Jun 282013
 

Queen Victoria was crowned at Westminster Abbey 175 years ago today.

Intriguing Facts About Queen Victoria’s Coronation

  • Around 400,000 visitors crowded the streets of London to see the new Queen on her Coronation Day – 28 June 1838.
  • Victoria was escorted into Westminster Abbey by Lord Melbourne, the British Prime Minister after whom the Australian city is named.
  • The coronation ceremony lasted five hours and involved Victoria in two changes of dress.
  • The coronation cost less than £80,000, relatively modest compared to George IV’s coronation bill of £240,000 17 years earlier.
  • The magnificent Imperial State Crown, incorporating the Black Prince’s Ruby and a sapphire from the ring of Edward the Confessor, was made for Victoria’s coronation.
  • In an act of kindness, Victoria rose from her Coronation Chair to touch an elderly peer who had fallen on the altar steps while trying to pay her homage.
  • The Coronation Ring, which had been made to fit Victoria’s little finger, was forced on to her fourth finger by the Archbishop of Canterbury, requiring her to bathe her hand in iced water before she could remove it.
  • With little rehearsal, the coronation ceremony was characterised at times by confusion and doubt, nevertheless Victoria described the day as “the proudest of my life”.

State Portrait

Queen_Victoria_Coronation_Silver_CoinThe State Portrait, painted by Sir George Hayter, portrayed the 19 year-old Queen as she was at her Coronation in Westminster Abbey. Shown seated in her Homage Chair, she wears Coronation Robes and the Imperial State Crown and carries the Sceptre with the Cross. Part of this portrait appears on the reverse of our Queen Victoria 175th Anniversary of Coronation 2013 1oz Silver Proof Coin marking this important day in history.

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Jun 272013
 

2013_StockhorseOriginating from the colonial stock which arrived in New South Wales with the First Fleet in 1788, the Australian Stock Horse is bred to endure the harsh conditions of the country’s vast outback. Renowned for its calm temperament, agility, strength and endurance, it has evolved to become both a reliable working and fine performance breed.

Struck from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver, the 2013 Australian Stock Horse coin is issued as Australian legal tender. No more than 10,000 of these coins will be released worldwide, with only 1,000 available in this presentation card for sale within Australia.

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Jun 262013
 

It’s your last chance to acquire the Sydney Cove Medallion 1oz Silver Proof Coin and Wedgwood Plate Set, which is being withdrawn from sale by The Perth Mint on Friday 28 June 2013.

Issued in 2010, the magnificent high relief coin pays tribute to one of Australia’s most famous artefacts – the Sydney Cove Medallion – produced by the world-famous potter Josiah Wedgwood in clay from Sydney Cove in 1789.

Sydney Clay

Soon after the First Fleet disembarked at Sydney Cove in January 1788, Arthur Phillip, the Governor of the new convict settlement, learned that white clay had been “found in great plenty, a few feet below the surface”.

Samples were dispatched to England aboard Fishburn, which returned home in May 1789. Phillip intended the samples for Sir Joseph Banks, botanist aboard James Cook’s 1st voyage, which named Botany Bay in 1770. As the President of the Royal Society, Banks knew Josiah Wedgwood, who had been elected a Fellow of the Society in 1783.

Wedgwood received the samples from his friend, undertaking trials and experiments that confirmed the clay to be “an excellent material for pottery”. As a result, Wedgwood decided to create a limited number of Medallions commemorating the settlement at Sydney Cove.

Josiah Wedgwood

Josiah_Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood – the most influential figure in the history of Western ceramics.

Born in 1730 into a family of Staffordshire potters, Josiah Wedgwood has been described as the most influential figure in the history of Western ceramics.

An innovative designer, Wedgwood experimented with pottery techniques from an early point in his career. After entering into a number of business partnerships, he founded his own company in 1759. Vastly improving the standard of everyday tableware, he began manufacturing many elegant items featuring rich and brilliant glazes.

