Mar 282014

Graded by NGC, the Benchmark Collection stands as the most significant set of Australian pre-decimal coinage ever assembled.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) has certified the superb Benchmark Collection, a complete set of Australian pre-decimal coins. The collection includes a number of finest known examples and important rarities as well as several previously undocumented varieties.

The Benchmark Collection stands as the most significant set of Australian pre-decimal coinage ever assembled. Mark Duff of Strand Coins in Sydney, Australia, carefully compiled the collection over a period of 25 years, drawing coins from many of the most important collections of Australian coins.

“NGC had previously graded a number of my clients’ most important and valuable Australian coins and I have long been impressed by their accuracy and consistency, and their enthusiasm to expand the knowledge of this series,” says Duff. “NGC was the only choice to certify the Benchmark Collection.”


1916M sixpence – NGC MS68

Among the many highlights of the Benchmark Collection is the 1916M sixpence graded NGC MS 68. The finest NGC-certified Australian sixpence of any date, this impeccable specimen traces its pedigree to the important Parkhill Collection.

Remarkably, the sixpence series also includes three examples graded NGC MS 67: the 1917M, the 1934 and the 1936. All three specimens are the finest known of their date.

The Benchmark Collection’s run of florins is similarly notable for its quality. The 1914H and 1915 florins, both graded NGC MS 65, are the only Mint State examples of their dates to be certified by NGC. The 1915H in NGC MS 67 is the finest certified by four grade points, while the 1923 in NGC MS 67 is the finest certified by three grade points.

Other significant florins in the Benchmark Collection include the 1911, 1912 and the ex-Parkhill 1919—all graded NGC MS 65 and either the highest graded or tied for the highest graded. The 1934-35 Victoria & Melbourne Centenary florin graded NGC MS 65 is also noteworthy for its superior details.

The shillings are led by the 1915H in NGC MS 65, which exceeds the second-highest certified example by a full six grade levels. It is considered to be the most challenging issue in the Australian pre-decimal series.

The core of the shilling set was originally sourced from the famous Jerome Remick Collection but only the 1911 (NGC MS 65), 1914 (NGC MS 65), 1918 (NGC MS 66), 1922 (NGC MS 66) and 1933 (NGC MS 63) shillings from that set remain. The Benchmark Collection 1912 shilling in NGC MS 65, the 1926 shilling in NGC MS 65 and the 1927 shilling in NGC MS 66 are also worthy of mention.

The Benchmark Collection identifies several previously unknown varieties, including two distinct types of 1939 Kangaroo Reverse halfpenny: one with a double foot in the Y in HALFPENNY, the other with a single foot. The double foot variant is the rarer of the two and is represented in the Benchmark Collection by an NGC MS 65 BN example. Tied for finest certified for the date, this attractive specimen was once owned by Reserve Bank Governor H.C. Coombs.

The collection also includes the enigmatic 1916I Mule Halfpenny, which features a 1916-dated Australian halfpenny reverse muled with the obverse of an India ¼ anna. Approximately 10 examples are believed to have survived and the famous “Koschade specimen” in the Benchmark Collection is only the second example to be certified by NGC. It is graded NGC AU Details.

Also of note is the 1923 halfpenny graded NGC MS 62 BN, which is the only Mint State example of this date to be certified by NGC.

The penny set is anchored by two varieties of the famous 1930 penny, both graded NGC XF 45. The first variety features the so-called “London die” obverse and is known by just three examples. Another key date, the 1925 penny, is the highest graded at NGC MS 65 BN.

The Benchmark Collection features the rare 1946 penny with the distinctive “K.G.” initials, which is thought to be an experimental strike from the Melbourne Mint on dies that were prepared for but never sent to the Perth Mint. The lone NGC-certified example of this issue, it is graded NGC MS 64 RB.

After certification by NGC, Duff created NGC Registry sets to showcase the Benchmark Collection. “The online NGC Registry allowed me to share these incredible coins with numismatists around the world,” says Duff.

“The Benchmark Collection is unparalleled in its scope and boasts many outstanding Australian rarities,” says NGC Vice President Ken Krah. “We are very pleased that Mr. Duff chose NGC to certify this fantastic set.”

“These coins represent such an important period of Australian coinage history,” adds Jay Turner, NGC Finalizer. “It was great to see that history in one complete set.”

