Jun 082012

In the equine world, a mule is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. The term is also used to describe a numismatic mismatch – a coin struck from dies not originally intended for use together.

Australia’s most famous mule is a halfpenny struck in 1916. It is the rarest Commonwealth coin issued for circulation in Australia.

The 1916 mule halfpenny was struck with the reverse die of an Australian 1916 halfpenny and the obverse of an Indian quarter anna.

This rare 1916 mule halfpenny was sold by International Auction Galleries, Queensland on 2 June 2011 for $70,000 plus 16.5% commission. Picture courtesy of International Auction Galleries.

This enigmatic Australian error coin came about following the outbreak of the First World War, when the Royal Mint in London delegated the production of a range of Australian copper and silver coins to its Calcutta branch.

The switch of location was designed to allay concerns that the German Navy was capable of sinking or intercepting maritime deliveries of coinage from Britain to Australia.

Precisely how the error came about is open to debate. The diameter, weight, thickness and composition of the halfpenny and quarter anna are all remarkably similar.

Clearly, at least one Indian obverse die was somehow mixed in with the Australian dies. Alternatively, the use of the Indian obverse anna die might have been intentional, perhaps to cover a very minor short fall in die capacity.

Bill Myatt and Tom Hanley state that “about 250 of these coins are supposed to have been struck at the Calcutta Mint, where all of the Australian bronze of 1916-1918 was produced, some 60 being given away and the rest added to the general Australian issue.”

The number actually known to be in existence today can be counted on the fingers of two hands – no other circulating coin comes even close to it in terms of population rarity.

Remarkably, the first public knowledge of the 1916 mule was on July 8 1965, when Cecil Poole presented the example he found to the July meeting of the Numismatic Society of South Australia.

There is little doubt in my mind that as further research is done in fleshing out the history of this coin, and collectors become more confident in trading them, the 1916 mule halfpenny will continue to set an atmosphere of intrigue, wonder and awe each time an example becomes available to the collector market.

Andrew Crellin’s numismatic career began at The Perth Mint. Subsequently he spent over a decade in Sydney with two of Australia’s leading numismatic dealers. In that time he wrote two acclaimed books on Australian numismatics, appraised The Perth Mint’s archival collection and was nominated to the position of Secretary of the Australasian Numismatic Dealer’s Association. Back in Perth, his company Sterling and Currency specialises in Australian coins and banknotes, from the Holey Dollar of 1813 through to the modern coin sets.


  13 Responses to “When is a coin a mule? When it’s a 1916 halfpenny!”

  1. Are copies of this mule being made or brought into the Australian market?

    • they must be you can buy one being sold as genuine its currently only at $619????????????????

  2. I was very dissapointed to find my 1916 Half Penny was not a Mule Partly to your Excelent discription of this coin,
    Regards Terry Byrne.

  3. i have half penny 1916 1

  4. Hi there I have a good condition 1916 common wealth of Australia one half penny. Name on back is Georgivs v d . G. Britt: omn:rex f. D. Ind: imp:, also a 1922 one half penny with the same name on the back. How much are these worth?

  5. What is a mule and how do you know if it is one?

    • Hi Michael

      As the article states, a mule is a coin struck from dies not originally intended for use together. A good coin collecting guide would help identify whether you have a mule, or you could take it along to a reputable coin dealer for advice.


      Blog Team

  6. What are some of the rarer years, we just pulled out a bunch of old old coins varying from 1911-1943

    • Hi Michael

      Three key dates in the Australian halfpenny series are 1915, 1923 and 1939 (with the kangaroo on the reverse). Most dates in the period you mention probably won’t have a high commercial value unless they’re in excellent (ie close to mint or brand new) condition.

      I’ll be happy to give you an appraisal of your collection myself, but will need to see them in order to do that. You’re welcome to bring them to our office in Fremantle to get that done.

      Please arrange a time with me before doing so, and I’ll block it out in my calendar.

      Alternatively, if you’d like more information on your coins or would like to do some research into them yourself, I’ve written an eBook that lists the values of all Australian coins & banknotes, you might like to consider buying it.

      Information on it can be found here:


      I’ve written it specifically for people that are looking to appraise their own coins themselves – it gets updated as soon as the market changes and I guarantee the figures in it are accurate.

      Don’t hesitate to let me know if you’d like to make an appointment for an appraisal,

      Kind regards

      Andrew Crellin

  7. I also got this coin.i thought it didn’t worth anythink.

  8. I’ve got a 1919 one half penny and 1966 20 cent coin what will i get for those ??


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