In 1765 he received an order for a tea and coffee service from Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. As a result of providing this set in his new earthenware body, Wedgwood became ‘Potter to Her Majesty’, and was allowed to name his ware ‘Queen’s Ware’.

In 1768, Wedgwood developed a stoneware body which he called Black Basalt. Inspired by the discovery in Italy of black porcelain dating from pre-Roman Etruscan times, it was another commercial success which he used to produce a more diverse range, including sought-after vases and fashionable ornamental items.

Wedgwood’s most famous innovation, however, was Jasperware. Introduced in the 1770s, the unglazed vitreous stoneware was often coloured blue (although it was also made in several other colours) and decorated with white classical reliefs. Like all Wedgwood’s creations, Jasperware was renowned for its extraordinary quality.

When the ‘Father of English Potters’ died in January 1795, his business was thriving. Among those who benefitted from his considerable fortune was his famous grandson, the naturalist Charles Darwin.

Allegorical Design

The Sydney Cove Medallion’s allegorical design anticipated a positive future for the colony of New South Wales. In full it was entitled Hope encouraging Art and Labour under the influence of Peace to pursue the employments necessary to give security and happiness to the infant colony.

Sydney_Cove_MedallionPrepared by Wedgwood’s resident sculptor, Henry Webber, it depicts four classical figures on the shores of a bay, on which there is a sailing ship. To the left, the female figure Hope stands on a rock before an anchor. She extends her right hand to the female figure of Peace, who has a horn of plenty at her feet and an olive branch in her hand; Art, also a female, who is holding an artist’s palette; and Labour, a male figure, who has a sledgehammer over his shoulder.

Below the figures in raised lettering is the legend ETRURIA 1789. Etruria was the main Wedgwood factory from 1769 to 1950. Named in honour of the ancient Etruscans, whose ceramic art Josiah found so inspirational, its motto read Artes Etruriae Renascuntur – The Arts of Etruria are reborn.

Measuring up to 60mm in diameter, the Sydney Cove Medallion was produced in three distinct colours – pale cream, dark brown and black. Distinguishing the original Medallions from later issues and copies, each one was impressed with the words MADE BY IOSIAH WEDGWOOD OF CLAY FROM SYDNEY COVE. Thus they are the only items made by Wedgwood to bear his name in full.

Wedgwood asked his friend Erasmus Darwin (also grandfather of Charles) to write a poem to accompany the Medallion. Expressing similar hopes for the future of New South Wales, the Visit of Hope to Sydney Cove began:

Where Sydney Cove her lucid Bosom swell,
Courts her young navies, and the storm repels;
High on a rock amid the troubled air
Hope stood sublime, and wav’d her golden hair.

– published in 1789 in The Voyage of Governor Phillip To Botany Bay.

Legacy

The notorious Second Fleet, on which many convicts died, delivered its sick and starving complement into Governor Phillip’s care in June 1790. Brighter news arrived in the form of Wedgwood’s first batch of Sydney Cove Medallions. Delighted, Phillip wrote a letter of thanks to Sir Joseph Banks proclaiming: “Wedgwood has showed the world that our (New South) Welsh clay is capable of receiving an elegant impression.”

Although the exact number of Medallions manufactured in 1789 is unknown, it is unlikely to be more than two dozen. A number of examples have survived in private and museum collections, including the Museum of Sydney, and the Mitchell Library, part of the State Library of New South Wales.

Significantly, the Medallion influenced the design of the first Great Seal of New South Wales. Approved by King George III in August 1790, it showed four similarly arranged figures representing convicts being received by the personification of Industry sitting on a bale of goods. The composition included the motto Sic fortis etruria crevit – So, I think, this is how brave Etruria grew.

Continuing fascination in the Medallion has been reflected in many subsequent re-issues. Notable examples include reproductions for Australia’s 1938 sesquicentenary and 1988 bicentennial. Another special version marking the opening of the Sydney Opera House was made in 1972.

