Since the advent of currency, coins have reflected the progress of a nation revealing in their designs and composition the politics and commerce of the society they support. Therefore, it was important that the new Australian coinage was recognisable, consistent and trusted.
The need for a new Australian currency arose on January 1, 1901, when the six separate British self-governing colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia came together to form the Commonwealth of Australia. However, it was not until 1910 that circulating British coins began to be replaced by the first Australian silver threepences, sixpences, shillings and florins followed by copper halfpennies and pennies in 1911. The first national bank notes were also introduced in 1910 and were a stop-gap issue of superscribed private banknotes that were in turn replaced by new Commonwealth Treasury banknotes in 1913. The banknotes quickly found favour but it took longer for a national coinage to take hold, and surveys of coin hoards put away in the early 1920s show that up to 30% of circulating coins were still British.
1901-dated letter concerning Australian coinage signed by Edmund Barton, the first prime minister of Australia Click images to enlarge
The Imperial British coins of the time featured a bare-headed monarch whereas the new Australian coins bore a standard obverse design of the crowned king which alluded to the primacy of Great Britain over the member nations of the Empire like Australia. The Royal Mint designer William Blakemore, chose a simple but bold proclamation of the 'Commonwealth of Australia' for the reverses of the halfpennies and pennies while the silver denominations featured the 1908 'Coat of Arms' of Australia. The shield at the centre of the Arms had in its perimeter six shields in miniature, being an obscure reference to the six founding states of the fledgling nation, and at its heart an out of kilter 'Southern Cross'. A replacement 'Coat of Arms' was introduced in 1912 to more clearly identify each member state, but this was not adopted on the national coinage until 1938.
The London branch of the Royal Mint created all the original master tools (hubs and dies) for the Australian Commonwealth coinage and was also responsible for striking most of its coins until 1915. To meet demand, it also supplied master tools to the Heaton Mint and the Calcutta Mint, which were contracted to strike coins for some years before its branch mints in Australia were able to take over full production. Even the emergency dies created by the Melbourne Mint in 1919 and later, during World War II, by the Bombay, San Francisco and Denver mints had their genesis from master tools originally supplied by the London Mint.
Traditionally, a new coin began as a large-scale plaster model in relief which when reduced by a pantograph to a steel hub created a real size positive image of the intended design. From this hub a master die with a negative image is struck and defining detail such as edge denticles is added. From the master die more working hubs, and subsequently working dies, are produced which theoretically should provide a consistent design for the entire mintage. However, if all or part of this process is repeated then steps can be missed and more than one master tool can result, with the possibility of noticeable design changes. Intentional alterations are often required and relief detail can be removed from a hub, and a new master die created. For example, at least the last digit of the date is manually removed and re-entered onto a master die if required for a new year's production. The new date and other mint-generated changes, such as mint marks, can be made to a master die or, as a one-off, to a working die so small positional changes to this detail or even omissions can occur.
The Australian mints had already changed dates on dies for Imperial gold coins, but it was not until the 1924 issues that the Melbourne Mint 'officially' attempted this process on Australian Commonwealth coins when it added a '4' to the dies of all the copper and silver denominations. This basic step proved not to be always a straightforward operation and in some years overdates sometimes resulted when the original figure was not completely removed from the hub and traces of it showed through around the new date on ensuing dies.
London, as the senior mint, did not usually mark its own production when striking coins, but it did add mint marks to the working or master dies provided to its branch mints or private mints which it sub-contracted to complete coin orders. By 1919 it was decided that the branch mints in Australia were now capable of striking its entire coinage and, as Melbourne had assumed the role of the senior Australian Mint, the penny and halfpenny dies it received from London bore no identifiable mint marks. Consequently the Melbourne Mint produced its first pennies on un-marked working dies supplied to it by London, i.e. the 1919 'Plain' Penny, while Sydney struck the 1919 halfpennies also with no attribution on the un-marked dies from London that had been forwarded on from Melbourne.
The Melbourne Mint soon exhausted its supply of dies and as an emergency measure decided to use a pair of working dies to produce a master hub and then a master die from which it derived a further supply of working dies. This accounts for the later production of pennies bearing a small dot below the bottom reverse scroll, i.e. the 1919 //. Penny, a mark to distinguish the additional work on the dies claimed by the Melbourne Mint. Melbourne had been striking all the silver coin denominations since 1916 on dies supplied by London with an 'M' mint mark, but the application of a dot to the 1919 Penny reverse die was the first time in the Commonwealth series that the Melbourne Mint had sought to distinguish the production of coins from dies to which it laid some claim. It is also apparent that during the unconventional process of producing a hub and master die from a used working die, the Melbourne Mint needed to tidy up the fine detail on the reverse legend adding its own distinctive flourish. The altered legend, which can show either strong or slight curvature to the base of the letters, appears on some penny and halfpenny dates during the 1920s and 1930s and is noted in the coin types in the Benchmark Catalogue by an 'm' after the original source die. For example, 'Bm' (indicating a Birmingham die altered by the Melbourne Mint). From 1919 onwards, there is also some evidence that the Melbourne Mint also worked on the obverse dies, as in some years slight curving of the letters in the legend can be observed. These small changes to the obverse dies have not been catalogued, because unlike the dated reverse dies that quickly became obsolete, obverse dies could be used over a long period making them very difficult to classify.
1919 (M) //. Penny OBV.1/REV.Bm Click images to enlarge
In July 1920, the Melbourne Mint sent three pairs of 1919-dated working dies to the Sydney Mint so it could prepare for the ceremonial striking of its first penny in October of that year. These were experimental dies that were lightly used to test the presses for the 1920 Penny production and the reverses were more than likely marked with an additional dot above the top scroll to distinguish their production from the Melbourne minted 1919 //. Penny. The obverse dies were of the English type, the only ones held by Melbourne at the time. The 1919 .//. Penny that resulted is a scarce coin with perhaps a mintage of around 25,000 and marks the first 'unofficial' Sydney-struck penny. Records show that the 1919 .//. reverse dies were destroyed in 1924.
One of the great conundrums of the Australian Commonwealth series is establishing the number of varieties of the 1920 Penny and determining the mints where they were made. Records show that in August, 1920 the Melbourne Mint received 20 Indian obverse dies and 20 Calcutta reverse dies via the Calcutta Mint of which 17 pairs were forwarded to the Sydney Mint so that it could strike its first full mintage of pennies. The Melbourne Mint had assigned to Sydney the /./ mint mark to distinguish its production, and the vast number of coins eventually struck on the dies provided were of the 1920 /./ variety.
Sydney struck its first 'official' penny at a ceremony held in early October, 1920. In the 1921 publication Australasian Tokens & Coins, the renowned author Dr Arthur Andrews assumed that this was a 1920 /./ Penny, but it is more likely that the reverse die used was a 1920 'Plain', i.e. with no mint mark, as it would have been inappropriate to present dignitaries with coins bearing a mint mark not authorised by either the London Mint or the Australian Treasury. The rarity of the 1920 'Plain' Penny in high grade suggests that only one plain reverse die was employed in order to demonstrate the presses. It is likely that the better examples which have survived were souvenired by those in attendance at the ceremony, with some retained for institutional collections. In 1996, a specimen-strike 1920 'Plain' Penny reputedly from the collection of A.M. Le Souef, who overseered the closure of the Sydney Mint in 1926, was sold by Noble Numismatics (Sydney). A coin of similar appearance was sold by a Sydney dealer in 2013, which also came from an old Sydney collection, and another discovery, also in 2013, of an early specimen-strike found in a contemporaneous Sydney collection (which PCGS have graded PR64 RB) alongside three uncirculated 1920 /./ pennies, seems to lend considerable weight to this theory.
The usual practice was for production to continue until a die was exhausted, and perhaps another 50,000 coins were struck making their way into circulation. Paradoxically, the 1920 'Plain' variety has long been considered a common coin in low grade, but on closer inspection almost all examples in average circulated condition are found to be the very common 'Melbourne' 1920 //. Penny struck on a filled die. Although not as pronounced as on the 1919 //. pennies, the 1920 //. 'Indian-die' pennies show slight curving to the base of the letters in the reverse legend. The curved lettering does not occur on any of the other 1920 penny varieties, and so, if it is evident on the 1920 'Plain' Penny in your collection, then unfortunately it confirms that your coin is in fact a 1920 //. Penny struck on a filled die.
In November 1920, the Melbourne Mint sent 12 sets of experimental dies to Sydney so it could gear up for the main production of the 1920 /./ Penny. It received three reverse dies struck on steel blanks supplied by the 'Calcutta' Mint and nine made locally from 'Melbourne' steel. According to anecdotal reports, the finished reverse dies were marked by Melbourne with a combination of dots to identify both the origin of the steel used in the die production and the mint (Sydney) at which the coins were to be struck. In theory it would be possible to distinguish the production from each die combination. There is evidence that just 146,160 coins were struck on these experimental dies and this figure must have also included the unrecorded production of 1919 .//. pennies. Many believe that this early attempt to single out mint production was quickly abandoned and it is impossible to determine how many of each variety were struck and where. But if the Melbourne Mint had gone to so much trouble to mark the dies, it seems unlikely that the experiment was not pursued, and simple logic seems to offer a credible distribution.
The Melbourne Mint claimed the //. mint mark on the 1919 //. Penny and used it exclusively on the 1920 //. Penny. The .//. mark had been assigned to the Sydney Mint when it was provided with the experimental 1919 .//. dies. This protocol having been set, it can be safely assumed that the 1920 .//. Penny is a Sydney-strike, and on the numbers found it is likely that it was these dies which were predominantly used to calibrate the presses for the main production of the 1920 /./ pennies. All 1919 pennies struck by the Melbourne and Sydney mints had English obverses, and so both mints had access to the dies needed to produce the small experimental runs of 1920 //. (Melbourne) and 1920 /./ (Sydney) pennies with this obverse. In November 1921, the Perth Mint requested dies from Melbourne so it too could experiment with penny production. However, it was the Sydney Mint which responded to this request, sending two sets of 1920-dated dies which, on balance, probably had the .// mint mark. It seems logical that the Sydney Mint would follow the Melbourne lead in passing on this mint mark to Perth, so its coins would be readily identifiable. A mint worker at the time is reported to have had a vague recollection of a Perth mark, and as the .// was the only assignation not claimed exclusively by either the Melbourne or Sydney mints, the 93,600 coins struck at the Perth Mint were more than likely the 1920 .// Penny.
This accounts for the seven accepted varieties of the 1920 Penny and offers strong circumstantial evidence as to where they were struck.
Of course, variety collectors will continue to offer counter theories. One strongly promoted is that all the 1920 penny varieties, except the 1920 /./ 'Indian' obverse Penny, were struck by the Melbourne Mint. The thinking behind this idea is that examples of the 1920 .// Penny, the 1920 Plain Penny, the 1920 .//. Penny and the 1920 //. Penny were displayed at a numismatic society meeting in Melbourne in November, 1920. However, the more likely explanation is the Melbourne Mint tested the dies for the reverse varieties it had manufactured, including those sent to Sydney, and it was from these trials that examples were displayed. Significantly no examples of the 1920 /./ Penny with an 'English' obverse were found in a 1985 survey of two hundred 1920 pennies held in the museum collection of the Melbourne Mint, which had been originally selected to display a full set of die variations. This concurs with our theory that this variety was Sydney-struck and that the Melbourne Mint was probably unaware of its existence.
Other collectors rely on die markers to theorise about the Melbourne, Sydney and Perth strikes of pennies from the early 1920s. What is certain is that both the Sydney and Perth mints were using the same underpowered gold presses until 1922, probably with similar results. Sydney at the time was also striking halfpennies and so would have rotated dies regularly to meet pending orders. The commissioning and decommissioning of the dies left them open to being latterly marked, while the interruption to production to strike the hard copper and soft gold coins meant that dates of coins may have inadvertently been struck on different pressure settings. Additionally, the Melbourne Mint had light presses as well as the heavy presses it commissioned in 1917 (which were likely used to strike the larger and more robust bronze coins), and it is known that steel blanks from both Calcutta and Melbourne were used to make dies which could also have affected strike. The outcomes are numerous, so to rely on marks on a die, which could have resulted later when a previously used die was recommissioned, or strike to determine origin appears problematical.
