Jul 092015
 

On 1 July 1915, the Commonwealth of Australia officially accepted responsibility from the State Governments for all landfall and coastal lights around Australia.

Lighthouses have played a vital role in coastal navigation and safety since the earliest years of settlement. Within just a few years of the colony’s founding in 1788, convicts built Australia’s first marine light on South Head at the entrance to Sydney Harbour – a simple iron brazier suspended from a tripod.

A few years later, convict architect Francis Greenway designed Australia’s first proper lighthouse for the site. Named after the influential fifth Governor of New South Wales, it was an imposing design known as Macquarie Tower.

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The ‘Macquarie Tower’ Holey Dollar
On 11 July 1816, Governor Lachlan Macquarie placed a prime example of Australia’s first coinage – the Holey Dollar – under the foundation stone of his tower, which was completed two years later. Alas, due to poor quality of the locally mined sandstone from which it was built, Macquarie Tower had to be replaced by a similar lighthouse (above) in 1883. Its untimely demolition revealed the existence of the famous coin, which now reside in the collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour.

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More lighthouses were subsequently built around the Australian coast in direct response to shipwrecks in the treacherous waters of the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea. The King Island coastline in the Bass Strait, for example, claimed at least 60 vessels and 800 lives before the construction of lighthouses during the nineteenth century.

Prior to Federation in 1901, the six Australian colonies were responsible for the design and construction of their own lighthouses. Resulting in a variety of styles built from local materials such as granite, limestone and sandstone as well as concrete, the new Australian nation had a rich heritage of lighthouse architecture by the time the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service took over responsibility for the lights in 1915.

Today, Australia has more than 350 lighthouses along its coastline. On behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority maintains more than 300 operational lighthouses and a further 200 other aids to navigation. In addition, AMSA seeks to preserve historic lighthouses and related marine artefacts for the community’s benefit.

100 Years of Commonwealth Management of Lighthouses – Stamp and Coin Cover

Issued by Australia Post, this superb Stamp and Coin Cover marks the centenary of the Commonwealth’s responsibility for lighthouses. Including an uncirculated Australian $1 coin struck by The Perth Mint, it features four official 70c stamps depicting historic and architecturally diverse Australian lighthouses.

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  • Cape Byron Lighthouse, NSW – constructed in 1901 from concrete blocks; Australia’s most easterly lighthouse and also its most powerful.
  • Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, WA – constructed 1895-1896 from limestone; situated on the most south-westerly point on the mainland.
  • North Reef Lighthouse, QLD – completed 1878 from timber sheathed in galvanised iron; situated on a shifting sand bar.
  • Tasman Island Lighthouse, TAS – built in 1906 from cast iron plates; at 276 metres above high water, one of Australia’s highest lighthouses.

The coin’s reverse depicts a lighthouse set on a rocky cliff with waves lapping beneath it. From the lighthouse, a beam of light shines into the night sky. The design also includes the inscription CENTENARY OF THE AUSTRALIAN LIGHTHOUSE SERVICE and The Perth Mint’s ‘P’ mintmark.

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Jun 252015
 

‘Mule’ is the numismatic term to describe 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 2000, a number of Australian dollar coins were mistakenly struck using a 10 cents obverse (heads) die. The 10 cents is marginally smaller than the dollar, which meant the resulting mule had a heavier than normal rim on the obverse.

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Mule obverse courtesy of Downies.

Error coin collectors soon drove prices up and a scramble to find the rogue pieces ensued, particularly in Perth where many of the dollar/10 cents mules were released. Finds were subsequently reported in other parts of the country too.

Estimates vary considerably as to exactly how many were issued – perhaps 6,000 at most. Although highly unlikely to appear in change anymore, a 2000 mule dollar would make an exceptional find. A decent example could be worth up to several hundred dollars. The very best examples on the other hand have been known to command thousands!

Maybe it’s worth glancing over the next dollar coin you pull out of your pocket or purse?

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Apr 172015
 

John Simpson Kirkpatrick – “the man with the donkey” – is one of the most potent symbols of Australian courage and tenacity on Gallipoli.

Simpson was 22 years-old when he landed at dawn on 25 April 1915 tasked as a stretcher-bearer. With the aid of a donkey brought in to carry water, he transported wounded men day and night from the fighting in Monash Valley to the beach on Anzac Cove.

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Private John Simpson in Shrapnel Gully with a wounded soldier on his donkey. [Australian War Memorial – P09300.001]

On the morning of 19 May, just three and a half weeks after his arrival, he died while moving two injured men and was buried on the beach at Hell Spit.

There had been nothing remarkable to mark Simpson as a likely hero. Remembered as independent, witty and warm-hearted, he was a battler – an average bloke with an itinerant background. That he displayed such remarkable bravery and selflessness has made him an essential element of the Gallipoli legacy.

About John Simpson

  • John Simpson Kirkpatrick was born in 1892 in North-East England, and like his father before him, joined the merchant navy.
  • Jumping ship in Newcastle, NSW in 1910, he worked variously as a cane-cutter, station hand, coalminer, gold prospector and seaman on vessels around the Australian coast.
  • During his time in Australia, John wrote home regularly, sending part of his wages to his mother.
  • He enlisted in the Australian Army at Blackboy Hill Camp, Perth, dropping the name Kirkpatrick to avoid questions about his earlier desertion.
  • Private Simpson expected to be sent to England, but departed from Fremantle on 2 November 1914 aboard HMAT Medic, which joined the main troop convoy from Albany en route to Egypt.
  • Simpson loved animals and once on Gallipoli befriended a donkey often remembered as Duffy, although also known as Abdul or Murphy.
  • In the habit of taking breakfast as he strode up Shrapnel Gully in the morning, Simpson also whistled nonchalantly despite the deadly gunfire.
  • At almost the same spot where Major General Sir William Throsby Bridges, the founder of Duntroon, had been fatally shot a few days before, Simpson was killed by a burst of machine-gun fire that hit him in the back.
  • His dutiful donkey escaped unharmed.