Artistically and historically, the Sydney Cove Medallion of 1789 is one of the most important Wedgwood commemorative pieces.

SydneyCoveSet

Presented with an exclusive fine bone china plate specially made by the Wedgwood company, this rare and beautiful commemorative coin portrays the Sydney Cove Medallion, an extremely significant artefact made by Josiah Wedgwood in 1789 from clay found near Sydney Cove.

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Jun 242013
 

The 1918 Perth half sovereign is truly an enigmatic coin – five decades had passed from the date it was made before Australian collectors were able to even confirm that it existed. From the time the first known example was photographed on page 5 of the April 1967 edition of the Australian Coin Review magazine, the exact number struck has been the subject of conjecture. Just what happened to these tiny gold coins once they left the Perth Mint’s premises has also been a burning question for many decades.

Several Reasons For Uncertainty Over the Mintage

The primary reason many numismatists have questioned the official 1918P_Sovereignmintage figure is the fact that although the Royal Mint prepared half sovereign dies dated 1918 for the Perth Mint, curiously, no half sovereigns were actually struck at the Perth Mint during that calendar year. Further to that, the Perth Mint Die Register shows that the Royal Mint in London prepared half sovereign dies dated 1920 for the Perth Mint, and also that half sovereigns were struck at the Perth Mint in 1919 and 1920.

A small comment in the Pocket Guide to Australian Coins and Banknotes states that “dies dated 1919 and 1920 were prepared”, however the Die Register at the Perth Mint does not confirm this. No half sovereign reverse dies were received at all at the Perth Mint during 1919, the Die Register does not indicate that any 1919-dated half sovereign reverse dies were received at all, even if the Royal Mint did prepare them. The Perth Mint Die Register confirms existing knowledge that 1920-dated half sovereign reverse dies were received at the Perth Mint, although they did not arrive until March 3rd, 1920.

In the normal course of business at any branch of the Royal Mint, such a series of facts would strongly indicate that half sovereigns dated 1920 were struck at the Perth Mint, and that none were struck dated 1918. Today’s collector market of course instinctively knows that this is not the case, and that a different story must apply.

The pressures imposed upon the Perth Mint staff by World War I meant that the standard practice of the Deputy Master personally observing that all dies used were destroyed at the end of the calendar year were not followed to the letter. Correspondence between the Deputy Master of the Perth Mint and the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint in London on May 7th 1920 shows that the half sovereigns struck at the Perth Mint during 1919 and 1920 were actually struck with dies dated 1918. According to Deputy Master Campbell, this unorthodox measure was necessary once “the confusion caused by the war was experienced, and it was realised how serious the cessation of coinage in wartime would be. The half sovereigns in question were coined at the urgent request of the Commonwealth government…”

Further research into the Perth Mint’s archives is required to find out exactly why the Commonwealth Government might have made an “urgent request” for what was a relatively small quantity of half sovereigns.

We can be assured that no half sovereigns dated 1919 or 1920 were struck at the Perth Mint due to a handwritten note attached to the letter from Deputy Master Campbell referred to above: “P.S. Dies telegraphed for in November 1919 were not received until March 1920.” A further letter written by Deputy Master Campbell to Deputy Master Cawston on May 14th 1920 stated that: “I note that the Pyx Jury has expressed an opinion against the continuance of the practice, and I have given orders that in future the defacement of the previous year’s reverse dies must be carried out immediately after the New Year.”

The above statements indicate that unless the Perth Mint half struck half sovereigns between March and December 1920, no half sovereigns dated 1919 or 1920 could ever have been struck at the Perth Mint. The Perth Mint Die Register however shows that each of the then pairs of half sovereign dies used to strike half sovereigns in January 1920 were either cracked or “sunk” (damaged beyond repair by coming into contact with each other) during that production run – no half sovereigns of any date at all are struck after that batch of dies was declared unfit for use by Perth Mint staff. This information should now be conclusive evidence that no half sovereigns dated 1919 or 1920 were ever struck at the Perth Mint.