The silver coins of 1922 are among the poorest struck of the Commonwealth series, and the Sydney-struck sixpences in particular are renowned for their extensive die-cracking. It is certain that the master tool responsible for the 1922 sixpences collapsed, as this mintage signals the end of the sixpence reverse with 140 edge denticles which had commenced on the 1910 Sixpence. It is possible that the Melbourne Mint, in a first, was responsible for adding the 143 edge denticles to the new 1923 Sixpence reverse, as the British sixpence of the same date carried 145 denticles, but the superior finish of the Australian sixpences would suggest that the London Mint supplied Melbourne with completed master tools. This reverse was used on all Australian-struck sixpences from 1923 to 1963. The London-struck 1951 PL Sixpence, with 127 denticles on the reverse, was the only coin to interrupt the run. Of course, this was not the first time that the number of edge denticles was adjusted on a reverse die. The London Mint had earlier made a small adjustment to the threepence reverse, reducing the number of denticles from the 118 used on the 1910 Threepence to 115 on the 1911 Threepence. This reverse die remained in use until 1936.
The 1922/1 Overdate Threepence is a controversial coin appearing to be an early experiment by the Melbourne Mint to alter the date on a die. It is thought that in this instance the last figure on a working hub was simply hammered flat and a new figure was roughly re-entered on the ensuing die. In 1922, the Melbourne Mint did not have the figure punches needed to alter dies, so either the mint fashioned its own tool or these unrecorded coins were struck as an experiment in early 1923 when the punches were available. The 1925 Shilling is also an overdate but in this case the '3' was removed from an unutilized 1923 Shilling master hub and a '5' re-entered on the subsequent master die. This was only partly successful because the entire mintage, including the proofs, show elements of a '3' under the '5'. Although there is no record of its production, the 1933/2 Overdate Penny is similarly the product of the Melbourne Mint altering a 1932-dated hub. Why this process was undertaken in 1933 remains a mystery as penny production appeared robust with 6,781,800 coins struck. It seems likely that this overdate is the result of experimentation with just a few reverse dies, and a possible explanation is that retiring mint staff were called upon to impart their knowledge of this skill before their departure. The last of the recognised overdates is the 1934/3 Threepence which, like the 1925/3 Shilling, was derived from an unused master tool. Although no 1933 threepences were struck for circulation, a master die was prepared and the date later altered to produce the 1934/3 Overdate. It is far more common than the 1922/1 Overdate, and probably the product of more than one working die but is still only a small part of the overall mintage for 1934. It is estimated that about 50,000 of the 3,404,000 threepences dated 1934 are overdates.
1922/1 Overdate Threepence Click images to enlarge
King George V died in January 1936, and Edward VIII ascended the throne. The London Mint prepared obverse tools (hubs and dies) for all denominations featuring the new monarch, but on the abdication of the king these were destroyed. No Australian coins were struck with an Edward VIII obverse. However, the hubs for the penny and threepence had already been sent to Australia and their destruction was confirmed by letter on December 19, 1936. Penny-size models of the new 1937 kangaroo reverse were made as were double-sided 1937 pattern pennies featuring the new obverse portrait of King George VI. Uniface patterns of the threepence, shilling and florin are also known and some have made their way into the hands of collectors as did a double-sided 1937 Threepence of George VI. The latter coin has always been the subject of doubt as it was thought that, except for the penny, no double-sided patterns were struck, but it has recently been reported that the Royal Australian Mint holds double-sided examples of the threepence, shilling and florin in its collection as well as a long-forgotten master die of the 1937 Penny reverse. No 1937 halfpenny or sixpence reverse patterns are thought to exist and, coincidentally, when the first circulating coins of George VI were introduced in February, 1938 these denominations kept the old reverses. It would appear that at least initially there were no design changes contemplated for either the Sixpence or the Halfpenny, and it was probably the intention to keep one of each of the reverse design types to pay homage to the earlier coinage. In fact, the Sixpence continued with the 'Armorial' reverse until the last coins of this denomination were struck in 1963, but there was an obvious change of plan with the Halfpenny reverse sometime in 1939.
The 1939 Halfpenny began with the long standing • COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA • reverse which commenced in 1911, but at some point during production a new design was introduced featuring a scaled down and inverted version of the kangaroo penny reverse that had been adopted in 1938. Two distinct reverse dies were used for the production of the new 1939 'Roo' Reverse Halfpenny and these reverse types, with observable differences, alternated on halfpennies produced in later years. The original London master die for the 'Roo' reverse can only have been used experimentally as very few 1939 'Roo' halfpennies of this type have surfaced. This new Type B reverse is characterised by very detailed fur lines on the paws of the kangaroo and on the underside of the tail, and a series of prominent rib lines found at the juncture of the leg and torso. However, these features may only be visible on early strikes, so the easiest way to distinguish this type is to examine the foot of the 'Y' of 'HALFPENNY' which exhibits a double foot. The Type Bm reverse is by far the more common type found on the 1939 'Roo' Halfpenny. In comparison to the Type B reverse, it is generally less detailed and is readily identified by the foot of the 'Y' of 'HALFPENNY' which is truncated on the righthand side and is best described as having a single foot. These changes were likely initiated by the Melbourne Mint which had a history of altering dies when producing a new master, and the truncated foot on the 'Y' of 'HALFPENNY' is possibly a deliberate marker to claim its additional work. As a testament to the mint's skills, it struck 100 proof halfpennies with the Type Bm reverse which were offered for sale to the public. Only a single example of 1939 'Roo' Proof Halfpenny with the rarer Type B reverse has so far surfaced and it is thought that this was struck at the London Mint.
By 1940, World War II was causing severe manpower and material shortages and the Perth Mint received a request from the Australian Treasury to help the overstretched Melbourne Mint by producing £8,000 of pennies and £4,000 of halfpennies. Penny production was immediately ramped up and the Perth Mint struck 1,113,600 pennies in 1940 marked with a surreptitious 'K.G' mint mark, distinguishing its coins from Melbourne's. But the Perth Mint did not strike its first halfpenny until 1942, the same year that the Bombay Mint was also sub-contracted to strike Australian pennies and halfpennies. The Perth minted halfpenny was singled out by the addition of a dot after 'HALFPENNY' while the Bombay coins were identified by the 'I' mint mark on the obverse below the head of George VI, and dots before and after 'HALFPENNY' on the reverse.
It is not certain whether the Melbourne Mint supplied the Bombay Mint with dies for this emergency war issue, but if it did the reverse dies were not used directly. It is likely that a reverse model was produced by the Bombay Mint from either a struck coin or an impression taken from a reverse die of the unaltered 1939 London 'Roo' Halfpenny, and from this it derived working dies to produce the initial coinage. Consequently, the first 1942 I halfpennies retain the original denticle count and a re-worked double footed 'Y' typical of the unaltered 1939 'Roo' Halfpenny upon which it was based. Although cruder in appearance much of the original design remains, so in the Benchmark Catalogue this die is classified as a sub-Type Bb in recognition of its London origins, but also taking into account the considerable changes undertaken by the Bombay Mint. On this die the kangaroo is leaner and a re-worked eye is both raised and lidded.
The later production of the 1942 I Halfpenny and all of the 1943 I Halfpenny were struck on dies derived from an altered Melbourne Bm reverse but with further changes undertaken by the Bombay Mint. This die is characterised by a truncated foot on the 'Y' of 'HALFPENNY' typical of the Bm reverse but now with noticeably fewer but larger denticles. Because of its further removal from the original design, a new Type C has been recognised.
1939 Kangaroo Reverse Halfpenny: OBV.3/REV.B (left) and OBV.3/REV.Bm (right) Click images to enlarge
Similarly, the denticle count on the 1942 I and both versions of the 1943 I pennies is fewer than the contemporary Australian-minted coins and, like the halfpennies, the kangaroo is leaner and the eye is raised. Because of the extensive reworking of the original London design, a new Type E reverse has been recognised on the Bombay pennies. A new Type 4 obverse die was also used on the Bombay-struck pennies and carried far fewer edge denticles (145) than the Australian pennies (156).
The 1943 I Penny was struck with both large and small denticles and the latter has been classified as a sub-Type E(i). The denticle count on the small denticle variety remains the same, and in all other respects it appears to be the same design as the large denticle variety which had continued from the 1942 coinage. The shortening of the denticles on the later coins may well be explained by the commissioning of a new die from the model with a slightly larger central design. This would result in the denticles being pushed out towards the edge and effectively shortened.
1942 I Halfpenny: OBV.3/REV.Bb (left) and OBV.3/REV.C Long Denticle (right) Click images to enlarge
Bronze, a traditional mixture of copper, tin and zinc, was the alloy used for the halfpenny and penny denominations. Although the Coinage Act of 1909 specified that the silver coins should be sterling silver, i.e. 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, there was no specified formula for bronze. There are anecdotal reports that until the early 1940s the alloy used contained up to 3% tin, but then, due to the scarcity of this metal during the war years, the alloy was adjusted to 97% copper, 2.5% zinc and 0.5% tin. This change in alloy would account for the slightly brassy look of the later mint-state halfpennies and pennies. For consistency, we have used the later composition in our coin specifications as although there is an observable difference between early and late date Australian bronze coins there is no certainty when and if this change occurred.
During World War II, the Australian government was forced to call on the San Francisco and Denver mints to strike coins to overcome a shortage of circulating currency caused by the large number of American servicemen stationed in Australia. Similarly, some coins of the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies were struck during WWII by the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints to allay shortages caused by the large influx of US servicemen. There is no record of master or working dies being sent from Australia to the United States and therefore the coins produced must have been the product of dies manufactured by the American mints. Similar to the emergency measures employed by the Bombay Mint, it is likely that a pantograph was used to produce coin models and eventually dies from samples of circulating Australian coins. The coins are identified by an 'S' mint mark for San Francisco and a 'D' mint mark for Denver. Mint marks have long been used by collectors to separate coins struck at different mints but the 'Benchmark Catalogue' also separates the different fonts used on those marks, i.e. the plain and serifed punches used by the San Francisco Mint on the florins, shillings and threepences.
The silver coins of 1946 were the first struck in quaternary silver, a yellowish-white alloy of 50% silver, 40% copper, 5% nickel and 5% zinc. Australia debased its currency partly to repay the United States for more than $12 million of silver used during the war years to strike its coins at the San Francisco and Denver Mints. In 1956, $6 million of silver retrieved from withdrawn sterling coins was sent to the United States as part payment of this debt.
Sometimes small observable changes occur within mintages of coins of a particular year. The Benchmark Catalogue separates a small number of 1926 sixpences exhibiting serifying on the lettering in the reverse legend and on the '2' in the date, changes which also appear on the proofs of that year. The serif on the '2' also appeared on the earlier sixpences of the 1920s but these coins had flat based lettering in the legend, and so a sub-Type B(i) Sixpence die is recognised. The more common 1926 Sixpence, which we have classified as sub-Type B(ii), combines a distinctive straight bar on the base of the '2' with straight based letters in the legend.
A small change also occurs on the 1946 Florin. These coins may have a small or large ovoid in the '6' of the date. There is conjecture that coins with a large ovoid in the '6' were the result of the stop-gap use of an inverted '9' punch on the date. The inner voids on the '6' and '9' of this variety are relatively the same size, while on coins with a small ovoid in the '6' there is a marked difference with the larger ovoid in the '9'. But as proofs of both types are known in the Museum of Victoria Collection, the alternative '6' in the date must have been deliberately employed. The difference is relatively insignificant but, as it is a long-accepted variety in the Australian series, and the mintage of the two types can be traced back to the use of these two distinct master dies, a sub-Type B(i) Florin die is recognized for consistency.
The 1953 Florin started out with the large denticles on the 'Coat of Arms' reverse that began in 1938. However, an added feature on the early struck 1953 florins is a double line that runs from the juncture of the tail of the kangaroo to the leg which is unique to this date. We have classified this as a sub-Type B(ii) Florin die to distinguish these coins from the vast majority of 1953 florins which were struck with noticeably smaller reverse edge denticles. The new reverse continued with the 1954 'Coat of Arms' Florin, and this two-year type, which we have classified as the B(m) die, acknowledges a new master die made by the Melbourne Mint.
