May 232017
 

This medallion in The Perth Mint’s historic collection celebrates Earl Grey, who fought hard for the reform of the British House of Commons in the 19th century, paving the way for the form of parliamentary democracy enjoyed in Britain and emulated in nations around the world, including Australia.

Charles Grey is popularly known for the tea named in his honour. Believed to have been introduced to the Whig politician by a Chinese government envoy, ‘Earl Grey’ is a blend of tea flavoured with bergamot oil.

Grey became Prime Minister in 1831 following the resignation of the Duke of Wellington on the question of parliamentary reform. At the time, few people had the vote and rapidly growing industrial towns had little or no representation.

One of the most astonishing inequities was the existence of ‘rotten’ boroughs. Once a flourishing port on the Suffolk coast, Dunwich had long been submerged by the encroaching sea – and yet still returned two Members of Parliament! Another notorious constituency, Old Sarum in Wiltshire, was little more than an uninhabited hill, yet it too returned two MPs.

In the face of strong Tory opposition, the passage of the Reform Bill required all Grey’s determination and guile to ensure that the public’s widespread anger was placated. The Act swept away more than 50 rotten boroughs, created dozens of new constituencies, and increased the number of people eligible to vote. Even though these achievements turned out to be relatively modest, it proved that change was possible, paving the way for further reform in the future.

Grey’s other reforming measures included restrictions on the employment of children, and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. A respected figure, this likeness was created by Birmingham medallist Joseph Davis, who was noted for his reform and anti-slavery medals.

The symbolic composition on the reverse comprises a British lion sejant (on its haunches) with shield; fasces (from a Roman bodyguard’s bundle of rods surrounding an axe); cap of Liberty (an emblem of the French revolution); and the cornucopia (horn of plenty).

Quite how this fascinating medallion ended up in Western Australia remains something of a mystery. The most probable explanation is that it once belonged to A. M. Le Souef, deputy master of the Melbourne Mint. A passionate collector, he donated 36 medals to The Perth Mint in 1926 as the basis of a historic collection which subsequently thrived.

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Feb 272017
 

If you’re interested in pre-decimals, you may have noticed the presence of the letters ‘PL’ on some Australian sixpence, threepence, penny and half-penny coins issued in 1951.

It’s a mintmark associated with the Londinium mint, which stood on Tower Hill during the Roman occupation of Britain. As an officially constituted branch of the Mint of Rome, its coins bore the letters ‘PL’, ‘PLN’, ‘PLO’, or ‘PLON’, likely abbreviations of the Latin words Percussa Londinio – “struck in London”.

So why does it appear on these Australian coins?

PL_penny_

The post-War period was one of significant economic growth and Australian prosperity was reflected in burgeoning demand for coinage. With the Perth and Melbourne Mints working at full capacity, the Royal Mint at Tower Hill was asked to assist with Australian coin production for the first time since World War One. And with the request for additional coins from London, came the revival of the historic Roman mintmark.

A sudden downturn in the economy, however, meant Australian ‘PL’ coinage was only ever produced for 1951. Today, these coins are of interest to collectors: while choice grades are readily available, guide prices for high quality and extremely rare proof versions extend into the thousands of dollars!

Perhaps you’re an unwitting owner of a 1951 PL coin which proclaims its place of manufacture in a manner invented some 1,700 years ago?

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Oct 062016
 

Visitors to The Perth Mint Shop are in for a special numismatic treat over the next few weeks as we showcase a collection of some of Australia’s most desirable rare coins.

Included in the display is an example of the legendary 1930 Penny, Australia’s best-known rare coin; and Type I and Type II versions of the Australia’s first-ever (unofficial) gold coin – the Adelaide Pound.

Australia’s 1930 Penny

Fascination with the 1930 Penny stems from the mystery surrounding its accidental minting. The Melbourne Mint’s records report that the coin was never struck for circulation! It was not until the 1940s that its accidental minting was discovered, with the mintage subsequently estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000.

By the 1960s the public discovery of ‘the coin that never was’ had whipped the nation into a frenzy, capturing the imagination of investors, collectors and the average Joe as they rushed to get their hands on these elusive coins at rapidly escalating prices.

The Adelaide Pound

The Adelaide Pound was conceived and struck by South Australian Government Assay Office in Adelaide in response to the first Australian gold rush. Local men flocked to the goldfields, taking with them almost all the sovereigns in circulation. Ironically, this landmark event in Australian history left the South Australian colony on the cusp of financial ruin!

