Oct 132014

Glenn Burghall delves into the background of one of the most important commemorative medals in the history of Western Australia.

The Western Australian Centenary 1929 medals were struck at the Perth Branch of the Royal Mint, from 1½ inch (38mm) dies produced in England, and from designs also created in England.

The obverse side of the medal showing the crowned bust of the then reigning monarch, King George V., was designed by Sir Bertram Mackennal, an Australian artist resident in England.


Western Australians were familiar with Sir Bertram’s work because he had also been responsible creating the Lord Forrest statue sited at King’s Park, Perth. Mackennal’s initials B.M. appear to the right of centre at the base of the King’s bust. The legend, GEORGIVS V REX ET IND IMP, is quite an unusual choice, and was only used for a very brief time on Canadian coins back in 1911.

The reverse design, by English heraldic artist George Kruger Gray, is that of an energetic and vigorous Black Swan, the bird emblem of Western Australia. This design was selected because it was thought to portray the spirit and character of the State at the time. The design was progressive in appearance, a bold choice with support from Mint officials both here and in London, but it was not without its critics.


Three other reverse designs had also been presented for appraisal, which included another by Kruger Gray, and two by Hugh Paget showing a traditional treatment of a graceful swan on tranquil water. All four of the reverse designs included the State’s motto “Cygnis Insignis” (renowned for its Swans), and the words “Centenary of Western Australia 1929”.

Kruger Gray also designed the crest and coat-of-arms for the University of Western Australia. Kruger Gray’s initials K.G. can be seen to the left of the Swan’s front foot below the fold in the ribbon.

The first medal was struck in an official ceremony on 15th March, 1929, by Lady McMillan, the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor.


Lady McMillan strikes the first Centenary of Western Australia medal.

The next two medals struck were made of silver and were presented to Lady McMillan and Mrs. Ellen Collier, the wife of Premier.

It is reported that the press then began to make bronze medals at a steady rate of 40 per minute. The first medal struck, and two others described as bronze coloured, were then mounted in a piece of polished jarrah by Mint staff, and presented to the Museum of Western Australia.

The first medal struck had a surface analysis performed on it by staff of the University of Melbourne in 2013, and interestingly it was found to contain about 79% copper, 16% zinc and 0.6% nickel.

Melbourne Museum has a Western Australia Centenary medal in its collection which it identifies as being made of tombac, and an analysis of its makeup produced similar results to that of the first medal.

Tombac, or “Dutch Gold”, is a Copper/Zinc alloy with a higher level of Zinc, which was suited for use in medals because of its faux-gold appearance.


Example of a medal struck in tombac.

Most of the common bronze medals sampled have a copper content of around 90%, with zinc around 5-7% and only a trace of nickel.

The medals have a diameter 38mm, and have a thickness of 3.5mm. The weight of the medals vary, but typically the tombac medals weigh around 30 grams; the bronze medals, 32 grams; the silver medals 39 grams; and the gold medals 62 grams.

Click here for Part 2.

About the author: Glenn Burghall has an interest in Western Australian history and actively seeks out stories about the events and personalities from the State’s Centenary year, 1929. Glenn is using current technology and tools to give a modern treatment to items of interest from that significant time in Western Australia’s development. Glenn has assisted the Perth City Council with research into, and presentation of, a Centenary display at Council House, Perth.



  5 Responses to “Western Australian Centenary 1929 Medal (part 1)”

  1. I have a very similar medal which is about 50mm diameter and 4mm thick. On the obverse side has the legend GEORGIVS.V.D.G.BRITT.OMN.REX.ET.IND.IMP

    The other side has the legend CENTENARY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA 1929 around the outside then vertically inside a wreath of wildflowers the words AWARD MEDAL FOR INCREASING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION and a swimming black swan with the words CYGNIS INSIGNIS

    Can anyone provide me with any information on this medal please.

    • Hi Greg

      Any chance you could post images of your medal?


      Blog Team


      The primary producers of Western Australia were asked to mark the Centenary year with record production. A scheme was proposed by the Department of Agriculture to recognise producers who achieved better than average results in their particular field in this significant year in the State’s history.
      This production campaign took in the industries of wheat, wool, dairy, butter, bee-keeping, potato and fruit,. Certificates and medals were awarded to producers who successfully achieved targeted results.
      The awards were graded, with certificates issued for Merit, Distinction and Special Distinction, and the medals in bronze, silver, and possibly one in gold. Producers with Certificates of Merit and Distinction were also issued with bronze medals.

      • how much are these worth i have one and would like to know its in bronze same as first pic at top ofthis page .

  2. Hello Kim,
    Thank you for your enquiry and interest in the WA Centenary 1929 Medal.
    The value of the bronze version of this issue is dependent on its appearance and provenance.
    If there is a story associated with the medal, it will have a greater value. An interesting story that can be verified will increase the medal’s value, even if the medal hasn’t been that well cared for.
    Most of the bronze medals were given away free in a paper sleeve to school aged children. These medals are relatively common, and most have not been well looked after, so those that look the best will have a higher value than those that show signs of wear, or have scratches and dents. Deliberate actions like using cleaning agents on the surface, or drilling a hole into the medal will reduce its value.
    Most of the children’s medals will have an interesting characteristic in the space between the base of the King’s bust and the rim. Unusual variations of this feature could make the medal more valuable.
    You mentioned that your medal looks like the one shown at the top of the article. This medal has a clear and well-defined space between the bust base and the rim. All of the features are well-defined and it is an example of a well-struck medal, although there will be better, and more valuable, examples which will have sharper details, edges and lettering. It is likely that this type of medal was some sort of presentation, award, or was one of the approximately 9000 medals that sold for one shilling each at banks and the Perth Mint. That would make it more valuable than a schoolchild’s medal. Some of the awarded medals will have relevant details engraved on the rim. An inscription on a medal may identify it as being awarded at the Centenary Year Royal Show, thus making it one of less than 100 such medals, and the value placed on it would match its rarity and novelty.
    An equally rare and valuable type of bronze medal, which is often referred to as ‘special’ or ‘platinated’, was distributed to the State’s oldest residents at the time of the Centenary. Of course there are some fascinating stories associated with those medal recipients, but versions of this type of medal also sold for 2s 6d.
    I hope this has been of some help as well as some interest to you.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.