In our coin types, we have chosen to ignore small changes in the positioning of the date or the mint mark, but to include major positional shifts such as occur on the 1931 pennies with the 'dropped 1'. We have also separated the 'wide-date' varieties of the 1955 Perth pennies, as not only is the difference quite noticeable even to the naked eye it is also apparent that two sets of master dies were working in tandem that year. The most common coin combines an obverse Type 8 and a reverse with a closed '55' in the date. A scarcer coin has the Type 8 obverse with the wide '5 5' in the date while a rare variety combines a new Type 9 obverse with a reverse with the wide '5 5'. The Type 9 obverse with the closed '55' occurs only on the 301 proofs struck for public sale and is not known as a circulating coin.
Major mistakes, such as the omission of a mint mark which occurred on a small number of 1942 I pennies are also acknowledged, and from 1951 onwards we have also recognised minute changes to the denticle count on the pennies and their orientation to the legend. This is easily determined by aligning uprights in the coin legend with the edge detail (denticles) and is a useful diagnostic tool in identifying the source of the original master die and often the mint where the coins were struck.
In late 1951, the London Mint was called upon to help strike Australian pennies and halfpennies for the first time since 1915. The Perth Mint had already released 1951-dated halfpennies without a mint mark (normally the preserve of the London Mint), and so, in a major break with tradition, the London Mint was forced to distinguish its coins by employing a new 'PL' mint mark. London in turn was unable to complete the order on time and was obliged to sub-contract part of the order to the Heaton Mint, Birmingham which used the same 'PL' mint mark. Thus, three mints were responsible for striking the 41,422,800 halfpennies dated 1951, and there are five or possibly six varieties noted. The rarest of the four Perth issues, with a reported mintage of just 126,720, used the obverse that was introduced in 1949 which is distinguished by 146 denticles and allied it with the 'no mint mark' reverse. Another variety which aligned the 'no mint mark' reverse with a new obverse with 149 denticles accounts for less than ten percent of the overall mintage and is itself a scarce coin. The 1951 Y. Halfpenny with the old obverse is scarcer than the 1951 Y. Halfpenny with the new obverse which constitutes the major production run. The 1951 PL Halfpennies struck at the London and Heaton mints used the original 'double footed' 1939 reverse that had been sent to Melbourne coupled with the old 1949 obverse. This would indicate that the new 1951 obverse with 149 denticles was an Australian production, and probably the work of the Melbourne Mint as it is thought that the Perth Mint did not have the skills to produce its own dies at this time. Interestingly, a study of the left cross bar on the 'Y' of 'HALFPENNY' on the 1951 'PL' halfpennies reveals some coins with a straight bar (60%) and some with a hook (40%) which roughly coincides with the proportions struck by the London and Heaton Mints. This may be a coincidence, but the proofs of this date have a straight bar confirming these coins were struck in London, and so it is possible the dies used by the Heaton Mint were 'marked' with a hook on the 'Y' to single out its production creating a possible sixth variety for the year.
Except for the Bombay-minted pennies of 1942 and 1943, all kangaroo reverse pennies have 81 thin and 81 thick edge denticles in which the alignment to the legend remained constant until the London-struck 1951 'PL' Penny. The London Mint produced a new master hub for this reverse from a 1937 master die, but in adding the edge detail to the ensuing master die the alignment to the legend was altered. Although the number of denticles remained the same on this reverse, we have classified it as a new Type F because from this die the Melbourne and Perth branch mints diverged for the first time from the lead offered by the London Mint in positioning the legend on their later master dies. Both the Melbourne and Perth mints added the edge denticles with slightly different orientations, effectively creating a number of sub-types which help identify where the coins were struck.
By 1952, the Perth Mint had acquired the skill to produce its own master and working dies. The mint received two distinct 1951 penny reverse master tools directly from London. These formed the basis of its 1952 master dies. As an interim measure, Perth received a 1951 Type D reverse master die with the edge detail in place which proved the source of the early 1952 die varieties which are known by the different versions of the '2' in the date. It also received a hub of the new Type F reverse and produced a master die to which denticles were added. The working dies that resulted produced the bulk of the 1952 pennies struck by the mint. The Perth Mint used the same reverse master die on its 1953 and 1955 pennies before altering the edge alignment on a new master used from 1956. Although it continued to use the Type D reverse on its pennies struck in 1952 and 1953, the Melbourne Mint did experiment with the new Type F reverse in 1953 producing a small number of pennies 'sans serif', i.e. missing its traditional serif on the '5' of the date. The Melbourne Mint adopted this new type from 1955, which is apparent from the abandoning of the serif on the '5's in the date before it returned to the D reverse in 1964 to strike its last pennies.
Over the course of the series, Australian Pre-decimal coins were struck at the London Mint, Heaton Mint (Birmingham), Calcutta Mint, Melbourne Mint, Sydney Mint, Perth Mint and the Bombay Mint, none of which kept reliable records of 'proof' or 'specimen' coins that they struck. The Perth Mint, for example, claims that it struck a handful of 'specimens' for all the coin mintages for which it was responsible, but if so many years have never been sighted. The Benchmark Catalogue records 'proof' issues that are known in official collections or have been listed in recognised auction sales. However, as a note of caution, the author has seen numerous coins through the years, both in raw state as well as in third-party holders, that were labelled as 'proofs' or 'specimens' but which were debateable. This area in Australian numismatics remains highly contentious as early business strikes have for years been marketed as 'specimens' or 'proofs' with only the imprimatur of the individual coin dealers. Collectors and investors would be wise to seek out more than one professional opinion before committing to an expensive purchase, considering the grading services sometimes appear to accept on face value the dubious provenance provided by long-established dealers.
The timeline of Australia's pre-decimal coins from 1910 to 1964 provides a valuable insight into its history, and a number of pivotal events were depicted on its designs. In 1927, the opening of Australia's first Parliament House was commemorated on a florin, as was the centenary of the founding of Melbourne on the 1934-5 Florin. In 1937, a crown was struck for the coronation of George VI but the purpose of that coin was nullified by the release of a 1938 coin of the same design. The Golden Jubilee of Australia's Federation was also celebrated by a special florin in 1951, and in 1954 the Royal Visit Florin marked the first time a reigning monarch had toured Australia. The last pre-decimal coins are dated 1964 and were struck in the lead up to Australia transitioning to decimal currency on February 14, 1966, thus bringing to an end the 'imperial' currency inherited from Great Britain. Perhaps as a salute to the past, the Royal Mint in London helped strike the first decimal coins, and the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, which had replaced Melbourne as the senior issuing authority, called on the Melbourne and Perth mints to help strike the new one and two cent coins. As with the pre-decimal coins, minute differences in the overall design can be relied upon to determine whether the coins were struck in Canberra, Melbourne, Perth or London.
The 'Benchmark Catalogue' of Australian pre-decimal coins contains all the intentional mint-generated varieties identified to date. Other varieties which are the result of worn dies such as die cracks, design loss or field flaws are not included in the catalogue. In determining the classifications, such as the obverse and reverse types used for the 'Benchmark Catalogue', we have attempted to set a standard protocol that is applied to all denominations. For example, various publications refer to the 'English', 'London', and 'Indian' obverses used on Australian pennies of George V, but in fact the first two descriptors i.e. 'English' and 'London' are in effect the same. To overcome this problem, we have reserved the country of origin i.e. 'English' to describe obverse master tools (hubs or dies) used or supplied by the London Mint. The city domicile i.e. 'London' is similarly reserved for the reverse master tools (hubs or dies) used or supplied by the London Mint.
The mintage figures of various coins largely reflect those published in 'Australian Coinage - An Account of Particular Coins (1991)' by W.J.Mullett, who, as a senior officer at the Melbourne Branch of the Royal Mint, was the person responsible for recording coin production figures. These internal figures give a better indication of the number of coins of a certain date that were struck in a particular year rather than the Royal Mint records which were concerned with yearly production figures and which may span a number of dates. For example, Royal Mint records show that the Sydney Mint struck florins, shillings, sixpences and threepences leading up to its closure in 1926. While there is some inconclusive evidence for a Sydney-struck 1926 Sixpence it is more likely that all these coins were struck on recommissioned dies that were dated 1925. Reliance on Mullet's figures has resulted in the reappraisal of the rarity of certain coins such as the 1942 'Melbourne' Threepence, the mintage of which has been dramatically reduced from the previously thought 528,000 to 380,000. Similarly, the mintage of the 1928 Shilling has been halved to 332,000 explaining why so few of these coins have been found in high grade. For some years also, we have broken up mintages to accommodate a number of varieties usually the product of experimental runs, but as no official figures exist, these can only be the best estimates of the author based on over 40 years of industry experience.
The Key to Collecting the Australian Pre-Decimal Coin Series
Australia has only a brief history as a nation and its imperial or pre-decimal sterling coinage is only a short series spanning the years 1910 to 1964. The age of a coin holds little significance, except for increasing the possibility that it may have circulated or deteriorated if it was badly stored.
The major factor in determining a coin's desirability is how highly it is valued, which in turn is largely a combination of how many have survived and in what state of preservation. The survival rate can be influenced by the original number struck, i.e. mintage, and the state of preservation, i.e. condition, which is determined by how long a coin circulated before it was lost in the bottom of a drawer or made its way into the safekeeping of a collection. However, high grade examples of low mintage coins can exist in significant numbers if they were quickly hoarded. This often applies to commemorative issues but, in general if a coin starts out with a low mintage then natural attrition through the years usually means that it will be scarce or rare in high grade.
'The Benchmark Catalogue of Australian Pre-decimal Coins' separates all intentional mint-generated varieties within mintages and we have estimated the likely number made. Some of these varieties have been identified and described for the first time and are scarce or rare but, it is up to the market to determine whether they are valued.
Commercial third-party grading commenced in the USA in the mid-1980s and their services have spread gradually to international coin markets, including Australia, over the last few decades. To accommodate this the 'Benchmark Catalogue' uses the Mint State scale of grading used by, but not the sole preserve of, third-party grading services. But as many collectors remain wedded to the established adjectival grades for Australian coins, we have looked to align these standards with the MS acronyms which have become more universally accepted in recent years.
The leading services, such as NGC and PCGS, seek to apply strict grading criteria equally to US and international coins using as a basis the Sheldon Coin Grading Scale which uses MS grades originally developed in 1949 to specifically grade US 'large' cent coins. Different nations produce coins to meet their own requirements and the grading services have attracted some criticism from local collectors and dealers who argue that they are not attuned to the vagaries of another nation's series. For example, raised hairlines are often found on the surfaces of early strikes of Australian coins. These are polish marks transferred from the die which on occasion have been mis-identified by the third-party services as fine scratches into the metal. Consequently, coins which you expect to grade higher can be low-balled or no-graded.
Local knowledge is important and, in explanation of the Australian circumstance, mints did not strike the entire mintages of coins in a continuous run but in batches as and when orders were received from the Treasury. It was not uncommon for dies to be left idle in presses while the Mint awaited an order, and rust spots that developed on their surfaces were removed with an abrasive that cut into the die and would show as raised hair lines on coins that were subsequently struck.
There will always be concerns about US-centric graders applying their prejudices to the coins of another country and, in the Australian context, it has been argued that third-party grades less than (M)int (S)tate are generally looser than the local market recognises. Some of this criticism is just parochial overreach, as it is not unusual for Australian dealers and collectors who are vehemently opposed to third-party grading to dismiss all coins in holders as over-graded, or contrarily under-graded. They will argue that a coin third-party graded EF45 (Extremely Fine) is really only a VF30 (Very Fine) in the Australian market, or at best VF35 (good Very Fine), and on occasions they will be right. Whereas, coins in MS grades are in the opinion of many, who were expecting higher MS grades on their coins, often harshly graded when compared to the grades they see assigned to US coins. Certainly, coins in AU58 holders are often puzzling as the grading services can attribute slight rub to coins that are just under-struck. An oft-quoted line in Australia is that "it will grade AU or MS62" and it appears that some coins are quickly dropped into AU58 holders when the graders are unsure. This is particularly the case of the George VI and Elizabeth II series where there are a disproportionate number of coins in AU holders with relatively few graded MS60 or MS61. We have sought to address this problem in our 'Comparative Grading Chart'.
Copper or bronze coins are certainly more problematical as the 'Red and Brown' (RB) classification which the third-party graders apply to most high-grade Australian halfpennies and pennies is far too broad. Patchy and unattractive coins often bring undeservedly high prices in third-party holders, whereas superior coins with attractive and even mint bloom but too muted for the services to classify as 'RB' are graded 'Brown' (BN) and, in our opinion, are often undervalued. Similarly, very bright coins with even colour that have long been sold as 'Red' (RD) in the Australian market have failed to impress the third-party graders and are also consigned to the hotch potch that is the 'RB' category. Collectors who pursue coins, particularly pennies and halfpennies, solely on the 'number' on the holder should take note.