Early in the production of the Adelaide Pound the die failed. Consequently, the Type I, of which just 30 to 40 are believed to exist, is distinguished by a die-crack on its reverse. Around 25,000 Type II coins were struck with a new die, although it is thought that just 200 of these Type II coins still exist.

Serious Value

So sought-after are these historic numismatic rarities that they’re collectively valued at close to quarter of a million dollars!

Visitors to Perth and local residents are now being encouraged to come and view the remarkable artefacts, which are seldom on the market but currently available for sale.

As part of the same unique display you’ll also be able to view a Queen Victoria 1899 Sovereign, the first sovereign minted at The Perth Mint; another rare Australian copper coin, the King George V 1921 penny; and the renowned Roth Family Holey Dollar, which is on loan from rare coin dealer Sterling & Currency and valued at $225,000.

The numismatic rarities display is free to view at The Perth Mint Shop until 27 November 2016. Anyone interested in purchasing the 1930 Penny or Adelaide Pounds should either talk to our Shop staff, contact the customer service team on 1800 098 817, or email orders@perthmint.com.au.

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Jul 052016
 

Half sovereigns were produced by all three colonial branches of the Royal Mint opened in Australia during the 19th century. The very first issue, dated 1855, and the very last issue, dated 1918, represent two of the most valuable and sought-after gold coins in the history of Australian-made coinage.

In its inaugural year, the Sydney Mint struck just 21,000 half sovereigns. Each coin bore the distinctive ‘colonial’ reverse featuring St Edward’s crown, a laurel wreath and the word AUSTRALIA.

But few of these 1855 Sydney-made coins have survived in good condition, which fuels enormous interest on the rare occasions one comes to market.

By the time half sovereigns were struck in Perth, the Australian branch mints had permission to strike Imperial versions identical to those made in London – with the addition of distinguishing mintmarks.

The ultimate half sovereign year-date is the subject of much investigation. Records suggest The Perth Mint did not strike half sovereigns during 1918, but used dies of that year to strike 113,572 coins in 1919 and a further 106,416 in 1920.

Given 10 shilling notes had recently replaced half sovereigns, it’s likely they were struck for export where the majority was melted down. Evidence of surviving 1918 dates did not come to light until the 1970s and today it is estimated that between 200 and 300 pieces may have escaped destruction.

Australia Half Sovereign 2016 Gold Proof Coin

This modern 22-carat gold tribute embodies the spirit of Australia’s 1855 ‘S’ and 1918 ‘P’ half sovereigns. Struck by The Perth Mint in stunning proof quality to traditional specifications, its reverse combines key historical design elements first seen on Sydney coins of 1855 with a ‘P’ mintmark.

In keeping with the extreme rarity of its historic antecedents, no more than 1,500 of these coins will be released, each in a beautiful timber case befitting its significance as a reflection of Australia’s long association with half sovereign production.

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Jun 142016
 

The Perth Mint is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Dutch sea captain Dirk Hartog’s landing on the west coast of Australia. If you’re at all hazy on the history, here’s why we think it’s such a significant event.

  • Hartog’s landing pre-dated Captain James Cook’s famous exploration of the east coast by more than 150 years.
  • It was the first documented visit by any European in this part of the world.
  • By leaving behind proof of his landing in the shape of an inscribed pewter plate, Hartog created the oldest European object ever found on Australian soil.

Yet the whole remarkable episode was effectively an accident!

Dirk Hartog was skipper of a Dutch East India Company vessel called Eendracht. In 1616, he was sailing for Bantam, a trading city located in western Java.

Traditionally, ships stayed close to the coast in a protracted journey around Africa and India. But a few years earlier, a new route had been pioneered using the ‘Roaring Forties’, strong westerly winds at 40 degrees south, for a much faster passage across the Indian Ocean.

In an age before any reliable calculation of longitude was available, navigators had to estimate where to turn northwards for the run up to Java. Inevitably, some East Indiamen sailed too far and it was only a matter of time before one of them inadvertently ran into ‘Terra Australis Incognita’.

Hartog claimed the honour on 25 October when he anchored at the continent’s most westerly tip – an island that formed part of a large, shallow inlet later named Shark Bay by the English explorer/privateer William Dampier.

Hartog spent two days exploring the area before sailing northwards, charting the coastline which was subsequently referred to as ‘Eendrachtsland’ by the Dutch East India Company.

