Today marks the 160th anniversary of the Adelaide Pound, Australia’s first gold coin – and there aren’t many examples better than the one we’ve pictured here.
Strictly speaking it isn’t actually a coin, but a coin-shaped ingot or token guaranteed to be worth one pound.
It came about after an estimated 8,000 men left Adelaide to join the Victorian gold rush – taking with them most of the colony’s sovereigns.
The Adelaide Assay Office was hastily established under the Bullion Act of 1852. At first it made irregularly-shaped ingots, but on 23 September it began production of 22-carat Adelaide Pounds.
Images courtesy of www.sterlingcurrency.com.au – click to magnify.
The initial die cracked almost immediately. This example was made with the second die. Nearly 25,000 Type II Adelaide Pounds were struck, but not many survive today and most that do have been mounted for jewellery.
Unfortunately, by infringing upon the Royal prerogative to coin gold, it was technically illegal. By the time this news reached the colony from Britain, however, production of the Adelaide Pound had already ceased.
Nevertheless, it was the first ‘coin’ produced in Australia from Australian ore with an entirely Australian design. It is hardly surprising surviving examples are keenly sought by enthusiasts the nation over.