Perhaps to overcome the very real problems associated with grading copper coins, the third-party services should consider adding a number to the established categories i.e. BN-1through to BN-4, RB-5 to RB-8 and RD-9 and RD-10 which would better indicate where the colour of an individual coin sits on a graduated scale. This could satisfy international sensibilities and, in the Australian context, many coins that have been traditionally regarded as 'Red' could still rate as an 'RD-9' rather than being grouped ingloriously with an 'RB-5'. The difference as they say is like 'chalk and cheese'. This adjustment, like the '+' that has been added to existing MS grades to capture eye appeal, seems an obvious refinement to the grading criteria and could allay a lot of criticism.
As a note of caution, it has also been observed that some very important coins that are known to have been chemically cleaned have passed the scrutiny of the grading panels and have been classified 'Red'.
Like most world coins, it's the obverse on Australian coins that largely determines the grade, as it generally wears more quickly than the reverse. The coins bear a relief portrait of the reigning monarch and a greater proportion of the central coin surface is taken up by this design. Consequently, when a coin is struck the planchet fills the die and the obverse will be raised or slightly convex and more susceptible to damage or wear, while the reverse will be slightly concave and better protected by the rim. This applies to all denominations of Australian coins, except shillings from 1938, where the obverse portrait of the monarch wears similarly to the three-quarter profile of a merino ram on the reverse.
The fabric of the coin, that is the metal alloy from which it is made, also contributes to its deterioration as sterling silver is more susceptible to wear and damage than quaternary silver which in turn is less robust than bronze. Additionally, the dimensions of the coin can also contribute to its condition as the size and weight of the coin usually increases with the monetary value providing a bigger target for damage and wear to occur. It is harder to find high grade examples of the larger denomination coins, although this will not necessarily apply to commemorative issues which were prized and so often hoarded.
The surviving pre-decimal coin population of Australia is relatively small and few high-grade coins of Edward VII and George V exist. In August, 1947 counting machines in the banking system were adjusted to capture the early-date sterling silver coins which were being gradually withdrawn from circulation with the move to quaternary silver coinage from 1946 and, this was followed by the introduction of decimal coins in 1966 which saw most pre-decimal coins recalled and destroyed. These purges were not fully recognised by the US-based grading services, who when accustoming themselves to a steady flow of coins from Australia tended to grade the unfamiliar series very harshly, perhaps in anticipation of super coins that were yet to emerge from a coin population that didn't actually exist. It has been observed that many coins that were graded early certainly appear to be better than their third-party grades would indicate, and many have been successfully re-submitted for an upgrade in recent years. Also, most coins from note-worthy collections have now been third-party graded, so a new find of a rare coin in high-grade is now going to be the exception rather than the rule. This observation does not apply to coins of George VI and Elizabeth II which do exist in hoard quantities and occasionally come onto the market in substantial quantities. Because of the greater numbers of late date coins being forwarded to the services, especially from rolls, it is not unusual to get an undeserved high grade for these coins, i.e. you are more likely to get a high grade for a coin if it is graded in situ as part of a mint roll or hoard. It seems that if a single coin is sent for grading separately it receives isolated attention and it is unlikely that you will get the same result.
The major grading services have benefitted from the rise of Internet trading and, besides some shortcomings, are now making increasing inroads into international markets. In the valuable Chinese market particularly, more sophisticated forgeries are beginning to emerge and with more coin dealing now being conducted long distance, some collectors and investors rely on the guarantee of authenticity that is provided by the major grading services and are accepting of the grades that have been assigned to the coins, after taking into account their own experiences. At the end of the day all grading is the subjective opinion of an individual, whether it be the final arbiter at a third-party grading service or an individual collector or dealer who is appraising a coin, and so as long as you are attuned to how the third-party graders view your series you can buy with confidence. Certainly, Australian collectors have taken enthusiastically to third-party grading in recent years and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of coins forwarded to the major services for grading. These are recorded and regularly updated in a 'Register of Third-Party Graded Coins' in the Benchmark Catalogue which captures coins submitted to NGC and PCGS, the two major services. The census figures appear below the coin values on the individual coin pages and in the 'Quick Reference Price Guide' for each denomination.
There remains a divide between the devotees of third-party grading companies who buy solely 'on the number' and traditional collectors who like to 'test their eye' when selecting a coin and are still trying to adjust their thinking to accommodate third-party grades which do not exactly coincide with what they are used to. However, a rapprochement is required if you are to arrive at a relevant market value for the Australian series considering that most of the prized high-grade coins are now in NGC or PCGS holders. And, it is not just the third-party grades attached to high-grade coins that is important, as even rare dates and varieties can be valuable even in low grade. Quite often the major disputes that arise with third-party standards relate to coins in less than mint state which are generally viewed by locals as over-graded. It is therefore important that a broad standard is reached that compares how third-party coins across all grades relate to the traditional adjectival standards that are broadly accepted by Australian collectors.
The comparative grading chart in the Benchmark Catalogue is a valiant attempt to compare coins third-party graded by NGC and PCGS with the grading standards outlined in the 'Benchmark Catalogue' which in turn seeks to capture the traditional adjectival grades that have long described Australian coins. Accordingly, three descriptors appear for each grade on the individual coin pages and in the 'Quick Reference Price Guides' where a numeric grade e.g. '10' is grouped with the adjectival grade i.e. 'Very Good' and the NGC and PCGS 'third-party grades' that are required to meet the accepted level of detail that describes the adjectival grade i.e. (NGC Fine 12 - PCGS Fine 12). We rate the grading services equally although some collectors argue that PCGS grades are stricter than NGC's. In practice we have found that approximately eight out of ten coins will successfully cross at the same grade from NGC to PCGS and nine out of ten the other way. Those that don't cross can largely be put down to commercial rivalry as it's not surprising that both companies baulk at giving their major rival a 10/10.
Values are determined by how many of a particular coin have survived in certain grades and, so in order to utilise the census information captured in the 'Register of Third-Party Graded Coins', we have aligned the values in the Benchmark Catalogue with the NGC or PCGS third-party grades. The values incorporate our own analysis of prices realised for coins sold in the market place, both in and outside of third-party holders. In some instances, we have tempered values where it is evident that an unrealistic result has been achieved, and in other cases values have been increased where it's evident that a coin of a particular grade has been patently under-sold. It is advised that collectors who are currently paying unsustainable prices for extremely common but 'high grade' coins of George VI and Elizabeth II should reflect on our earlier comments regarding the availability of coins of Edward VII and George V. It is unsustainable that a common 1964 Melbourne Penny in MS65 RD should sell for more than a 1923 Sixpence in MS64, and we have addressed such anomalies in our price guide.
The grades for circulated coins used by the Benchmark Catalogue are explained as follows:
10(NGC Fine12 - PCGS Fine12) describes a coin in 'Very Good' condition and is the basic grade for collectors seeking to complete a series in the most affordable yet still presentable form. The coin design, although flat in appearance, should still be fully recognisable but will have little of the fine detail remaining.
Obverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The band on the king's crown will be worn through and the face will be flat.
Reverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The kangaroo and emu featured on the original 1908 'Coat of Arms' will be flat but there should be no breaks in their outlines. The 'ADVANCE AUSTRALIA' in the ribbon below the shield will be worn but should still be mostly readable.
Obverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The band in the king's crown will be worn through and the face will be flat.
Reverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : On the halfpennies and pennies, the central wording of the 'COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA' will be flat and the ring of beads within the concentric circles that contain them will have merged. The 1908 'Coat of Arms' was featured on the reverse of all Commonwealth silver coins up until 1936 (sixpence 1963) and in this grade the kangaroo and emu will be flat but, there should be no breaks in their outlines. The 'ADVANCE AUSTRALIA' in the ribbon below the shield will be worn but will still be mostly readable.
Obverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) : The face will be flat and the hair detail and ear definition will be largely lost.
Reverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) : The first halfpenny of George VI was released in 1938 and retained the old 'COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA' design which was replaced mid-mintage in 1939. The surface wear on the reverse of these early George VI halfpennies is as described for George V coins which have an identical reverse. On the new 'Kangaroo' reverses introduced on the later 1939 halfpennies and all pennies from 1938, the musculature of the kangaroo will be smooth and will have lost most of its curves and fine detail. A new 'Wheat' reverse was also introduced on the threepences and its shallow design in relation to the rim meant that it was largely protected although there may be some merging of the grains in the ears. The sixpence also retained the existing design but, in this case, it didn't change and it remained in use until the last sixpences were struck in 1963. The surface wear on this reverse is as described on sixpences of George V. A new shilling reverse featured a three-quarter profile of 'merino' ram and in this grade will show considerable flattening on the forehead, horns, nose and chest-roll. The new design George VI florins introduced the amended 1912 'Arms' reverse which overtly referenced the six Commonwealth states in its design for the first time. In this grade the kangaroo and emu holding the shield will have flattened considerably. On the Crown (5/-) the orb below the cross atop the crown will be flat as will the detail in the central design.
Obverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The face will be flat and some of the leaves in the hair wreath (garland) will be indistinct.
Reverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : Wear patterns on the coins of Elizabeth II are the same as on coins of George VI which have identical reverses.
Except for mis-struck coins, the legend and the date should be fully readable on all denominations and, although the planchet will have thinned considerably, the coin should not be bent or warped. A bent coin, or one in which the design or legend is incomplete due to wear, is usually only collectable if it is considered very scarce or rare. As an example, the 1922/1 Overdate Threepence is still valued by collectors even in the poorest condition.
Unless they are key dates, which usually command a significant premium, the vast majority of coins in this grade are closely related in price to the underlying bullion value or the labour handling costs associated with identifying them for sale. To achieve an overall better standard, a budget collector should look for coins that are VG/Fine, i.e. an obverse making a VG grade and a reverse that is Fine. 12 (NGC F15 - PCGS F15)represents a coin in 'about Fine' condition in adjectival terms.
15(NGC VF20 - PCGS VF20) is the median grade for a coin in 'Fine' condition. It is the first step up for collectors of the Edward VII and George V series. Coins in this grade will exhibit considerably more detail although not enough to satisfy collectors of George VI and Elizabeth II coins who will be looking for something closer to uncirculated for the common dates. The coin design, especially on the reverse, will have some depth to the design, fine lettering and possibly incised details. Overall, the coin will have a worn look with the sharp detail largely missing while the fields may be heavily marked.
Obverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The top and bottom edges of the band of the king's crown will be joined and there will be slightly more detail on the face.
Reverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The 'ADVANCE AUSTRALIA' lettering will be fully formed and readable and there will more depth i.e. curvature to the bodies of the kangaroo and emu.
Obverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The top and bottom edges of the band of the king's crown will be joined and there will be slightly more detail on the face.
Reverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : If a coin is well-struck the beads within the concentric circles surrounding the 'COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA' on the halfpennies and pennies will start to rise from the surface and separate out. Wear patterns on the silver coins are the same as on coins of Edward VII which have identical reverses.
Obverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) :On the bare-headed effigy of George VI the ear of the king will be worn but fully distinguishable and the hair will show more detail. (It should be noted that both of these areas are also susceptible to a poor strike which can explain missing detail on what appears to be better coins).
Reverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) : The old reverse halfpennies of 1938 and 1939 will have similar wear patterns to the coins of George V which have identical designs. On the new reverse halfpennies and the pennies, the curves and musculature of the kangaroo will show more definition. The 'wheat' reverse threepence first introduced in 1938 will show clear if not sharp separation of the grains in the three stalks, while on the new shilling reverse, fine detail such as the nostrils and lines on the horns of the 'merino' ram will become more apparent. The 1912 'Arms' reverse was used for the first time on the George VI florins and although the details in the shield's perimeter are often under-struck the fine details in the segments of the shield will have begun to emerge. On the Crown the orb will begin to rise fron the surface and the seams on the two flutes in the central design will begin to show.
Obverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The face will be more rounded and all eleven leaves in the hair wreath should now be distinguishable.
Reverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : Wear patterns on the coins of Elizabeth II are the same as on coins of George VI which have identical reverses.
Collectors looking to complete a better than average set will usually set this as the benchmark for the key dates while seeking to improve the quality of the more common coins.
