Jul 232015
 

For such a young nation, Australia is responsible for some seriously sought-after coins. The 1813 holey dollar & dump and the 1930 penny are two of our most desirable rarities. With an equally illustrious status in Australian numismatics, the 1920 Sydney sovereign is another legendary collectable.

Portraying Pistrucci’s famous St George design with a ‘S’ mintmark in the exergue (above the year-date), only three examples of the 1920 Sydney sovereign are known to exist in private hands. It’s Australia’s rarest collectable gold coin and, unsurprisingly, commands a price tag to suit!

£650,000 was needed to secure one of these elusive treasures when it came to auction in London in 2012. A new world-record price for any Australian or Commonwealth coin, the A$1million sum procured it on behalf of a determined Australian collector.

It’s a pure pleasure to gaze upon the 1920 Sydney sovereign in these exquisite images courtesy of rare coin dealer Jaggard’s. In providing one of just three possible opportunities to achieve a complete series of sovereigns made at Australia’s mints between 1855 and 1931, its significance cannot possibly be overstated.

Credit: Images courtesy of © Jaggard’s.

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Jul 022015
 

Target shooting is one of the oldest organised sports in Australia with records showing that musketry was practiced from the very earliest days of colonization.

When Britain entered the Crimean War in 1854, settlers grew apprehensive that regular troops would be withdrawn. Later that year, some of the colonies authorized local volunteer corps, while informal rifle clubs were also initiated around this time.

In 1860 the first official rifle associations were formed in New South Wales and Victoria, quickly followed by South Australia and Queensland.

In the West, club shooting activities had been conducted from the 1850s, notably in the Goldfields and south-western timber region where target competitions became an important means of socializing for itinerant workers.

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From The Perth Mint archive: example of the National Rifle Association of Western Australia competition medal, circa 1935.

Amid general concern about the readiness of Western Australia to defend itself, Premier John Forrest convinced the Department of Defence of the need to establish a basic defence strategy involving civilian rifle clubs working with the volunteers.

The National Rifle Association of Western Australia was eventually formed in 1901, holding its inaugural meeting on the 12th July that year.

The West Australian reported in September 1903 that the new Association’s second prize meeting would take place on the Karrakatta range later that year. “ ‘A’ Series matches were open to (a) Members of the Defence Forces of the British Empire; (b) members of the N.R.A. of Western Australia; (c) members of the Commonwealth Police Force”, it said.

The Association was renamed in 1965 to its current title of the West Australian Rifle Association.

Australian marksmen have forged on outstanding reputation in international competition since Donald MacKintosh’s success in the game shooting event at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games. Among a crop of modern day stars, dual Olympic champion Michael Diamond is one of the best known.

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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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May 272015
 

Many collectors are fascinated by piedforts (pronounced pee-ay-fore), unusually thick and heavy coins that take their name from French words meaning ‘heavy weight’.

French monarchs from the 12th century are known to have bestowed treasured piedforts on visiting dignitaries. At about double the thickness and double the weight, the coins served as powerful physical reminders of the richness of the kingdom and the skill of its artisans.

French coiners also made piedforts as patterns, or trial pieces. This activity began in England under Edward I (r. 1207 – 1307), the patterns’ extraordinary thickness distinguishing them as original test models. Thought to have been made in London by master engravers, they would have been distributed to regional mints common at that time where the design could be copied.

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With its extra thick planchet, a high relief coin from The Perth Mint is reminiscent of a traditional ‘piedfort’.

According to the Royal Mint, a sixpence of 1588 was the last English piedfort under this tradition, although they continued to be made across Europe as prestige pieces until the mid-seventeenth century.

Modern commemorative piedforts are struck for collectors, their extra thickness making them a particularly satisfying keepsake for many of those absorbed by non-circulating legal tenders issues. Interestingly, some dealers refer to Perth Mint ‘high relief’ coins as piedforts because of the extra thick planchet these specialised releases require.

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Apr 242015
 

Perth Mint employees who served during World War I have inspired two current members of staff to create a unique wreath to mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZACs.

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By Tracey Cobby and Debbie Philpot

After many years of researching World War I for the ANZAC Spirit – 100th Anniversary Coin Series we decided to create a personal tribute to commemorate this year’s ANZAC Day. We had both recently rekindled our love of knitting and crochet, and in the spirit of the Australian women who knitted over 1 million pairs of socks for the troops, it seemed fitting that we use this timeless craft to create a special woollen poppy.

Of the 416,000 Australians who served in the War, 22 Mint workers are commemorated on a plaque on the front of the main building. It appeared that our idea of single poppy could grow into a wreath and commemorate not only those 22 men – but all those that served during the 1914-18 conflict. Our one poppy grew to 24 – one each for the men on the plaque – and one each for the both of us, to remember all who served.

We now know that other Mint staff tried to enlist in the A.I.F., but were exempt from joining because they were in reserved occupations. The Mint’s Hugh Annan Corbet was a Major and a Military Censor for the Australian Army Intelligence Corps during this time.

Goss_MillerTwo Mint Clerks – Captain James Miller, 29 (left) and Sergeant Gerald Goss, 32 – were killed in action at Gallipoli. The men enlisted in September 1914 and served with the 16th Battalion, departing from Australia aboard HMAT A40 Ceramic on 22 December that year. They died within days of each other – Goss on 30 April 1915, Miller on 2 May. With no known grave, both men are commemorated at The Lone Pine Memorial situated in the Lone Pine Cemetery on Gallipoli.

A third Mint Clerk, Captain William Bryan of the 44th Australian Infantry Battalion, was killed in action in Belgium in June 1917 aged 36. He is buried in Bethlehem Farm East Cemetery, Messines.

LEST WE FORGET

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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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