In tribute, Colonel (later General) John Monash, Australia’s greatest commander of the First World War, wrote:

“Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.”

2015 Gallipoli Stamp and Coin Cover

JohnSimpsonPNCThe Perth Mint and Australia Post are pleased to commemorate Private John Simpson and his donkey on this 2015 Gallipoli Stamp and Coin Cover. As well as a $1 Australian aluminium bronze coin bearing a portrayal of the unassuming hero, it features an official Australia Post 70c stamp with a first day of issue postmark imposed on the shape of a medical cross.

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Apr 072015
 

ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia’s most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

This April we salute the courageous young men who fought at Gallipoli in 1915 with a special joint issue in conjunction with Australia Post and New Zealand Post –

Additionally, we’re proud to be releasing a trio of commemorative coins from The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series portraying significant themes from 1915 –

Other stunning new coins this month include:

AprilReleaseDispatch

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Mar 102015
 

In military tradition, the Last Post is the bugle call signalling the end of the military day. Historically, it was part of ‘Tattoo’, thought to have originated with British troops stationed in Holland during the 17th century.

The custom included the First Post which marked the start of evening inspection (beginning at the first sentry post). In between the sounding of First and Last Post, a drum was beaten to call off-duty soldiers in from local hostelries. The word tattoo comes from the Dutch for “turn off the beer taps”.

The Last Post was eventually incorporated into military funerals where it symbolises that the duty of the dead is over and that they can rest in peace. It is an equally important and moving component of commemorative services held each Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day in Australia.

On these occasions the Last Post is followed by a minutes silence, which is broken by another bugle call – either Reveille, or more usually, the Rouse.

Reveille derives from the old French word meaning ‘wake up’ and for hundreds of years has been sounded to awaken soldiers at sunrise. While the Last Post is associated with death, Reveille symbolises resurrection.

A shorter call, the Rouse, was the signal for soldiers to arise and attend to their duties. While the Rouse is most commonly used in conjunction with the Last Post at remembrance services during the daytime, Reveille is the bugle call heard at ANZAC Day dawn services.

2015 Anzac Day $1 Coin in Card

This year’s ANZAC Day $1 uncirculated coin marks 100 years since Gallipoli. Portraying a line of diggers with the inscription Lest We Forget, the coin is housed in a display card illustrated with a silhouetted Australian trumpeter sounding the Last Post and Reveille.

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Mar 052015
 

Rare Perth Mint coins collectively worth a million dollars will be flown from Melbourne and displayed at the Perth coin and banknote show on Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8, 2015, courtesy of Coinworks. Highlight of the display, the unique 1901 Perth Mint Proof Half Sovereign and Proof Sovereign: the pair of coins valued in excess of half a million dollars.

Coinworks managing director Belinda Downie says that ‘Proof’ coins are collector pieces, synonymous with rarity with only a handful ever struck and never intended to be used in every-day use.

But what makes Perth Mint ‘proof’ Gold Sovereigns incredibly rare is that over the years in which the Perth Mint was operating as a gold coin producer (1899 – 1931), the mint only struck ‘proof’ sovereigns in three separate years – 1899, 1901 and 1931.

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Even rarer again, the Perth Mint struck ‘proof’ Gold Half Sovereigns in only two separate years – 1899 and 1901, both of which are unique.

Downie says a single Melbourne investor owns the 1901 Perth Mint Proof Gold Sovereign and the 1901 Perth Mint Proof Gold Half Sovereign.

The pair is unique and was acquired for $450,000 several years ago. Downie is bringing the pair to Perth after the owner agreed to a Coinworks request to display the coins at the show.

But while the Perth Mint commenced striking Australia’s gold coins in 1899, and is still to this day a major gold coin producer, the mint in 1941 diversified its gold coining repertoire, and began striking the nation’s coppers (pennies and halfpennies) at the request of Treasury.

The mint continued to strike copper coins until 1964, two years before Australia converted to decimal currency.

Following the traditions of the Royal Mint London, the Perth Mint struck limited mintage ‘proof’ (presentation) strikings of those coins struck for circulation.

In a tribute to the Perth Mint’s skills Coinworks will also display a selected number of “finest known” Perth Mint rarities out of this “copper coin” era, all of which are limited mintage presentation strikings and which include the 1947 Proof Penny, the 1948 Proof Penny and Proof Halfpenny, the 1950 Proof Penny, the 1952 Proof Penny and the 1953 Proof Penny.

The six proof coins will form part of a dedicated copper coin Perth Mint display prepared by Coinworks, valued in excess of $300,000.

Downie’s comments on the copper coins on display are as follows: “Well preserved proof coins of the Perth Mint are unrivalled for quality. The coins not only display superb levels of detail in their design, but qualities and colours that are simply unmatched by those of the Melbourne Mint. Each coin is a work of art, as individual and as beautiful as an opal. Furthermore they are rare.”

The Perth Mint commenced striking proof coinage as part of a commercial enterprise in 1955 and continued until 1963, before decimal changeover. At the show, Coinworks will display some of the finest examples of coins struck at the Perth Mint between 1955 and 1963, including the very rare 1955 Proof Penny and Halfpenny and the 1956 Proof Penny.

“The proof record pieces of the Perth Mint form an integral part of our currency heritage,” Downie says. “It’s an historical edge and exclusivity that underpins their strong investment performance.”

This article was originally published by Coinworks.

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