20 (NGC VF25 - PCGS VF25) isa 'good Fine' coin in adjectival terms. This coin is slightly better than the average 'Fine' coin and will stand out from a number of coins of similar grade.
25(NGC VF30 - PCGS VF30) is an about 'Very Fine' coin. On early Australian coins of George V three quarters of the centre diamond in the king's band will be showing.
30(NGC VF35 - PCGS VF35) is the median grade of a coin in 'Very Fine' condition. This grade appeals to a more serious collector on a budget and the coins will present greater detail of the overall design, with features such as hair on the effigy and the intricate work on crowns, shields and scrolls retaining finer detail. The fields will again show considerable marking and there will be little, if any, trace of the original mint bloom. Traditionally on the early Australian coins for a coin to be considered Very Fine the centre diamond in the King's crown will be fully separated with six pearls clearly visible.
Obverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The 1910 silver coinage of Edward VII has a very shallow portrait, but still the central oblong in the band of the crown should be distinguishable.
Reverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The eyes of the emu and the kangaroo on the old 'Coat of Arms' reverses will be evident if not fully clear. The high-points on the head, shoulder and leg of the kangaroo will be noticeably flattened and, apart from the shoulder, most of the feathers on the contoured back of the emu will be evident although not necessarily fully defined.
Obverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The centre diamond in the band of the king's crown will be fully formed and there should be six clear pearls showing (for a further explanation of 'pearls' refer to the next grade).
Reverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The beads within the concentric circles on the 'COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA' reverse halfpennies and pennies will be domed albeit with flattened tops. Wear patterns on the silver coins are the same as on coins of Edward VII which have identical reverses.
Obverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) : The lines in the king's hair will have largely separated and the ear should be sharp and fully defined.
Reverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) : The old reverse halfpennies of 1938 and 1939 will have identical wear patterns to the coins of George V. On the new reverse halfpennies and pennies, the eye of the kangaroo will be begin to show. The wheat stalks on the new-style threepence are largely protected by a combination of the rising rims and a convex strike and so will show only minimal wear, but there may still be some wear evident on the high-points of the ribbon and tie that bind the stalks. On the shillings the fine detail on the 'merino' ram will begin to emerge especially the lines on the horns of the 'merino' ram which will be more evident, and on the 1912 'Coat of Arms' adopted on the florins, although better detailed the high-points on the head, shoulder and leg of the kangaroo will be noticeably flattened, as will the arch of the back and the tail of the emu. On the Five Shilling the orb atop the crown will now be fully domed and the two flutes in the central design will show their seams.
Obverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : The ear of Queen Elizabeth II will have begun to take form and her fringe will have more definition.
Reverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) :Wear patterns on the coins of Elizabeth II are the same as on coins of George VI which have identical reverses.
Completing a set of coins in this grade is an interesting challenge for the novice collector. The available coin stock was generally sifted from coin hoards cashed in the 60s and 70s but then melted by dealers when silver spiked in the early 80s. Few modern day dealers carry stock books of mid-grade coins excepting key dates, but caches of mostly circulated coins are still being discovered and so all dates are attainable if you are patient, although the current rise in the silver price has again made the more common dates vulnerable.
35 (NGC EF40 - PCGS EF40) is a coin in 'good Very Fine Condition' and on the George V obverses there should be a hint of eight pearls in the band of the crown.
40 (NGC EF45 - PCGS EF45) represents a coin in 'about Extremely Fine' condition in the Australian context. Traditionally on the early Australian coins the second set of pearls on the King's crown should be fully evident if not fully separated to achieve this grade.
45 (NGC AU50 - PCGS AU50) is the median grade of a coin in 'Extremely Fine' condition. This was the grade chosen by the majority of serious collectors during the lead up to the decimal change-over in 1966. With most dates in abundance at the time, collectors took advantage to complete full sets of all denominations rather than acquiring a few prized examples. Broken up, these sets provide the basis for second-tier offerings in the modern-day auctions. Even to the naked eye, the coin will have a handled rather than a worn look. It is not unusual for coins in this grade to exhibit considerable mint lustre in the devices although the fields will usually have lost a lot of their bloom.
Obverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : Most collectors of Australian coins are well aware of the significance of the 'second set of pearls' in the band of the crowns of Edward VII and George V. On the right-facing portrait of Edward VII it is the two pimples (pearls) that sit to the right of the centre oblong while on the left-facing portrait of George V they sit to the left of the centre diamond. This is the recognised high point on both effigies and is the major determinant of an 'Extremely Fine' grade in the Australian market. As we have pointed out earlier, the major grading services are US-centric and are reluctant to accommodate local sensibilities which is the reason for most of the criticism that they attract. However, for most discerning collectors of this series, a coin will not be regarded as Extremely Fine unless both of these pearls are clearly visible and fully separated regardless of the third-party grade it has achieved. Other high points such as the cheek of the king and the regalia on his shoulder will show only slight flattening.
Reverse - Edward VII (3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : Because the reverses of Australian coins are better protected due to their slight concavity, wear will be minimal. There will only be slight flatness on the head, shoulder and leg of the kangaroo, and the head and shoulder of the emu.
Obverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/-) :The portrait of George V stands prouder from the surface of the coin than the shallow portrait of Edward VII and so additional high points are evident. Besides a separated second set of pearls there should be only be slight flattening apparent on the king's eyebrow, moustache and shoulder regalia.
Reverse - George V (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : In this grade the lettering of 'COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA' on the halfpennies and pennies will be squared-off and not rounded as it appears on the lesser grades. Wear patterns on the silver coins are the same as on coins of Edward VII which have identical reverses.
Obverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) : On the un-crowned head of George VI all details will be present with only a patch of light rub on the eyebrow, cheek and hair.
Reverse - George VI (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/- & 5/-) : The rims on the 'wheat' threepences will now stand proud and so it will be difficult to observe wear on this reverse which is largely protected, but there may still be the slightest of rub on the high-points of the ribbon and tie. The 'merino' shillings will be touched off on the forehead, nose and the tips of the horns. The 1912 'Coat of Arms' used on the florins is notoriously badly struck. How many collectors would be aware of the sunken chevrons that were designed to appear in the perimeter of the shield but are usually hardly visible? This is especially so across the top bar of the shield which is usually devoid of fine detail due to poorly maintained or worn dies. Similarly the raised tail section of the emu can be very flat due to poor strike and not necessarily wear. However, allowing for poor strike there should only be minimal flattening on the shoulder chest and leg of the kangaroo and the neck and back arch of the emu. On the Five Shilling fine detail such as an inverted 'T' on the orb atop of the Crown will be revealed.
Obverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : On the portrait of Elizabeth II, the hair wreath and ear will show only light wear.
Reverse - Elizabeth II (1/2d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/- & 2/-) : Wear patterns on the coins of Elizabeth II are the same as on coins of George VI which have identical reverses.
50(NGC AU53 - PCGS AU53) is a coin in 'good Extremely Fine' condition in adjectival terms.
53(NGC AU55 - PCGS AU55) is a coin in about 'about Uncirculated' condition. It is often the best grade that can be achieved for extremely rare coins e.g. particularly obscure varieties, which were previously not rated and made their way into circulation unnoticed and in very small numbers. These are unlikely to be found in mint state, and so it is the best circulated examples which are eagerly sought by collectors. For example, no Australian 1930 pennies are currently known in mint state, although the writer recalls a brown Uncirculated that was sold in the 1980s but which was later harshly cleaned. Currently the two 1930 pennies graded AU50 are the highest grades achieved for this rarity. Both these coins have light evidence of eight pearls in the band but traditionally would still struggle to make an Extremely Fine grade in raw state in the Australian marketplace. Because key or rare date coins are submitted in disproportionate numbers they tend to be micro-graded and often appear to be given the benefit of the doubt grade-wise in order to separate out top tier coins. For this reason collectors chasing more common dates should probably look for coins third-party graded AU53 to be assured of the local market's requirement for a 'clear second set of pearls' if they are seeking a coin that is a true Extremely Fine or better. The AU in the grade stands for 'about Uncirculated' and coins in this grade will be pleasing to the eye as most of the fine detail will have minimal wear. Silver coins in particular should have most of the original mint bloom, although this may be disguised by toning. Copper coins which have been badly stored can quickly lose their mint lustre, but evidence of the original surfaces should be apparent.
58 (NGC AU58 - PCGS AU58 or potentially some poorly struck MS graded coins) is often referred to as a slider grade which often catches out even sophisticated dealers and collectors. At first glance, a coin in this grade presents as Uncirculated, even under magnification, but a closer inspection of the high-points of the design introduces doubt about the possibility of the slightest rub. Quite often this is the result of a pleasing uncirculated coin having been badly stored and, in some instances an AU58 coin will be better suited to a collection than a coin that is technically uncirculated but has a flaw or is heavily bagged or scuffed. For this reason, an AU58 coin should be similar in value to at least a low grade (M)int (S)tate coin, but this is not reflected in the 'new' market where collectors will often pay multiples in price for an ugly coin in any MS holder in preference to an attractive AU58 coin.
From AU58, the surfaces of coins should be totally original, and silver and copper coins, even if toned, should still exhibit reflectivity or underlying lustre and should not appear flat. The natural flash or mint bloom that is imbued on the surface of the coin in the striking process can patinate over time to produce an array of colours and hues significantly adding to the value of the coin. Not only can toning be attractive but it also seals the surfaces and will often disguise minor surface marks more evident on a brilliant coin impacting on its desirability and value.
Unfortunately, it was the accepted practice of large mail order coin dealers in the 60s, 70s and 80s to use various dips to chemically remove patination (toning) from coins in order to homogenise their stock and speed up orders. This was an errant action that irreparably damaged the coins and which to a more sophisticated eye diminished rather than improved their look and value. Heavily dipped coins will have a bright yet lifeless appearance and, significantly, will never re-tone to their original state as their surfaces have in effect been chemically altered through silver plating. A coin left in the dip for too long can develop grainy surfaces or if the dip is not washed off the surface of the coin it may develop uneven toning sometimes referred to as after-dip. Coins having been artificially re-toned to disguise a problem will usually not exhibit underlying mint bloom and again will appear dull and lifeless particularly in the fields.
If you are unfamiliar with a coin series, you should acquaint yourself with the high-points of each coin design before you make an ambitious purchase. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between an under-struck coin, the design of which is incomplete, with one that has attracted slight rub. A coin design will usually have a number of high-points which will be the first to show wear, so it is reasonable to argue that if, for example, two or three associated points show no rub then a fourth, which appears slightly worn, may just be weakly struck. If the third-party grading services were to adopt this principle then it is likely than some coins currently graded as AU58 would be considered Mint State. To assist collectors in identifying 'about Uncirculated' coins, each individual coin entry in the 'Benchmark Catalogue' identifies the high-points of the coin design first susceptible to wear.
Strike is important, as is eye appeal, and a very poorly detailed or ugly coin is not the equivalent of a well stuck or attractive example even though the two coins may be technically the same grade. Collectors who indiscriminately buy third-party graded coins solely on the basis of the grade shown on the holder rather than on the quality of the coin contained therein may unfortunately be disappointed when looking to sell. Each coin is unique in its state of preservation, and although the services do mention strike and eye appeal in their grading standards, it is evident that they are not predominant factors when they assign a generic grade.
The following Mint State grades should also be referenced with the 'Comparative Grading Chart'.
60(NGC AU58-MS61 - PCGS AU58-MS60) is technically a Mint State or Uncirculated coin but not necessarily a desirable one. A coin in this grade will have picked up considerable collateral damage in the minting process either while being ejected from the coin presses and dropping into coin bins, or when being transported loosely in coin bags before being released into circulation. There will be any combination of scuff marks, cuts, rim nicks and naturally occurring hairline scratches on the surfaces but there should be absolutely no trace of wear on the high-points. Mint bloom whether bright or muted should be evident on the surfaces.
61(NGC AU58-MS61 - PCGS AU58-MS61) coins will have significantly fewer hairlines, contact marks or light bagging observable to the naked eye. As with all MS coins, the high-points of the design should exhibit no hint of rub under magnification and the coin surfaces should appear original and not dipped. It is interesting to note that the major third-party grading services rarely utilise the MS60-61 grades on international coins. This appears to confirm the suspicion that the AU58 grade is the usual fall-back position on a coin that may be uncirculated but about which the graders can't make up their mind.