An online image gallery of the Benchmark Collection is posted to the NGC website under the Galleries section. To view the NGC Registry sets of the Benchmark Collection, click here.

Credit: This article originally appeared on the NGC website.


Jul 042013

The 1954 Royal Visit commemorative florin marked Queen Elizabeth II’s first tour of Australia which was characterised by huge, adoring crowds wherever she went. Four million of these coins were issued, becoming proud possessions in many Australian households.

Featuring a lion and a kangaroo standing side-by-side, the design symbolised Anglo-Australian solidarity. It was prepared by Sydney-born sculptor William Leslie Bowles, who studied at London’s Royal Academy and served with the Royal Tank Corps during World War I before returning home to work at the Australian War Memorial. Well-known pieces by Bowles include The man with the donkey, a tribute to Private Simpson’s courage at Gallipoli, and the Sir John Monash memorial in Melbourne.

The Queen set foot on Australian soil for the first time on 3 February 1954. Sadly, Bowles died a few weeks later and would never have known exactly how sought-after his commemorative design became.


The Perth Mint is proud to hold an example of 1954 Royal Visit florin in its historic collection, and is currently offering you the chance to add this distinctive Australian pre-decimal to yours. Making an eye-catching display, the coin is housed on a delightfully illustrated presentation card portraying a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in Australia.


May 162013

Share_Your_StoryIt’s great to hear from a young coin collector who really knows his onions. A follower of The Perth Mint on Twitter, @Sharpy96 (aka Daniel) tells us that he’s aiming for the ultimate prize in Australian numismatics – a 1930 penny! There’s no doubting his determination to build a broad-based collection, as he reveals in this terrific reply to our invitation to Write for Us.

“When I tell my friends that I collect coins they all say one thing, what is the point in buying a coin that has a face value of $1.00. But what they refuse to understand is that there is a collectible market for them and they are not just your usual everyday coins.

After showing them some of the magic that the Royal Australian Mint and the Perth Mint has created, they have started to realize the true beauty that was behind the coins and the reason that I spend whatever money I have on enlarging my collection with one goal I’m mind – to eventually get a 1930 Penny, the crown jewel out of all Australian coins.

When I was eight years old I started to get interested in coins. My dad had a few sets including the 1991 Proof Set and the 1991 Masterpieces In Silver, and when I started to see the shininess of the proof coins I started to act like a magpie. I was attracted to the lustre, but not the true art that was pressed into the coin. As I got older I started to see that there was an art to creating such a perfect coin.

In 2009 I really got interested in collecting and that’s where my hobby really kicked off. I started saving up and buying 1oz silver proofs and a couple of uncirculated coins and now four years on I’m still enlarging my collection at the age of 16.


Daniel nominated this 1996 Australian Kookaburra as one of his favourite Perth Mint coins.

I also recently got introduced to professionally graded pre-decimal coins which although expensive are truly magnificent, and I recently started a collection of Florins which will take me a fair amount of time to complete. But I know that the end result will end in satisfaction and I will have a piece of history which will last me a lifetime.

As I have gotten older I have started to not only think of them as a collectible items but as pieces of history, knowing that some of my coins which have a very limited mintage may never be on the market again for me to try to collect.

And for pre-decimal coins, due to time and age damaging the precious coins that once would have been the necessary coins for a family to get food onto the table for their family, they start to become harder and harder to collect in high grades.

My number one piece of advice for young collectors would have to be don’t give up; other people may think you’re silly for buying some old coins but really you’re buying a piece of history that they will never see and will never know existed. So go out there and have a great time collecting your own unique collection.”


May 012013

The period 1940 – 1968 is considered by historians to be one of the most important eras in the annals of The Perth Mint.

The production of gold sovereigns and half sovereigns ground to a halt in 1931 after 32 years of continuous production. While refinery operations continued unabated, the Mint endured a nine-year period of zero coin production.

The onset of war, however, created a window of opportunity and in 1940 The Perth Mint began striking Australia’s circulating copper coins for the Commonwealth Government.

In accordance with minting traditions, The Perth Mint struck proof record pieces of those coins being made for circulation. Some of the coins were archived. A few were gifted to prominent Australian and overseas institutions – the Royal Mint, the British Museum, and the Australian War Memorial are noted as receiving Perth proofs.

