The Perth Mint had been working with silver ever since it first started to produce sovereigns in 1899. Silver is a by-product of the gold refining process and the Mint made silver ingots which it shipped to various parts of the Empire.
Surprisingly, perhaps, it was not until 1946 that Perth produced its first silver coin.
The story goes back to 1942 when the Commonwealth Treasury expressed concern that as World War II progressed it may become necessary for Perth to produce silver coins. The Deputy Master responded that he would do whatever was needed for the war effort, but pointed out that the Mint was working to capacity producing bronze coins, and the Treasury would have to decide what was more important.
Despite the fact that the ledgers show it was minted in 1946, 1947, and 1949, the Perth shilling was only dated 1946.
The reverse bore the celebrated Merino ‘ram’s head’ design by George Kruger Gray, while the obverse featured the Thomas Humphrey Paget effigy of King George VI.
Made from a new alloy, the 1946 shilling was particularly frustrating to work with as it would not cool properly, resulting in many rejections. Prior to 1946, shillings were made from 92.5% silver, which made them worth more than their face value by the mide-1940s.
Much the same as the sovereign before it, the shilling was being collected and melted down for its metal value. In 1946 the Federal Government reduced the coin’s silver content to 50% to curtail this practice.
Despite the problems, The Perth Mint produced a total of 1,316,000 shillings (more than 10 million were also produced in Melbourne). It remained the only pre-decimal silver coin ever made in Perth.
So how do you know if you own the scarcer Perth Mint variety?
It has been said that Perth had a passion for an identifying mark on its output – most notably the ‘P’ mintmark on its millions of sovereigns.
So when the dies for the 1946 shilling arrived from Melbourne, a small addition to the reverse was added in the shape of a dot in front of the ‘S’ of shilling.
Depending on condition, of course, you could now be looking at a nice return from The Perth Mint’s first ever silver coin!