62(NGC AU58-MS62 - PCGS AU58-MS62) will be a fractionally better example than an MS61 coin having picked up fewer contact marks at the time of striking or at a later stage due to poor handling while being transported. Overall, the coin will have a few detracting marks particularly in the fields, but generally will have a pleasing appearance. It will not be sufficiently attractive to lift it to an MS63 grade but it should command a reasonable premium above an MS61 graded coin. Once again, the coin should be totally original in appearance.
MS62 is the grade most dealers will stock and it should be regarded as an achievable basis of an uncirculated collection.
63(NGC MS62-3 - PCGS MS62-3) is the equivalent of a choice uncirculated grade and will satisfy all but the most discerning collector. Coins at this level will again exhibit no wear and will have enhanced eye-appeal being relatively well-struck with fewer noticeable contact marks. In general, the coin will have only a couple of detracting marks or a small grouping of insignificant hairlines, a scuff or a small cut, but the fields will be relatively mark free when viewed unaided by a lens. The coin can be either bright or toned but will always exhibit some evidence of its original natural bloom.
As a note of caution, collectors should be suspicious of an overly dull or lifeless coin because it may have been tampered with. As this can be considered an investment grade, it is timely to provide a note of caution concerning lacquering. It was not uncommon in the 1950s and 60s for collectors to lacquer their high-grade collections in an effort to preserve their originality. Although it was not necessarily done to deceive, as in the past most collectors were not so condition conscious, it can prove deceptive today as lacquering has the obvious effect of smoothing over any surface defects so that the coin will appear to be a much higher grade. An obvious example of this practice is the Bombay Mint penny and halfpenny proof re-strikes of 1942 and 1943 (that were struck in 1966). These coins were struck on redundant dies that had heavily rusted and which were tidied up with an abrasive, and so can show heavy or light hairlines (raised) depending on the extent of the lacquering. A tell-tale sign of lacquering is a build-up of residue in the milling which can be observed by running a fine-tooth pick through the teeth. It is important for collectors to be aware of this problem and be suitably wary of high grade slabbed coins pedigreed to old collections where the owner was known to have lacquered their coins.
64(NGC MS63-4 - PCGS MS63-4) should be regarded as near gem quality on a well-struck Australian coin, and to the naked eye the coin should appear almost perfect. It is only under magnification that a small number of contact marks or hairlines become obvious, usually in the obverse field which is a major focus point. Generally, the busy-ness of the detail will help to obscure contact marks in the coin design although they will be observable under close inspection with a magnifying glass. In terms of ascendancy, the MS64 coin is best described as the visual equivalent under magnification of what one would expect of an MS62 coin when viewed unaided. Collectors are advised not to use an overly strong glass use when inspecting coins. A broad lens five (5x) to ten (10x) power glass is sufficient when inspecting a coin as anything stronger tends to amplify microscopic faults of no real consequence and which do not impact on the coins appearance.
65(NGC MS64-5 - PCGS MS64-5) similarly, is the magnified equivalent of the MS63 coin with only a few obscure marks or hairlines revealing themselves under a glass. It is extremely difficult to consistently secure business-strikes of Australian coins from the Edward VII or George V Australian series in MS65 or above. Due to the short supply and the prohibitive cost, a modern-day collector with limited funds may very well have to be satisfied with a type set.
66(NGC MS65-6 - PCGS MS65-6) is entering into rarified terrain with only a few minute marks observable under close scrutiny. To emphasize the rarity of this grade, it is presumed that, unless there is a yet undiscovered hoard of Australian coins, less than a few hundred Australian coins of George V (1911-36) will ever make this grade although it is certain that hoards of some dates of the coins of George VI and Elizabeth II have survived and the population numbers will be considerable.
67(NGC MS66-7 - PCGS MS66-7) in the Australian Commonwealth coin series is near perfection and only a couple of minute marks will be revealed under the closest scrutiny. It is fair to estimate that less than one hundred coins of the George V series are likely to make this grade. However, collectors should be careful not to overpay for coins of George VI and Elizabeth II in this very high grade even though they are very desirable, as significant hoards of mint rolls have from time to time come to light which will impact on their sustainable value. It is also known that the Melbourne Mint used dies from past years to strike coins to meet supply in the run up to the change-over to decimal currency. For example, the mintage of 1964 pennies struck by the Melbourne Mint includes 10 million that were struck in 1965. Amongst others, dies for the 1952 Penny, the 1954 Sixpence, the 1962 Sixpence, the 1961 Shilling and the 1960 Florin are thought to have been brought back into production well after their years had passed, and is a reason why significant numbers of these coins have survived in very high grades.
68(NGC MS67-8 - PCGS MS67-8) and above should be considered super coins, rarely sighted and commanding a heavy premium on a scarce or rare coin. Even after careful study under magnification, the coin will appear nearly flawless with only a couple of infinitesimal faults. But once again a collector who relies on third-party grading should avoid being the pacesetter in paying a big price for a high-grade late-date coin, as in time more such coins will eventuate as larger numbers of coins are submitted for grading. Certainly this is true of the lacquered uncirculated coins that have been taken from Royal Australian Mint and Perth Mint collector sets which in our opinion should not be graded by the services as their surfaces have been coated and they are not in their original struck state.
69 (NGC MS69 - PCGS MS69) is the penultimate grade attached to a virtually flawless coin. Again, we don't think lacquered coins taken from Royal Australian Mint and Perth Mint collector sets should qualify.
70(NGC MS70 - PCGS MS70) is a theoretical grade attached to a flawless coin that is unlikely to exist in an unlacquered state.
The coin design is flat although fully recognisable but with little fine detail remaining.
There is more depth to the coin design with some fine features showing, especially incised detail.
Most of the fine detail of the coin design is apparent but the high-points will be flat.
Slight flatness on the high-points of the coin.
Slight wear on the high-points of the coin which is apparent without the aid of magnification.
AU58 - MS ?
AU58 - MS ?
Slight wear on the high-points of the coin which become apparent with the aid of magnification (often confused with poor strike)
No wear, but the coin will have a combination of scuff marks, heavy cuts, rim nicks and naturally occurring hairline scratches.
No wear, but the coin will have noticeably fewer of the scuff marks, heavy cuts, rim nicks and naturally occurring hairlines.
The coin will have a few detracting marks particularly in the fields or a combination of a few minor marks such as small cuts, light scuffs or naturally occurring hairlines.
The coin will have only a couple of detracting marks or a combination of a few minor marks such as small cuts, light scuffs or naturally occurring hairlines. These are sometimes obscured by the design.
On close examination, the coin will have a few minor marks in combination such as small cuts, light scuffs or naturally occurring hairlines.
On close examination, the coin will have a few obscure marks in combination such as minor cuts, light scuffs or naturally occurring hairlines.
The coin appears near perfect and will reveal only a few minute marks or naturally occurring hairlines under magnification.
The coin appears near perfect and will reveal only a couple of minute marks or naturally occurring hairlines under magnification.
The coin is near perfect and will reveal only a couple of infinitesimal marks or naturally occurring hairlines under magnification.
Adjectival grades are a graduated scale traditionally used by collectors to describe coins in differing states of preservation.
AU50 is a 'good Extremely Fine' coin in the Australian context which will show even but light wear across most of the raised coin design.
AU53 is an 'about Uncirculated' coin which will be pleasing to the eye as only the high-points of the coin design will show minimal wear.
AU58 is a 'virtually Uncirculated' coin on which rub on the high-points is only revealed after careful study usually under magnification. In can be argued that in some instances coins graded AU58 are just poorly detailed Uncirculated coins.
Bagging on a coin refers to the unsightly nicks and scratches that can cover its surfaces. They are caused when the coin clashes with others when it is dropped into collection bins after being struck or when travelling in mint bags to a point of distribution such as a bank. Original bank bags of coins have been known to turn up from time to time.
Band of the crown sits at the bottom of the head-dress worn by Edward VII and George V on Australian and some other British Commonwealth coins. The two parallel lines contain a series of jewels (diamonds & pearls) which wear very quickly when a coin circulates and are recognised high-points used when grading Australian coins. It should be noted that the portrait design was not consistent across all Commonwealth countries. For example the Indian 1/4 Anna obverse used mistakenly on the Australian 1916 'Mule' Halfpenny has no 'pearls' in the band.
Birmingham reverse source die was used intermittently on Australian pennies from 1912 to 1931 and is identified by a count of 177 edge denticles. Birmingham Mint (also known as the Heaton Mint) was a private mint sub-contracted by the Royal Mint (London) to produce the entire mintage of Australian halfpennies in 1912, 1914 and 1915 and the Australian 1912 Penny. These coins as well as part of the mintage of the 1915 Penny, the 1915 Shilling and the 1914 and 1915 florins, with which it shared production with London, were all marked with an 'H' on dies which were supplied by the Royal Mint to single out their production. In 1951 the Heaton Mint (Birmingham) also helped produce nearly half of the Australian 1951 'PL' halfpennies, but its output was not obviously singled out as it too bore the new London mint mark. There is some evidence that a die - marker was employed to distinguish the Heaton Mint's Production with a small alteration to the left bar on the top of the 'Y' in 'HALF PENNY'
Blank is the prepared metal planchet on which a coin is struck.
Bm is a master tool (hub or die) altered by the Melbourne Mint and is identified by the 'm' suffix after the type. Similarly a 'b' suffix indicates a master tool altered by the Bombay Mint and a 'p' suffix a master tool altered by the Perth Mint.
BN is an acronym for a 'Brown' copper coin with little or no mint lustre. The surfaces of the coin have oxidized and will have either a muted even colour or small patches of mint red.
Brockages are an incuse or counter-sunk impression of a coin design caused when a struck coin sticks in either the top or bottom die and so itself acts as an opposing die. When a new blank is fed into the coin press the raised surface of the captured coin will produce a full or partial sunken impression of the same design but in reverse. The resultant coin will be either a double headed or double tailed coin with the intended design showing on one side with a sunken image in reverse on the other.
Bronze was the alloy used for the Australian halfpenny and penny denominations. The alloy used comprised approximately 97% copper, 3% tin with a trace of zinc. There is some evidence that in 1943, tin was omitted completely from some issues due to a wartime shortage and in subsequent years the alloy was adjusted to 97% copper, 2.5% zinc and 0.5% tin. This change in alloy accounts for the slightly brassy look of the latter mint state halfpennies and pennies. The Perth Mint struck bronze coins on blanks that were locally produced with copper that was badly refined i.e. containing a trace element of iron and so the coins quite often appear streaky in appearance.
Brushing on a coin is caused by a mild abrasive such as cloth, tissue or cotton bud which can leave fine hairline scratches on the surface.
Bullion value is the underlying intrinsic value of the metal in the coin.
Business-strike relates to a coin struck under normal pressure conditions for circulation. This is distinct from a proof coin which is a show-piece not intended for circulation and which is usually double struck under heavy pressure on specially prepared dies. The Australian mints did not normally retire proof dies after striking the limited run of proof coins. Early strikes on proof, or new dies, but under normal production standards are often called specimens.
Calcutta Mint at times operated as a branch mint of the Royal Mint (London) and was sub-contracted to strike Australian coins in 1916, 1917 and 1918. Australian coins struck at the Calcutta Mint are identified by an 'I' mint mark under the obverse portrait of George V. The so-called 'Indian obverse' die which the Calcutta Mint received from London had 178 denticles whereas the 'English obverse' die used on earlier Australian pennies had 177 denticles. Similarly, the 'Calcutta reverse' die had 179 denticles which differed from the 'London reverse' (174 denticles) and the 'Birmingham reverse' (177 denticles) which were used on earlier Australian pennies. These are useful variances which are used to define varieties within a mintage.
Choice uncirculated grade refers to a coin that has escaped circulation, and is well above average when compared to other uncirculated coins. The state of preservation of a coin strongly correlates with its desirability and hence its value.
Commemorative issues are one-off designs usually struck in restricted numbers to celebrate a momentous occasion. By virtue of their unique design they are often souvenired by the populace and so usually survive in better than average condition.
Comparative Grading Chart is a concise guide to the grades used in 'The Benchmark Catalogue' aligning them with existing adjectival grades and the standards used by NGC and PCGS. When valuing coins in either NGC or PCGS holders collectors should refer to this chart to determine the implied catalogue value.
Concave is the opposite of convex. The term can be applied to a sunken area of the coin design i.e. recessed or depressed.