Extremely rare halfpenny

Very limited production means Perth Mint copper proofs are now astonishingly rare. The 1952 proof halfpenny is one of the very rarest – only six have been sighted on the open market over the last 40 years!

1952ProofHalfPennyPicture courtesy of Coinworks

That’s why we were fascinated to hear the news that a Melbourne-based rare coin specialist had recently sold the finest of the six known.

According to Coinworks, this outstanding coin “is a blazing full mint red proof, well struck and has superb fields. Even the slightest hint of copper brilliance in proofs of this era is highly regarded. This coin, with full brilliance, is a prize.”

A collector hunting for one of the very best Perth Mint copper proofs could reasonably expect to wait a decade before it comes up for grabs, it said.

So what value did the market put on this numismatic treasure? No doubt the vendor was extremely satisfied with the $52,500 sale price announced by Coinworks.


Jul 182012

A quantity of pennies issued in 1951 had an unusual feature. Close to the rim on the reverse side appeared the tiny letters ‘PL’.These letters have an interesting origin which connects Australian coinage of 1951 with that of the Roman Empire.

Roman coins were first struck in London by the rebel commander Carausius who declared himself Emperor in Britain in 286.

After Carausius was assasinated and his successor defeated by Constantius I, the Londinium mint was officially constituted a branch of the Mint of Rome. It stood on Tower Hill near the sites later occupied by the Royal Mint.

It was characteristic of Roman coins made there that they bore the letters ‘PL’, ‘PLN’, ‘PLO’, or ‘PLON’, all abbreviations of the inscription Percussa Londinensis – ‘struck in London’.

This custom was revived in 1951 on several Australian denominations (1d, 1/2d, 3d and 6d) when, due to capacity problems at home, shortfalls were minted at the Royal Mint.

Perhaps you’re an unwitting owner of a 1951 Australian coin with a ‘PL’ mintmark proclaiming its place of origin in a manner invented some 1,700 years ago?

Jun 082012

In the equine world, a mule is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. The term is also used to describe a numismatic mismatch – 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 Australia.

The 1916 mule halfpenny was struck with the reverse die of an Australian 1916 halfpenny and the obverse of an Indian quarter anna.

This rare 1916 mule halfpenny was sold by International Auction Galleries, Queensland on 2 June 2011 for $70,000 plus 16.5% commission. Picture courtesy of International Auction Galleries.

This enigmatic Australian error coin came about following the outbreak of the First World War, when the Royal Mint in London delegated the production of a range of Australian copper and silver coins to its Calcutta branch.

The switch of location was designed to allay concerns that the German Navy was capable of sinking or intercepting maritime deliveries of coinage from Britain to Australia.

Precisely how the error came about is open to debate. The diameter, weight, thickness and composition of the halfpenny and quarter anna are all remarkably similar.

Clearly, at least one Indian obverse die was somehow mixed in with the Australian dies. Alternatively, the use of the Indian obverse anna die might have been intentional, perhaps to cover a very minor short fall in die capacity.

Bill Myatt and Tom Hanley state that “about 250 of these coins are supposed to have been struck at the Calcutta Mint, where all of the Australian bronze of 1916-1918 was produced, some 60 being given away and the rest added to the general Australian issue.”

The number actually known to be in existence today can be counted on the fingers of two hands – no other circulating coin comes even close to it in terms of population rarity.

Remarkably, the first public knowledge of the 1916 mule was on July 8 1965, when Cecil Poole presented the example he found to the July meeting of the Numismatic Society of South Australia.

There is little doubt in my mind that as further research is done in fleshing out the history of this coin, and collectors become more confident in trading them, the 1916 mule halfpenny will continue to set an atmosphere of intrigue, wonder and awe each time an example becomes available to the collector market.

Andrew Crellin’s numismatic career began at The Perth Mint. Subsequently he spent over a decade in Sydney with two of Australia’s leading numismatic dealers. In that time he wrote two acclaimed books on Australian numismatics, appraised The Perth Mint’s archival collection and was nominated to the position of Secretary of the Australasian Numismatic Dealer’s Association. Back in Perth, his company Sterling and Currency specialises in Australian coins and banknotes, from the Holey Dollar of 1813 through to the modern coin sets.