The Exact Mintage Figure of the 1918 Perth Half Sovereign

The exact mintage figure for the 1918 Perth half sovereign has long been the subject of conjecture, however correct interpretation of archival records at the Perth Mint indicate that the mintage can be calculated as being 219,988 coins:

1919 – 113,572 coins struck (This figure was recorded on page 6 of the Annual Report of the Perth Branch of the Royal Mint for 1919. At this stage, it is known that these coins were struck during December 1919 – the exact dates in December over which this production took place is yet to be determined.)

1920 – 106,416 coins struck (This figure was recorded on page 10 of the Annual Report of the Perth Branch of the Royal Mint for 1920. 40,020 coins were apparently struck on January 21st 1920 and 66,396 coins were struck on January 29th 1920. Despite this, the Die Register shows that these coins were struck between January 17th and January 24th, production ceased when the last dies were rendered unfit for operation.

Total Mintage – 219,988 coins.

What Happened to the 1918 Perth Half Sovereigns Once They Left The Perth Mint?

Experienced collectors of Australian gold coins will be well aware that this figure is far higher than the market rarity of this coin might suggest. Just what happened to the 219,988 half sovereigns struck by the Perth Mint between December 1919 and January 1920 once they left the Perth Mint’s premises is a question that has puzzled collectors for many decades.

It is known that in April and May of 1919 alone, some £2,000,000 in gold sovereigns was exported from Australia to India, as part of a broader policy by the British Government to concentrate gold reserves in London, while at the same time supporting the Indian export trade.

As the 1918 Perth half sovereigns were struck between December 1919 and January 1920, it is clear that they could not possibly have been included as part of that outward consignment of gold coins. It is also known that on March 6th 1919, the Gold Producers’ Association was incorporated with the approval of the Commonwealth Government. This Association was formed to obtain additional revenue for the Australian gold mining industry by selling Australian gold overseas, where they were able to obtain a premium over the amount ordinarily obtained in Australia.

Numerous other exports of Australian gold coins occurred during this period however – just where the 1918 Perth half sovereigns were dispatched to is a question that will surely be satisfied with further research. In the meantime, page 6 of the Royal Mint Annual Report for 1919 states that “A considerable amount of the coin and bullion produced at the Perth Branch has, it is understood, been exported in the interests of the Gold Producers’ Association. This includes the whole of the half-sovereigns produced and the whole of the “Gold Bullion for Export.”

Just whether the Commonwealth Government expressly requested that a certain quantity of gold intended for export should be coined into half sovereigns, as opposed to sovereigns or even small ingots, remains to be determined. If the Commonwealth Government did not make this express request, just why Perth Mint staff chose to prepare that quantity of gold in the form of half sovereigns over the other forms mentioned also remains to be determined.

The answer to these questions may shed further light on why the vast majority of the 1918 Perth half sovereigns have never seen the light of day. Whether they were also shipped to India, and remain to this day deep in the vaults of an Indian temple such as this one at Padmanabhaswamy, or whether they were shipped to Great Britain or the United States with the vast majority melted down as soon as they arrived, we are yet to find out.

What is known is that the first example of this coin made its appearance on page 5 of the April 1967 edition of the Australian Coin Review magazine. Australia’s National Coin Collection, stored at and managed by the Royal Australian Mint, also acquired two examples around September 1967. An examination of the available numismatic auction records from the 1970’s shows that 1918 Perth half sovereigns were very rare indeed until perhaps the mid to late 1970’s. A small article in the Australian Financial Review newspaper dated March 29th 1979 breathlessly discussed the auction of a significant collection of gold coins by Downie’s of Melbourne on March 15th & 16th. The description for lot 678 reads as follows:

“Although a few have been unearthed in the last few years, the total number known probably does not exceed 25. A great rarity and internationally important. A little softly struck on St George knee otherwise good EF.” Much was made in the AFR of the vendor achieving $775 for the sale of this coin, as well as of the “…$2,800 it had cost its owner Bill Johnson when the coin was rare.”

