Jan 052016

On Valentine’s Day 1966, Australia introduced decimal currency.

A public information blitz had prepared people extremely well, and the changeover from pounds shillings and pence went remarkably smoothly.

For some the look and feel of the new decimal currency took a little getting used to. “The most common comment was that the notes looked like money used in the game Monopoly,” reported the Canberra Times.

“The coins are beautiful but the notes are shocking,” a voice had been heard exclaiming.

The original decimal paper notes have long since been replaced by polymer notes. But if you check your change there’s still a chance you’ll find a coin dating back to the 1960s.

Six artists had been chosen to submit designs for the decimal coins by way of a limited competition. The winner was Geelong-born designer and sculptor Stuart Devlin whose heralded designs featured Australian fauna.

The following British Pathé newsreel shows Stuart Devlin making animal sketches and inspecting his coin ‘plasters’ for Australia’s new decimal coins in 1964.

SpacerPerth Mint Starts Decimal Production

A new mint in Canberra was specially commissioned to make the decimal coinage, but it didn’t open until 1965. To ensure the massive number of new coins required was made on time, the Royal Mint’s Perth and Melbourne branches were enlisted early to begin production of the two lowest denominations.

In fact, The Perth Mint’s contribution to decimal coinage lasted 20 years. Between 1964 and 1984 it churned out a massive 829 million 2 cents coins along with 26 million 1 cent coins.

Production of Australian decimal 1 and 2 cents coins ceased completely in 1990 and they were withdrawn from circulation from February 1992.

50th Anniversary of Australian Decimal Currency
2016 1oz Silver Proof Two-Coin Set

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of decimalisation, The Perth Mint is delighted to reveal that it has been authorised to revive Stuart Devlin’s feathertail glider and frill-necked lizard designs in silver for a special 50th anniversary of decimalisation set.

50thAnn-AustralianDecimalCurrency-1Cent-Silver-ProofAbout 7.5cm in body length, the feathertail glider is Australia’s smallest possum. Like other gliding possums (or flying squirrels), it has webs of skin between its hands and feet, enabling it to ‘glide’. A nocturnal marsupial that carries its young in a pouch, the feathertail glider lives in trees in Australia’s eastern coastal region. During aerial descents, it uses its feather-like tail as a rudder.


50thAnn-AustralianDecimalCurrency-2Cent-Silver-Proof-About 75cm long, of which more than half is its tail, the frill-necked lizard lives in northern parts of Australia. It has a large frill around its neck which usually remains folded back on its shoulders when resting or running. When the lizard is cornered or angered, however, it raises its body, gapes its mouth open and unfurls its frill before bolting as fast as it can away from a predator.


Issued as Australian legal tender, each coin is struck from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver. The reverse of both coins includes the initials ‘SD’, as well as The Perth Mint’s ‘P’ mintmark.

Includes original 1 cent and 2 cents copper coins

The coins are housed in a two-coin display case which also includes a pouch containing an original 1 cent and 2 cents coin.

No more than 2,000 of these evocative sets will be released.


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.

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.


Dec 162014

The launch of the Commonwealth’s own silver coins in 1910 and first bronze coins in 1911 were key events in the history of modern Australia.

A few years after their introduction, the young nation faced its biggest challenge to that point – a world war of unimaginable carnage and horror.

Drawing together these important themes, this superb pre-decimal coin pack offers collectors an example of all six Commonwealth coins featuring year-dates between the fateful years of 1914 and 1918.

The First World War Australian Coinage Pack 1914-1918 comprises the following coins:

  • Threepence: 92.5% Silver, 7.5% Copper
  • Sixpence: 92.5% Silver, 7.5% Copper
  • Shilling: 92.5% Silver, 7.5% Copper
  • Florin: 92.5% Silver, 7.5% Copper
  • Halfpenny: 97% Copper, 2.5% Zinc, 0.5% Tin
  • Penny: 97% Copper, 2.5% Zinc, 0.5% Tin

The six coins are housed in a detailed A5-sized display folder which provides information, facts and figures about Australia’s involvement in World War I, as well as original wartime imagery.

For further details about this impressive release, please click here.


Apr 152014

WavyBaseline20cThe 1966 wavy baseline 20 cent coin is counted among Australia’s rarest decimal coins issued for circulation. Although 58.2 million 20 cent coins were struck dated 1966, very, very few of these feature what collector’s describe as a ‘wavy baseline’.

The way to identify the wavy baseline 20 cent coin is to look at the bottom section of the “2” on the tails side. The top and bottom edges of the base of the “2” on all standard 20 cent coins are straight, while on the 1966 wavy baseline 20 cent coin, the upper edge of the base of the “2” has an obvious wave to it.

This seemingly minor, yet quite distinct difference really sets this coin aside from all of the other coins injected into the Australian economy following the introduction of decimal currency on February 14th, 1966. Well-circulated coins dated 1966 can still be found in change nearly half a century later, whereas the 1966 20 cent with the wavy baseline is very seldom seen in any condition at numismatic auctions.


