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.

Wavy_Baseline_comparison

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

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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.

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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.”

Sep 152011
 

Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies held a keen interest in the introduction of Australia’s decimal currency, symbolised by his monogrammed coin pouch which held prototypes of each Aussie coin introduced in the 1960s.

The coins in his pouch are discoloured at the edges, but remain quite shiny in the centre. Find out more at: Treasure Trove: Menzies’ coin pouch – ABC Canberra – Australian Broadcasting Corporation.