Nov 142014
 

When gold was discovered at Mount Alexander in November 1851, it is estimated that more than 8,000 men decamped from the fledgling city of Adelaide to the goldfields – taking with them most of the colony’s sovereigns.

The Adelaide Assay Office was hastily established under the Bullion Act of 1852 to meet the urgent need for currency in South Australia. At first it made irregularly-shaped ingots, each stamped to indicate its weight and purity, with the idea that they would be taken to one of the banks and offered as security against an issue of currency notes to the value of the gold.

These enigmatic slabs of gold, produced exclusively between March 4th 1852 and late September 1852, are now incredibly rare. Six Adelaide Ingots are in public collections around the world, and the only two in private hands held pride of place in the Quartermaster collection – easily the finest collection of Australian gold coins ever formed. They’re rightly regarded as being integral to the history of Australian numismatics and are highly coveted by collectors the nation over.

But the only real way most mortal collectors will ever be able to include a representative Adelaide Ingot in their collection is via the ownership of an “electrotype”.

What is an electrotype?

An electrotype coin is a reproduction made by a process combining chemicals and electricity. Although electrotypes are not original coins, they are not regarded in the same class as counterfeits, forgeries or replicas. The electrotype process has been used by collectors around the world ever since the process was first invented in 1838 to create examples of rare and historic coins that were otherwise unobtainable.

Not only are electrotypes used to complete a set or collection that would otherwise have a glaring omission, they are also used for study purposes. Experienced collectors of ancient coins have been known to include an electrotype in their collection in order to completely tell the story of the coinage of a particular region or era. Museums have been known to include an electrotype in a display for the same reason, or to minimise the risk of loss in the event of vandalism or theft.

Several numismatists have created legitimate electrotype duplicates of Adelaide Ingots over the years. While these electrotype duplicates are nowhere near as rare as the original ingots, they are still a scarce and desirable collectable that allows a collector to display the story of the early days at the Adelaide Assay Office.

Setting aside some modern reproductions in gold, most Adelaide Ingot electrotypes traded on the collector market are from one of two sources:

Edwin Sawtell

Sawtell was a highly respected “chronometer and nautical instrument maker” who operated several businesses in Adelaide between 1853 and 1889. Reportedly he jointly-owned an Adelaide Ingot with politician Thomas Reynolds and headmaster Thomas Walters, who quite conceivably came together to preserve a unique item of South Australia’s heritage. Today their ingot is held in the Dixson Collection, part of the State Library of New South Wales.

Sawtell_Adelaide-Ingot

Edwin Sawtell electrotype duplicate of an 1852 Adelaide Ingot.

Sawtell’s electrotypes are extremely accurate duplicates, made within 40 years of the ingots being in circulation. They are readily identified by the name ‘SAWTELL’ being punched into one corner of the electrotype, and remain prized by collectors to this day for their rarity and historical importance.

George Wilkins

Wilkins has been described as one of the more “colourful” dealers that were active when coin collecting was at its peak in the mid-1960s. His electrotypes feature a small ‘GW’ within a circle, punched into one corner on the front.

The genuine ingot that Wilkins duplicated has been held by the State Library of NSW in the Dixson collection since 1912, suggesting he either had direct access to items in the Dixson collection, illicit access to the Dixson collection, or produced his electrotypes from an existing electrotype, as produced by Sawtell.

Wilkins_Adelaide-Ingot

George Wilkins electrotype duplicate of an 1852 Adelaide Ingot.

Made in base metal and uniface (blank reverse), they’re somewhat softer in the detail. Comparing one with the level of detail on an electrotype produced by Sawtell, we can also see that sections of the legend are missing. Nevertheless, Wilkins’ versions are highly sought-after.

Electrotypes of the Adelaide Ingots at Auction

Electrotypes of the Adelaide Ingots have been seen at numismatic auctions since at least 1973. In March of that year, auctioneers Geoff K Gray sold two versions from the collection of Gilbert Heyde, former President of the Australian Numismatic Society. Both items made $310 – equivalent to several Kookaburra pattern pennies, and more than a complete set of 1938 proof coins. In more recent years, Adelaide Ingot electrotypes have sold for up to $6,000 via auction.