Before leaving, Hartog left his famed pewter plate inscribed with “1616, on 25 October, arrived the ship the Eendracht of Amsterdam” and names of some of those on board. Originally nailed to an oak post inserted in a crack on Cape Inscription, it’s probable that no one laid eyes on it for another 80 years until the arrival of Willem de Vlamingh.

Hartog_plate

Dirk Hartog’s pewter plate. Image supplied by Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

This Dutch sea-captain, the first European to venture up the Zwaanenrivier (Swan River) past the present day site of Perth, arrived on Dirk Hartog Island early in 1697. During his exploration he found the plate and replaced it with a new one inscribed with the text from the original and details of his own voyage.

By delivering Hartog’s plate to the Dutch authorities in Batavia (Jakarta), de Vlamingh played a crucial role in its safeguarding. A fascinating reminder of the role played by Dutch navigators in the charting of Australia, this astonishing relic is now preserved by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Equally valued in Australia as the oldest physical evidence of European contact with the continent, a replica can be seen at the Western Australian Museum – Shipwreck Galleries, Fremantle.

400th Anniversary Commemoration

Western Australia and the Netherlands will be marking the story of Dirk Hartog at Shark Bay between 21 and 25 October 2016.

DirkHartog_coin-case

Issued by The Perth Mint, the Australian commemorative coin is housed in presentation packaging accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.

As part of the commemorations, copies of Hartog’s plate and the plate that Willem de Vlamingh replaced it with in 1697 will be embedded at the original site where visitors will benefit from new interpretive panels.

Representative of Dutch ships of the era, the Duyfken will also embark on a six-week journey along Western Australia’s coast during which she will be open for public tours.

For details of these events and more, please visit www.sharkbay1616.com.au.

DH-LOGO-DATES

Courtesy of the Shire of Shark Bay

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May 262016
 

Continuing his research into the Western Australian Centenary medal of 1929, Glenn Burghall uncovers the story of a special gold version made for King George V.


Midway through the Western Australian Centenary Year of 1929, the Deputy-Master of the Royal Mint, Perth Branch, Major Hugh Corbet, suggested that a gift of a gold replica of the Centenary Medal should be sent to King George V.

This idea was taken up by the Western Australian Historical Society, which set up a Shilling Fund for the purpose, and sought donations from the descendants of pioneer families. A ‘pioneer family’ was deemed to have been one who had arrived in the Swan River Colony before 1850.

In the following weeks there was a steady flow of small donations, and in the first week of December there was £12/1/ in the fund. Convener Vern Hamersley had concerns that they wouldn’t get much of a medal with that amount. The cost of a W.A. Centenary Medal weighing 2.2 ounces, struck from locally mined and refined gold, was quoted at £11.

On Tuesday 17th of December, 1929, a Vice-President of the W.A. Historical Society, Edith Cowan, performed the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to strike the King’s medal. By this time about £17 had been collected, and local manufacturing jeweller, J.C. Taylor, was given the task of creating an artistic presentation of the medal.

Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Image credit: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

The medal was embedded into a round wooden base made from local timbers, and surrounded by an inscribed circlet of gold which featured cut outs of gum leaves. The message engraved onto the circlet is quite lengthy, and the workmanship is outstanding.

The finished work was put on display in Taylor’s premises in Forrest Place, Perth, in the second week of the New Year, before it was then despatched to King George on January 20.

On April 22 the Governor of W.A., Sir William Campion received a despatch from the Secretary of State for the Dominions (Lord Passfield) acknowledging the King’s appreciation and pleasure at receiving such a beautiful gift and sentiments of affection.

From records held at the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, at the time of sending in her donation Maude Sanderson of Lesmurdie, had concerns that the medal would get lost in amongst the other curiosities she had seen in the corridors of Windsor Castle.

In 2014 the Royal Collection Trust placed an image of the gift in its online catalogue, and even though it is catalogued as “Box and Cover 1929” its historical significance is no less diminished. By publishing the image, concerns that the item had been misplaced, or even worse, damaged in the Windsor Castle fire of 1992, were dispelled.

The gold Centenary Medal is mounted with the obverse showing, which is quite unusual, because the main reason for providing the present was to commemorate Western Australia’s Centenary. The medal cannot be removed from its mounting.
Trust staff were also able to provide an answer to that question, finding on inspection that a bronze Western Australia Centenary 1929 Medal showing the reverse “rampant swan” is embedded on the underneath side of the mounting block.

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