Coins relating to the introduction of decimal currency are hugely popular with the general public – scores of the round 50 cent coins have been hoarded, many thousands of proof and mint sets from 1966 were sold also. Very few collectors will have such an exclusive and intriguing memento relating to the introduction of decimal currency as this however.

Just what the cause of this design difference is not yet clear – debate is still underway as to whether the wave is due to one or two dies being engraved slightly differently to all others, or whether another explanation might be appropriate.

It is interesting to note online discussions of a design anomaly on several coins in the USA that may or may not be relevant to the 1966 wavy baseline – those coins are known as having “wavy steps” or “trails”.

US numismatists that have studied these coins in great detail advise that such errors come about when dies are being created:

“When a blank, conical die is placed in the hubbing press a huge amount of pressure is applied to it. This effectively transfers the image that is on the hub (either master hub or working hub), through compression, to the die. Without atypical conditions occurring horizontal movement between the hub and the die is not produced and the result is a normal image being transferred to the die. However, at times faults do occur and the results lead to an imperfect image transfer.”

The trail die and wavy step errors seen on US coins are far, far less obvious than the wavy baseline seen on the 1966 20 cent, so this explanation may well be a red herring. Regardless, I expect that there will be a lot more investigation in the coming months into the technical cause of the design difference on this exclusive and fascinating memento from the heady days of the introduction of decimal currency to Australia.

First published by Sterling & Currency
For sale: TWENTY CENT 1966 Wavy Baseline Choice Unc


Jan 032013

Happy New Year and welcome to our first new coin release of 2013. Inside the catalogue you’ll find a sumptuous choice of sparkling new coins featuring a diverse range of themes for all tastes.

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Purchase these new releases on our website.


Oct 312011

H.M. Queen Elizabeth II’s forthcoming Diamond Jubilee makes it a fitting time to recall the four Royal effigies to have graced Australian coinage over the past 60 years.  This article first appeared 9 years ago in ‘The Australian Numismatic Post’ (October 2002):

“All four effigies of The Queen to have appeared on Australian coins depict Her Majesty facing right.  According to Britain’s Royal Mint, a convention dating back to the seventeenth century dictates that successive monarchs face in alternative directions on their coinage.

While the switch from the left-facing King George VI to the right-facing Elizabeth II was expected, Mary Gillick’s 1952 effigy of The Queen clearly took a new approach.  Nottingham-born Gillick beat off competition from 16 other artists with her delicate design depicting the head and shoulders of the young, uncrowned monarch.

The Melbourne Mint considered the effigy “very beautiful, but rather difficult to do.”  Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Treasury complained: “Seeing that the effigy of the late King George VI is quite clear cut, we do not understand why the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II should not be equally clear.”

The Gillick effigy (left) and Machin’s ‘decimal’ portrait of Her Majesty.

In its response from London, The Royal Mint underlined the fact that Gillick’s treatment represented a “deliberate departure” from tradition.  Despite the controversy it stirred at the time, the delightful image of the young Queen remains a favourite for many.  It featured on Australian coins until decimalisation in 1966 when the Arnold Machin portrait was introduced (thereby pre-dating its adoption by British coins by two years).

Stoke-born Machin is justly famous for another portrait of The Queen, which featured on British stamps from 1967.  It has been described as the most reproduced portrait of all time – literally, there have been billions.  Earlier, in 1964, he had been chosen to design a new effigy for The Royal Mint – remarkably, his first numismatic project.

For his ‘decimal’ portrait, Machin was granted four sittings at Buckingham Palace and Balmoral.  The work depicts a young but regal Queen, wearing a diamond tiara.  When The Royal Mint unveiled the new coinage, numismatist and author H.W.A. Linecar wrote that it “adhered to the last vestige of tradition”.

The Maklouf design (left) was replaced by Rank-Broadley’s effigy of The Queen in 1998.

The third portrait was by Raphael Maklouf, whose design shows The Queen with the Royal Diadem, which she wears on her way to and from the State Opening of Parliament. Jerusalem-born Maklouf, like Machin, was an accomplished sculptor when he tackled his first coin design.

It has been said that the resulting image, which first appeared on coins in 1985, depicts Her Majesty somewhat younger than her then 58 years.  But it was Maklouf’s avowed intention to produce a “regal and ageless” symbol.

The fourth effigy, by Ian Rank-Broadley, first appeared on Australian coins in 1998.  The design, selected from 19 entries submitted by 10 artists, again features The Queen wearing the tiara given to her as a wedding present by her grandparents.  But the British designer noted, that as well as being Head of State, she was also a real person.

“There is no need to flatter her.  She’s a 70-year old woman with poise and bearing,” he told the Times newspaper.  “One doesn’t need to see a rather distant mask.”

Rank-Broadley’s “strong and realistic” portrait would probably have pleased numismatic conservatives of the earlier era.  In many ways, it completes the gradual return to traditional design following Gillick’s bold experiment fifty years ago.”