Dec 112014
 

Every summer the prospect of prolonged hot and dry weather creates the potential for destructive fires in Australia.

And each year firefighters put their lives on the line to protect people and property from the devastating consequences of fire.

As well as permanent and retained firefighters, there are also thousands of volunteer firemen and women who play a significant and vital role in defending communities all across Australia.

As the nation once again focuses attention on the bushfire season, we’re honoured to share an image of this numismatic tribute to the courage and dedication of Australian firefighters.

Do you know anything about this medallion?

Do you know anything about the medallion?

The medallion’s obverse portrays a fireman from an earlier era carrying a female occupant from a house fire.

Its reverse inscription reveals it was issued by the Australian Assembly of Volunteer Fire Brigade Associations on the occasion of its 1990 National Conference in Adelaide.

Although in the custody of The Perth Mint, we know nothing more about the provenance of this medallion and would be extremely pleased to hear from anyone with any information pertaining to its design and manufacture.

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Oct 152014
 

What happened to all the medals produced in celebration of Western Australia’s Centenary in 1929? Glenn Burghall’s research reveals that they were presented to a broad range of people – from ordinary school children right up to the reigning monarch!


Approximately 85,000 medals were struck at the Perth Branch of the Royal Mint to commemorate the Western Australian Centenary in 1929, and about 85% of these were distributed to the school-aged children of the State.

Centenary-1929-medal_bronze

Bronze medals celebrating the Centenary of Western Australia were presented to more than 70,000 school children in 1929.

Friday 13th September, 1929 was earmarked as the day for local communities to celebrate “Children’s Day”, and with speeches and performances in the morning, followed by sporting carnivals in the afternoon, the format for the day was pretty consistent throughout Western Australia.

In one of the exceptions though, the older students from the hills town of Jarrahdale were able to visit The Perth Mint on that day to see how the medals, that they had received the night before, were made.

The State Government provided one shilling for each child on the school roll to help feed and entertain them. Local community groups raised additional funds to make the day a very exciting and memorable day of celebration for the children which would last long in the participants’ minds.

It was a day to acknowledge the contributions from those people that had built their communities, to reinforce the need for hard work and self-improvement, and to instil a positive outlook for the future prospects of the children, and their State.

When addressing 800 or so children at Busselton, William Mann, M.L.C., said that they should treasure and care for their Centenary medals, and although those present would not see the next centenary, those medals that have been handed down for posterity would have their true value realised.

Each child was presented with a bronze medal in small buff coloured envelope made for the purpose. This envelope was different to envelopes used for the medals that were sold, and on this type of envelope the price of a bronze medal is given as one shilling. Local Roads Boards were able to provide bronze medals to children, too young for school, at the subsidised price of threepence.

Centenary-1929-medal_envelope

About 9,000 bronze medals were sold, either by the Mint, or with the assistance from the Banks, through their extensive state-wide branch network.

For a period, The Perth Mint, at the request of the Government, suspended sales of the bronze medals so as not to devalue their appeal to the children. It was expected that they would not receive their medals until later in the year.

A special type of bronze medal was struck for the oldest residents in the State, and a local daily newspaper published details of those recipients on a regular basis. Another 94 of the special bronze medals in cases were awarded to winners at the Royal Agricultural Society’s Centenary Show.

Just less than 900 silver medals were struck, but only a number around 660 were ever issued. Almost as many were presented as gifts to significant organisations and people outside of Western Australia as were sold within. The cost of each silver medal was seven shillings and sixpence.

Centenary-1929-medal_silver

An example of the Centenary medal struck in silver.

Three gold medals were struck and the whereabouts of two of these medals is known. One gold medal was commissioned by Perth City Council and sent to Perth, Scotland. Another gold medal, struck very late in the Centenary year, for the W.A. Historical Society, was sent to the man depicted on the obverse side of the medal – King George V.

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.

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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.

1929-Centenary-Medal-obverse

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.

1929-Centenary-Medal-reverse

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.

Striking-the-centenary-medal

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.

1929-Centenary-Medal-Tombac

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.

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.

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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!

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Aug 202014
 

Now part of The Perth Mint’s historical collection, this Prize Medal was issued by Australia’s oldest University.

Established in 1850, the University of Sydney was a trailblazer for higher education in colonial Australia.

Sydney University Prize Medal

University of Sydney Prize Medal

With the end of convict transportation to New South Wales in 1840 and the arrival of more and more free-settlers, many felt the need for a local university had become vital.

Influential colonist William Charles Wentworth, for example, believed that a university, secular and open to all, was essential for the growth of a self-governing Australian society. As a result of Wentworth’s efforts, a committee of the Legislative Assembly reported on the best means of instituting and maintaining at public expense a University in Sydney “for the promotion of literature and science”.

In an eloquent parliamentary speech, Wentworth stated his belief that it should enable “the child of every class to become great and useful in the destinies of his country”, and that “it would be the fountain of knowledge at whose springs all might drink, be they Christian, Mahomedan, Jew, or Heathen.”

Operating on the basis of these principles, the University of Sydney broke with the traditions of Britain’s ancient universities by admitting students on academic merit rather than on the basis of religion or social class. In 1881, it also became one of the earliest universities in the world to admit women.

By 1900 the University was developing rapidly as a result of generous public donation and increased government funding. The well-established medallion making service of the Sydney Mint would have been ideal for the production of prize medals formally recognizing academic excellence among its expanding student cohort.

About the Medal

Struck in bronze, the University of Sydney Prize Medal was engraved circa 1900 by Allan Wyon, a member of the celebrated dynasty of British coin and medal makers.

Its obverse portrays the original University crest of 1857 with the Latin motto SIDERE MENS EADEM MVTATO, most commonly translated as “the constellation is changed, the disposition is the same”.

Uninscribed, its reverse features an open olive wreath and the words PRIZE MEDAL.

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Jul 132014
 

One of the beauties of coins and medallions is their ability to preserve fascinating moments in history forever and this one held in the Perth Mint’s historical collection is a prime example. It celebrates the investiture of 17 year-old Edward as Prince of Wales on 13 July 1911.

1911_POW_investiture_medal
Since 1301, when King Edward I of England imposed his infant son on the Welsh as their new prince, the title ‘Prince of Wales’ has been given to the eldest son of the British monarch. The location for the investiture of the 19th Prince of Wales in 1911 was Caernarfon Castle, one of Edward I’s ‘iron ring’ of fortresses built to secure his annexation of Welsh territory 600 years earlier.

The investiture ceremony itself (watch British Pathé footage here) was without precedent. The young Prince was the first to address the Welsh people in their native tongue and among those to pay their respects that day was a group of Druids.

As we know, Edward was never crowned King. His reign lasted only 325 days. But the “wild enthusiasm” of the huge crowd that gathered outside the castle walls on that perfect summer’s day offered no portents of the later crisis.

For the medallion, prolific Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John portrayed the Prince three-quarters left in his investiture robes with a coronet. The bust is surrounded by the inscription ‘Investiture of Edward Prince of Wales’.

The words are repeated in Welsh on the other side around a rugged depiction of the castle walls. Reflecting the warm conditions, strong beams of sunlight are seen in the background. Other design details include the Prince’s plumes and the Welsh dragon.

Less than 5,500 of these historically important medallions were made in London from silver and a very rare 129 gold versions are also reported to have been created.

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