Condition relates to the state of preservation of a particular coin.
Contact marks are the knocks and abrasions which occur when a coin comes into contact with another object.
Convex is the opposite of concave. The term can be applied to an area of the coin design which is in relief i.e. raised or arched.
Cracking on a disintegrating die shows up on a struck coin in a random series of raised 'vein-like' lines.
Decimal currency is a monetary system that revolves around the number '10'. Denominations of a particular currency are either fractions or multiples of '10'.
Denominations are units of currency which can also be expressed as either a fraction or a multiple eg a 'Half Dollar' or a '50 Cent'.
Denticles are found on the perimeter of the coin surface and are usually either beads or tooth-like projections into the field.
Depth on a coin is the highs and lows of the design from the surface baseline which are worn flat over time through the rigours of circulation.
Devices are the small recesses of the design particularly the flat surfaces of the coin within the raised legend or lettering.
Die is a one-sided negative or sunken image of a coin to scale. A coin is manufactured when a blank (planchet) is struck between opposing obverse and reverse dies.
Die-markers are defects on a die that transfer to the struck coin. The raised 'marker' may be a die crack, polish mark or pimple on the coin surface caused by the deterioration or mis-handling of the die. They can sometimes confirm the bona fides of a heavily worn variety thought to be the product of one die e.g. the 1922/1 Overdate Threepence. It can also relate to a surreptitious change to a die to single out a mint's production from a greater mintage which may have occurred on the Australian 1951 'PL' Halfpenny.
Dips such as 'Jewel Lustre' and 'Goddard's Silver Dip' are commercial products used by dealers in the past to strip toning from coins in the mistaken belief that they were restoring the coins to their original condition. The mint bloom that is imbued on the coin surface in the striking process will remain as deep lustre under the surfaces of the toned coin but is lost when a coin is dipped or chemically cleaned. The resultant coin will appear unnaturally bright and lifeless.
Double-sided patterns, as distinct from one-sided patterns or models, present the full intended design of a proposed coin which was never adopted for circulation.
EF45 is the equivalent of a 'Extremely Fine' coin. In the Australian context a coin in EF40 should be viewed as being in 'about Extremely Fine' condition and in AU50 as the equal of a 'good Extremely Fine' coin.
Effigy is the image of a person on a coin which in the case of the Australian coin series is the reigning British monarch.
Encapsulated coins are not exclusively the domain of third party grading, although coins contained in the branded versions have obviously been graded by the individual services. With commercial third-party grading services it is a condition of their limited guarantee that their coin holders remain intact and show no sign of tampering.
English obverse dies were used on all Australian penny dates from 1911 to 1919 excepting the Calcutta-struck pennies of 1916, 1917 and 1918. This obverse is characterised by 177 edge denticles as opposed to the 178 denticles found on the 'Indian obverse' used by the Calcutta Mint. On the George V pennies of the 1920s and early 1930s the 'English obverse' die was used in tandem with the 'Indian obverse' die before taking over exclusively from 1932. The differing denticle counts is a useful characteristic which can be used to define varieties within a mintage.
Experimental dies were used by the Australian mints to calibrate the coin presses before they started a full production run. Some were used dies left over from prior mintages or bore features not intended for general circulation whilst others were new dies prepared but ultimately not used in their intended year. Contemporary reports suggest that coins from these limited runs were returned to open bags of blanks so that they could be counted in stocktakes, and were on occasion inadvertently released into circulation. This accounts for the small unrecorded numbers of the more obscure varieties that have survived and is also the way in which the Australian 1930 Pennies were likely released.
Eye appeal of a coin is a measure of its attractiveness. A coin that is brilliant uncirculated or which has built up even patination over time is far more desirable than a coin with patchy toning.
F15 is the median grade of a coin in 'Fine' condition. In the Australian context a coin in F12 should be viewed as in 'about Fine' grade and in F18 as in 'good Fine' condition.
Fabric is the metal alloy from which the coin is made. In the Australian coin series the 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2- and 5/- coins were made from sterling silver from 1910-1945 and quaternary silver from 1946-1964. The 1/2d and 1d coins were struck in bronze.
Fields are those parts of the coin surface not taken up by the design or legend.
Figure punches made of hardened steel were used to add a new date or part-date to either a master or working die. The prepared die was struck from a hub (positive image) from which the whole or part of the date had been machined off. If the figures were not fully removed from the hub then remnants of the original figure could show through on coins struck from the ensuing dies resulting in overdates.
Focus point is an area on a coin to which the eye gravitates when grading. The obverse fields of a coin are an example of a focus point.
Forgeries or counterfeits are fake coins not struck by the official mint. Alternatively, a genuine coin may have been physically altered to create a more valuable variety e.g. with the removal or addition of a mint mark. It is also worth noting that convincing forgeries of third-party coin holders, which prevent closer examination of the forged coins contained therein, have also been observed. Both NGC and PCGS have picture files of coins that they have graded more recently, and on their sites you are able to cross reference the unique number on the holder with the photos on file.
Gem quality is the old measure of a perfectly preserved coin that escaped circulation. Fleur de Coin (a sobriquet that translates as 'Flower of the Die') was another term embraced by some collectors for a perfect coin but traditionalists only apply this term to museum quality proof strikes that remain unimpaired.
Generic grading involves grouping together coins fulfilling a prescribed set of criteria. Other characteristics of the coin which might enhance or diminish its appeal are not greatly considered. It is noted however, that after 25 years of commercial grading, some of the services have introduced an ongoing '+' attribute within a grade for coins which have exceptional eye appeal, eg MS63 +. This is an attempt to better mimic the old adjectival grading system which allows for a split grade or eye appeal.
Guarantee of Authenticity is provided by the major grading services in addition to grading. The grading service will provide compensation to the owner of a 'slabbed' coin (encapsulated in its trade marked holder) if it is later proven to be a forgery. This guarantee is limited by the terms and conditions set out by the individual services which could determine whether it is legally enforceable in your legal jurisdiction.
Hairlines are light scratches into the surface of a coin. If it can be determined that the hairlines are raised i.e. not incuse then it is the result of the die being polished before striking and it is not subsequent damage to the struck coin. Polish marks on a coin incurred before striking should theoretically not impact on its MS grade.
Halfpenny pronounced ha'penny is a colloquial compounding of Half Penny. Both versions are acceptable and interchangeable.
Handling costs relates to the sorting and cataloguing costs incurred by a dealer.
High-points of a coin's design are the raised areas more exposed to abrasion. Usually, a coin design will have a number of acknowledged points which over time have proven to wear first. The collector should train his eye on these points in the search for any hint of wear. Three major points of wear on the crowned portraits of Edward VII and George V are the second set of 'pearls' in the crown, the cheek and the tip of the moustache which stand proud on the curved effigies. Wear also quickly shows on the adornments on the kings' robes. The obvious points of wear on the left-facing portrait of George VI are the eyebrow, cheek, jawline and neck, while the right-facing Elizabeth II is similarly vulnerable on the eyebrow, cheek and shoulder-strap. The lines below the part in the hair on the head of George VI are susceptible to wear, but this area is often under-struck the result of worn dies and so should not be totally relied upon when grading a coin. On the reverse Coat of Arms that appears on the silver denominations, points of rub are the tip of the star above the shield (old arms 1910-36) and the top of the shield (new arms 1938-64). Additionally, the ear, the eye, the shoulder and the leg of the kangaroo as well as the eye and the shoulder feathers of the emu (old arms) or the arch of the emu's back (new arms) will first show wear. When grading a coin, collectors should pay less regard to the top edge of the shield and the folds of the scroll as well as the lettering that reads "ADVANCE AUSTRALIA" (old arms) which are often under-struck from worn dies and not necessarily from wear to the coin itself. The ram's head design used on later date shillings will exhibit wear on the forehead, the nose, the horns and the large chest roll, while it is the ribbon and central tie of the wheat stalks on the Threepence that attracts rub. On the earlier halfpennies and pennies the letters of 'COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA' will become rounded through wear and the beads contained in the inner concentric circles will flatten and merge over time. The 'Kangaroo' design adopted on the latter coins will show wear on the eye, the ear, the neck and the shoulder of the kangaroo as well as the rump, the tail and the upper leg.
Hoard is a term used for an unusually large number of coins coming to light after a protracted period. The coins may not necessarily be of high grade but the hoard may contain a number of choice examples.
Holder is a container in which a coin is held. It is a term that recently has been appropriated by followers of the grading services.
Hub is a one-sided positive or raised image of a coin to scale from which an impression or die is taken.
Imperial or sterling currency was inherited from Great Britain and was denominated in pounds, shillings and pence. There were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. There were also fractional coins such as threepences and sixpences as well as the multiple Crown denomination. Australia converted to Decimal currency on 14 February, 1966.
Incised refers to a part of the coin surface where the design is deliberately sunken rather than raised.
Incuse is a similar term to incised but is better used to describe a counter-sunk design that may be partial or whole, but that usually occurs unintentionally in the coining process. In the coin context it can also be used to describe a cut or scratch into the metal.
Indian obverse dies were first used on the Australian pennies struck at the Calcutta Mint in 1916, 1917 and 1918. This die is characterised by 178 edge denticles as opposed to the 177 denticles found on the 'English obverse'. Unused dies were shipped to the Melbourne Mint in August, 1920 and were used intermittently on Australian pennies struck in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth until 1931.
Key dates are scarce or rare coins that, usually due to their small mintages, will be the hardest coins in a particular series to acquire.
Lacquering is the practice of painting the surfaces of a coin with a thick clear plastic-like coating in order to preserve its originality. In the past there were no prescribed formulae used by collectors and virtually any commercially available product was used with no regard paid to the long term effects to the coin. The lacquer itself, which smoothes over any flaws, can dull over time making it even more difficult to judge the condition of the underlying coin. The grading services do not always detect or acknowledge lacquering. For example, it should be noted that since at least the late 1970s the R(oyal) A(ustralian) M(int) has spray lacquered the surfaces of its modern collector coins before packaging them in order to preserve their look, and so it seems puzzling that the grading services can distinguish variable high grades in these issues, which are all in effect the same. There is a strong argument that lacquered coins, or at least the business strikes, should not be graded as their surfaces have been potentially filled and and so do not truthfully reflect their state of preservation.
Legend refers to the letters and numbers inside the rim of the coin. These will remain constant for the duration of a particular coin type or design. The date of the coin, which changes annually, is sometimes also found in this position. The changing part of the legend or coin surface housing the date is referred to as the exergue.
Lustre or mint lustre is an alternative term for mint bloom and can be otherwise described as the reflective surfaces imbued on a coin when struck.
Marker in this context is an intentional change to a die by a mint to lay claim to changes made to a master die. However, it may also be a particular die characteristic or a crack or flaw that distinguishes a variety from the major part of a mintage. An example is the small pimple that occurs on the inner concentric circle on the reverse die used on the 1916 'Mule' Halfpenny. This characteristic appears to be the product of just one reverse die and is found on all examples of the 'Mule' considered genuine as well as a small percentage of 1916 halfpennies which appear to have been produced after the errant obverse die was replaced.
Master tools can be either hubs or dies which are reserved from general production, and are called upon only sparingly to produce an ongoing supply of working hubs or dies.
Milling is the teeth or graining occurring around the edge of a coin. Plain edged coins by definition have no milling.
Mint bloom is the flash or lustre imbued on the surface of a coin in the striking process. Once lost, this finish cannot be replicated by artificial means.
Mint lustre is an alternative term for mint bloom and can be otherwise described as the reflective surfaces imbued on a coin when struck.
Mint marks are sometimes found on coins and are small letters or other identifying marks distinguishing where they were struck. In some years, the overall production of a particular coin denomination was split among a number of mints, leading to scarce issues such as the 1942 Melbourne Threepence, which contrarily has no mint mark and so is easily distinguished from the far more common Denver and San Francisco strikings which are marked with a 'D' and 'S' respectively.
Mint State is the expansion of the acronym (abbreviation) MS.
Mint-generated varieties are coins deliberately struck by a mint and have characteristics that differ from other coins of the same denomination and date.
Mintage is the number of coins struck of a denomination for a particular year. An overall mintage may be divided into coins bearing different mint marks and may also include varieties.
Mis-struck coins such as off-centre strikes, clipped coins, coins with high rims or even full brockages are the product of coins not being properly ejected from the coining press.
