Just 18 years old, the colony of South Australia fabricated Australia’s first gold coin on this day in 1852.
Strictly speaking it isn’t a coin, but a coin-shaped ingot or token guaranteed by the colony 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 city’s sovereigns. As the first successful miners began to return with their finds, a means of turning it into coins was quickly required
With the local economy on the brink, the Adelaide Assay Office was hastily established under the Legislative Council’s 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. No example of the type one is known today without some evidence of the die crack. The example pictured was made with the second die cut by local die sinker Joshua Payne. Nearly 25,000 of these ‘coins’ were struck, but not many survive today and most that do have been mounted for jewellery.
The reverse portrays a crown and the year-date 1852 inside a dentilated inner circle with an inscription around the outer circle. Fleur de lis are positioned either side of the word ADELAIDE.
Unfortunately, by infringing upon the Royal prerogative to coin gold, the Adelaide Pound was technically illegal. Its creators felt the time involved in gaining permission from London to establish a mint was too great a risk to the economy. By the time approval was received, production of the Adelaide Pound had ceased anyway thanks to a shipment of sovereigns.
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.