While such a significant percentage drop in value was perhaps newsworthy to a degree, the price realised perhaps was not – various auction results for this coin between 1975 and 1981 indicate that it had traded at anywhere between $445 and $1,600. Although significantly lower than $2,800, $775 sits comfortably within that range.

Despite and perhaps because of the unanswered questions surrounding it, the 1918 Perth half sovereign remains a fascinating, historic and desirable coin. It is sure to remain of interest to Australian coin collectors for many decades to come.

First published by Sterling & Currency

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Jun 192013
 

The following coin releases are now sold out at The Perth Mint.

1st-banknote-thmb 100th Anniversary of Australia’s First Banknote 1oz Silver Proof Coin and Stamp Set
Maximum Mintage: 3,000 sold out
Kangaroo_map-shaped Australian Map Shaped Coin Series – Kangaroo 2013 1oz Silver Coin
Maximum Mintage: 6,000 sold out

 

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Jun 172013
 

Doctor Who fans are familiar with the shocked cry “it’s bigger on the inside!”

That’s because the TARDIS, Doctor Who’s time-travelling space ship, is ‘dimensionally transcendental’ – meaning its exterior and interior exist in separate dimensions. This extraordinary juxtaposition means countless rooms and corridors (even a swimming pool!) are to be found within its compact external form.

TARDIS

The TARDIS (Image courtesy of BBC)

An acronym for ‘Time And Relative Dimension In Space’, the TARDIS was originally envisaged as an invisible machine covered in light-resistant paint. As we know, it eventually took shape as a police telephone box – a familiar sight in London in 1963 when the first episode of the landmark sci-fi adventure took place.

The fact that the TARDIS has remained as a blue telephone box ever since is down to its jammed ‘chameleon circuit’. Under normal circumstances, this would allow the TARDIS to blend with any environment in the universe by changing its appearance to a more appropriate guise.

TARDIS_inside

The TARDIS interior (Image courtesy of BBC)

The ‘fault’, however, soon saw it became one of the show’s most consistent visual elements. Its enduring appeal is conjured by the mix of its old-fashioned facade, futuristic capabilities and life-saving role as a sanctuary from danger for the Doctor and his young companions as they fight evil aliens.

Still fascinating 50 years after its conception, the TARDIS can fly conventionally, but can also travel by dematerialising at one point in space or time and rematerialising at another. It does so to an accompanying sound effect – a cyclic wheezing, groaning noise – representing another signature moment in the much-loved show.

The unmistakable noise was originally created in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by Brian Hodgson, who ran the back door key to his mother’s house along a bass string of a gutted piano, then electronically treating the recording!  (Hodgson was also responsible for the chilling voices associated with the Doctor’s nemesis – the Daleks).

Doctor-Who-Tardis-CoinCurrently, the TARDIS can be seen hurtling through space in a spectacular title sequence featuring the show’s electronic theme tune, a piece considered to be years ahead of it time when it was originally recorded 50 years ago. One of the most distinctive and easily recognised of all TV themes, it boasts an Australian connection having been written by Ron Grainer, the Queensland-born composer of film and television music.

The TARDIS is now celebrated on this stunning 1oz silver coin made by The Perth Mint to mark Doctor Who’s half century. Subject to a limited mintage of just 10,000, it comes in a special presentation case in the shape of the Doctor’s iconic space-time machine. The thrill of opening the doors to reveal the coin is heightened further by the playing of the unique sound-effect of the TARDIS from within.

A stunning tribiute to TV's longest-running sci-fi show, this silver coin portraying the TARDIS comes in extraordinary presentation packaging.

A stunning tribute to TV’s longest-running sci-fi show, this silver coin portraying the TARDIS comes in extraordinary presentation packaging.

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