendary HMS Iron Duke, which served as the flagship of the Grand Fleet during World War I. Suffering no damage herself at Jutland, Iron Duke inflicted heavy punishment on the German battleship König.

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May 292012

Gold coin celebrates a lifetime of achievement

Edmund Hillary joined Sir John Hunt’s 1953 British Everest Expedition to take on the ultimate mountaineering challenge. All previous attempts to ascend Mount Everest’s 29,035 feet had by all knowledge failed, leaving the group unsure if it was humanly possible to reach the top.

Hillary, accompanied by Sherpa Tenzing, successfully scaled the world’s highest mountain on 29 May. Although claiming “we got there together”, Hillary revealed in 1986 that he was actually the first by a matter of some feet.

The two men hugged each other with relief and joy, but only stayed on the summit for 15 minutes because they were low on oxygen.

Tuning in to the BBC for a description of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, people all over the world heard the news of Hillary and Tenzing’s astonishing achievement.

Issued in 2008, this 1/4oz pure gold coin celebrates the life of Sir Edmund Hillary K.G., O.N.Z., K.B.E., the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest and arguably New Zealand’s most famous son.

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May 282012

Available to order from today, these spectacular gold (mintage 60) and silver (mintage 600) kilo coins are magnificent Diamond Jubilee commemoratives.

Buy now: Diamond Jubilee 2012 1 Kilo Gold Proof Coin

Buy now: Diamond Jubilee 2012 1 Silver Proof Coin


St Edward’s Crown reverse design

Featured on the Golden Jubilee 1 kilo gold and silver proof coins is St Edward’s Crown, which is used for the coronation of the sovereign.

The original Crown, which dates back to and was named after Edward the Confessor (died 1066), was broken up in 1649 after the execution of King Charles I in the time of Oliver Cromwell.

With the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, a new Crown was made. Thought to incorporate fragments of the earlier version, it was modelled on the original as closely as possible.

St Edward’s Crown consists of a gold band decorated with precious stones surrounded by diamonds. Within the band there is an ermine trimmed velvet ‘cap of estate’, once a separate headpiece. From the band extend four crosses patée and four fleurs-de-lys, each adorned with diamonds and other gems.

The crosses support two gold arches decorated with gems and edged with silver pearls. At the point of intersection rises a single cross patée on a mound of gold, both ornamented with gems.

Weighing 2.23 kilograms, the Crown contains some 440 precious and semi-precious stones.

St Edward’s Crown was last used by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 2 June 1953 to crown Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey.

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May 252012

Officially, it’s a Perth Mint coin that doesn’t exist.

We’re talking about a 1918 half sovereign. And yet, here’s an example in our historic coin and medal collection.Bizarrely, several more of these exceptionally scarce gold coins came to light more than 50 years after their supposed manufacture – discovered in a gold bracelet, possibly fabricated in India.

Half sovereigns were made in Perth in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1915, 1919 and 1920 for a total of 735,000. In 1918, according to the Annual Report, Perth made 3,812,884 sovereigns and ‘no’ half sovereigns. So how can the coin’s existence be explained?

Our historic records confirm that the coins were actually made in 1919 and 1920 using 1918 dies.

By this time, of course, the half sovereign was represented locally by the ten shilling note. It’s logical to deduce, therefore, they were made expressly for export.

Interpreting the records as best we can, the coins left for the United States, handled by the Gold Producers Association, a company exempt from international gold trade restrictions imposed during World War I.

Ultimately, it seems, America re-exported the Australian-made coins to India, where the Bombay Mint had recently closed.

Because so much time has elapsed, it’s a remote possibility that anymore 1918 ‘P’ half sovereigns will be discovered. Any that do, of course, will cause an instant numismatic sensation!