Each of the Adelaide Ingot electrotypes that are available to collectors today has a unique appeal, depending on the original ingot it was duplicated from, and depending on the producer of the electrotype. They all remain an affordable and accurate representation of one of Australia’s rarest and most historic numismatic items.


Andrew Crellin’s numismatic career began at The Perth Mint. Subsequently he spent over a decade in Sydney with two of Australia’s leading numismatic dealers. In that time he wrote two acclaimed books on Australian numismatics, appraised The Perth Mint’s archival collection and was nominated to the position of Secretary of the Australasian Numismatic Dealer’s Association. Back in Perth, his company Sterling and Currency specialises in Australian coins and banknotes, from the Holey Dollar of 1813 through to the modern coin sets.

POST A COMMENT

Nov 042014
 

Found throughout mainland Australia, Tasmania and southern New Guinea, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey, and with a wingspan of up to 2.7 metres, one of the biggest eagles in the world.

Identified by its long, wedge-shaped tail and feathered legs, the majestic bird is known to soar through the sky for hours on end, frequently reaching altitudes of up to 20,000 metres.

The Perth Mint is proud to issue this beautiful high relief coin featuring John Mercanti’s masterly portrayal of a Wedge-Tailed Eagle preparing to land. Made from 2oz of 99.99% pure gold, the magnificent tribute to Australia’s iconic eagle has a maximum mintage of just 1,000.


Australian Wedge-Tailed Eagle 2014 2oz Gold Proof High Relief Coin

POST A COMMENT

Nov 042014
 

November provides an extraordinary treat for fans of modern Australian numismatics. With special coins celebrating the Year of the Goat, an amazing Wedge-Tailed Eagle high relief gold coin, some wonderful Christmas-themed releases, and much, much more, there’s an outstanding choice available for both collectors and a gift buyers.

See inside this issue for more details of each new release:

POST A COMMENT

Oct 092014
 

If this sovereign could talk, what a story it might tell.

With lineage dating back to King Henry VII, the sovereign was the most important coin in the British Empire and thus the world during much of the nineteenth century.

Symbolising purity, power and prestige, not only did it play an indispensable role in commerce and banking, but was also used as everyday spending money.

1914_SovereignSovereigns were valued at 20 shillings, still a substantial amount of money when this example was made at The Perth Mint in 1914.

Maybe it once belonged to a well-heeled West Australian whose life was on the cusp of being interrupted by war? Could it have been spent by a newly recruited soldier before leaving for the battlefields of Gallipoli and the Western Front? It’s fascinating to speculate.

The grave impact of the First World War sounded the death knell for gold as a circulating medium. In Britain, people were urged to give up their sovereigns to aid the war effort and it disappeared from circulation within a year. Before the conflict was over, Britain ceased production altogether.

Although The Perth Mint continued making sovereigns in Australia until 1931, this date is ranked among the last to be considered a true circulating coin.

Struck from 7.98g of 22-carat gold to the fastidious standards that made it so internationally trustworthy, the coin portrays the iconic Saint George and the Dragon design by Italian-born Benedetto Pistrucci, chief medalist of the Royal Mint.

GeorgeV_effigySignifying its place of manufacture, a symbolic ‘P’ mintmark is engraved above the centre of the year-date.

The obverse bears the effigy of King George V by Melbourne-born sculptor Bertram Mackennal.

Reflecting an important chapter in the history of the sovereign and providing an important link to Australia’s entry into the Great War 100-years ago, an extremely limited number of these superb coins in uncirculated condition are available now.

Buy here while stocks last.

POST A COMMENT

Oct 072014
 

This month sees the launch of some special releases celebrating the 2014 Year of the Goat. These beautiful coins are magnificent collectables, gifts and keepsakes for anyone born under the influence of the lunar goat in 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003 and 2015.

Coloured Gold Coins

Coloured Silver Coins

For the ultimate silver collectable marking the Year of the Goat, this year’s Typeset Collection features Proof, Bullion, Coloured and Gilded coins in one stunning presentation.

This month sees the release of many more exquisite coins catering for a broad range of tastes and interests in the wonderful world of modern numismatics.

Happy collecting!

POST A COMMENT