Model coins are a faithful reproduction of a proposed coin design. Usually an up-scale plaster model is reduced by a pantographic device to produce a one-sided to-scale model coin to demonstrate the look of the intended design. If the design is approved then a to-scale master tool (hub) is produced from which dies can be derived. However, in this instance it is theorised that examples of circulating coins may have been up-scaled by a pantograph to produce a model from which working tools (hubs & dies) were subsequently produced. This could account for the rougher design features of the Bombay-struck coins when compared to their Australian-struck counterparts.
MS is the abbreviation (acronym) for Mint State and is the equivalent of an uncirculated coin. Numerically graded coins graduate from an MS60 which equates to a coin just making the uncirculated grade to an MS70 a theoretical grade for a perfect coin. The reality of course is that there is no such thing as perfection and if carefully examined any 'non-lacquered' coin meant for circulation will have some minor blemish. Australian pre-decimal coins were not made to particularly high standards and so any well-struck coin in MS64 grade or better should generally be considered amongst the finest known.
MS62 or Mint State 62 is the equivalent of a coin approaching 'Choice Uncirculated' condition.
NGC is the abbreviation for The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, a North American based company that provides a third-party grading service for a fee.
No-graded coins have been rejected by the grading services usually due to perceived damage. A list of reasons why a grading service has refused to grade a coin can be found on their individual websites.
Number when it is used in the context of grading relates to the numeric grade assigned to a coin by a collector, dealer or a third-party grading service.
Obverse is the portrait side of the coin which on an Australian pre-decimal coin shows the effigy of the reigning monarch.
Overdates result from the less than successful removal of a figure from the date on a master hub. The ensuing dies will show traces of the old figure around the new figure which has been re-entered. It was a long held practice in Australia, evidenced by early examples of Sydney Mint Sovereigns, to re-use redundant master tools by punching new dates over old ones. Overdates, such as the 1934/3 Threepence and the 1933/2 Penny, are quite noticeable but were obviously acceptable to the issuing authorities as they were released into circulation in considerable quantities. The most famous overdate, ie the 1922/1 Threepence is thought to be an early experiment by the Melbourne Mint to change the date on a die. These crudely executed coins are rare and were probably an experimental strike not meant to circulate.
Ovoids are enclosed oval shaped areas which in the case of the 1946 Florin is the space within the loops of the '6' and '9' in the date.
Pantograph is a mechanical device that can replicate a model of a coin on any desired scale. In practice a large-scale plaster model of a coin (positive image) is reduced to a to-scale coin hub (positive image) from which the negative image coin dies are punched out.
Patination is the myriad of hues that silver coins in particular can develop from exposure to the atmosphere. All metals used for coins, including gold, silver and bronze (copper) will over time take on a hue from environmental factors sometimes adding to the attractiveness of the coin. Natural toning is a bonus for collectors as it suggests that the underlying coin surface has survived in its original state.
PCGS is the abbreviation for The Professional Coin Grading Service, a North American based company providing a third-party grading service for a fee.
Pearls appear in the bands on the crowns of Edward VII and George V. There are four pairs separated by oblongs and/or diamonds.
Planchet is a prepared metal blank on which the coin is struck.
Polish Marks are transferred on to a die by the use of an abrasive usually to remove a rust spot that has developed. A coin struck with polish marks will show raised hairlines.
Portrait is the image of a person on a coin which in the case of the Australian coin series is the reigning monarch.
Pre-decimal currency in Australia was the 'imperial' or sterling pounds, shillings and pence inherited from Great Britain. There were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. Australia converted to Decimal currency on the 14th February, 1966.
Proof strikes are highly defined examples of coin issues that are usually double-stuck under heavy pressure on specially prepared dies. The original purpose of proof strikes was to record the work of the mint and as such they were made in strictly limited numbers for official collections but occasionally they were given by the mintmaster as a gift to an individual for a service rendered. Over time, the issuing of proof coins has become more commercialised and the mintages have grown exponentially as they have been heavily marketed for public sale.
PVC is the abbreviation for Polyvinyl Chloride, a popular plastic used in the production of inexpensive coin albums. Unfortunately, the chemical softeners, particularly Phthalic Acid, that are added to PVC to make it more flexible and transparent, eventually leeches from the plastic and will cause damage to coin surfaces over time. Affected coins may develop a cloudy appearance or a greenish hue but, more critically, coins can develop green spots which if left will eat into the surface of the coin. It is crucial coins be stored in acid free holders to avoid deterioration.
Quaternary Silver is yellowish-white alloy of 50% silver, 40% copper, 5% nickel and 5% zinc. Before striking, the surface of the coin blank is blanched with acid to remove the base metals leaving a fine silver coating on the newly minted coins. However, the underlying metal is quickly exposed through circulation. Quaternary silver was used in the Australian Pre-decimal Coinage dated 1946 and onwards while at the same time sterling silver coins, essentially florins, were systematically being withdrawn in order to repay war debt. According to the research of author Tom Hanley, "...silver worth $6 million from re-melted pre-1947 (sic) (should be 1946) coins was sent to the United States in 1956 to repay silver lent during World War II when Australian coins worth more than $12 million were minted in San Francisco and at Denver."
Raw state relates to a coin that is not in a holder and can be inspected directly.
RB is an acronym for a 'Red and Brown' copper coin with significant mint lustre. The coin can have either a slightly muted even red colour or patchy surfaces which are predominantly mint red.
RD is an acronym for a 'Red' copper coin with virtually full mint lustre.
Re-toning is the artificial darkening of a coin, and is usually undertaken in an attempt to restore an unnaturally bright coin to an original looking state, or to obscure a flaw on what was an otherwise natural coin. Some attempts are blatantly obvious while others are more difficult to detect. However, a re-toned coin that exhibits no wear should not be considered uncirculated, as the practice is meant to deceive, and the coin is not in its original condition.
Re-tooling of a coin involves the repairing of a flaw or the putting back of detail missing through damage or wear. It is a dishonest practice meant to deceive and may involve one or more processes such as filling, re-engraving and buffing. There is some argument that lacquering should be included in this description as it can act as a filler.
Register of Third-Party Graded Coins is updated regularly and captures the number of coins that have been submitted to NGC and PCGS for grading. Not all high grade coins have been third-party graded but it does provide the reader with a statistical sample of the relative rarity of certain dates of Australian coins and the condition in which they have survived.
Relief on a coin is that part of the coin design that is raised from the surface plane. It includes the central design, the legend, the date and the denticles.
Reverse designs are usually more parochial in nature. In the Australian context reverses depict the National Coat of Arms, an example of local fauna in the form of a kangaroo and emu as well as a merino ram and stalks of wheat (imported species that at the time the coins were struck underpinned the economy of Australia whose exports were largely agrarian).
Rim is the raised edge of a coin that serves as protection for the legend.
Rolls in this context relates to uncirculated coins in original bank wrappers.
Rub is light friction that has removed the very high points of a coin design or that has broken through the original or developing colour of the coin. Coins badly stored in pliable plastic holders such as PVC can show discolouration or pressure marks over time where they have pressed against the holders and this is sometimes wrongly identified as rub. Regardless, this interaction of the coin with the holder is also undesirable and may reduce the value of the coin.
Rusty dies are evidence of the poor maintenance practices of the Australian mints. It was normal procedure for coins to be struck only to order and so production runs might be separated by weeks or even months, making the working dies susceptible to rust if they were left in the presses and not removed and properly stored. Coins struck on rusty dies are typified by grainy surfaces caused by pitting to the die surfaces.
Sans serif is a printing term describing the ends of letters or numbers which are plain and do not have small projecting features called 'serifs'.
Sealed surfaces on a coin suggest that it has patinated naturally. There should be no breaks in the surface colour and any nicks and scratches should not appear fresh and will be disguised to a degree by the toning.
Serifying is the ornamental extensions found at the end of letters or numbers. In the context of this catalogue it also applies to the florid curving that sometimes occurs on the base of letters and numbers in the legend of a coin.
Sheldon Coin Grading Scale was introduced in 1949 and is a graduated 70 point scale used to grade coins.
Slabbed coins are encapsulated in a tamper resistant holder particular to a third party grading service. They will bear the logo of the service, a brief description of the coin as well as a grade and a unique serial number and/or bar code pertaining to that particular coin.
Slider is a colloquial term associated with a coin which at first glance appears to be a desirable uncirculated specimen. It is only after the coin has been closely examined, usually under magnification, that one or more of the high points will reveal the slightest evidence of friction or rub.
Source die is the original master die from which a number of working dies are reproduced.
Specimens are the first coins struck on new dies but under normal production standards, ie a single strike under reduced pressure. It is evident that in Australia the dies that were used to strike a small number of proofs were not retired or discarded but were subsequently used for the normal production run, and so some specimen coins can have the remnants of proof-like features such as die polish marks, frosting and mirrored surfaces.
Squared-off in this context relates to the sharp edges of the block type that spells out the 'COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA' in the central design. As a coin circulates for any length of time, the edges of the raised letters become rounded.
Sterling Silver was used in Australian silver coins from 1910-1945. It comprises 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.
Strike is the measure of how much of the intended design is apparent on the coin. A coin struck on new dies normally exhibits all the fine design work, while those struck on older worn dies will show ever decreasing fine detail.
Superscribed banknotes were requisitioned banknote forms issued by a number of private banks in various denominations that were over-stamped by the Australian Commonwealth Government to provide a new national currency. The stamp was headed 'AUSTRALIAN NOTE' and bore the signatures of Jas. R. Collins, Accountant and Geo. T. Allen, Secretary to the Treasury. They were dated 1st December 1910 also declared that the notes were "Payable in Gold Coin at the Commonwealth Treasury at the seat of Government". Only used as a temporary measure they were replaced by new Commonwealth of Australia banknotes from 1913.
Third-party grading relates to another party other than the buyer or seller casting a judgement on the grade of a coin. In the traditional market this involved the seeking out of a second opinion from a non-involved party, but in recent decades a number of commercial grading services have sprung up providing their opinion for a fee. Each service sets out strict grading criteria to which it theoretically adheres. After a judgement is made, the graded coin is usually encapsulated in a branded tamper-free holder which shows a brief description, a generic grade and a unique serial number and/or a bar code pertaining to that particular coin.
Timeline is a series of pivotal events in chronological order which highlight an historical development.
Toned coins have developed natural patination due to exposure to their environment. Generally bronze or copper coins attract a significant premium if they had retained their original mint lustre but gold and more particularly silver coins can develop a myriad of colours and hues which can enhance their values.
Type sets should be the pathway for the modern collector looking to invest in coins if only for the obvious reason that it requires far fewer coins to complete a set, and so is more affordable in the much sought after higher grades. A type collector does not look to complete the full date run in a series but chooses instead only one coin from a range of dates that represents a new design, such as a different monarch or a change in the legend or the reverse design. For example, all the coins of Edward VII are required for a type set as he died in 1910 the first year of the Australian Commonwealth coinage. However, only one coin from each denomination of George V (1911-36) is needed, as the coin designs remained constant throughout his reign (excepting the commemorative issues). The coin chosen can be a common date or a scarce or rare date depending on the budget of the collector, but by concentrating on quality rather than quantity the abridged collection will prove a stronger investment over time.
Types of coins are generally planned, well executed and observable variants of coins of similar design. It is a more definitive term than variety which is often a quickly conceived subtle change that is often poorly executed.
Under-struck coins are the bane of the Australian series. Uncirculated coins quite often have the appearance of wear on one or two high points of the design usually the result of a build up of metal in the fine recesses of the die due to poor maintenance practices. Generally, pre-decimal coins struck in Australia were produced to very poor standards in comparison to coins struck for us by overseas mints, usually distinguished by a mint mark. The unfortunate exceptions to this are the coins produced by the Heaton Mint, Birmingham (H) which can be as bad, or worse, than the Australian strikings. Certainly, the needs of the collecting community were of no concern to the Treasury which often released coins haphazardly struck on rusty or poorly maintained dies solely to meet the immediate demand for currency. It is up to the modern day collector to seek out early strikes showing the intended fine detail. A worthy challenge for a collector to pursue would be to collect a struck-up set of the threepences of George V, as invariably the second front set of pearls in the band of the regal crown are often blunted or even missing on the majority of uncirculated threepences, due mainly to a combination of the thinness of the planchets, the concavity of the strike and the quick filling of the dies.
Uniface patterns or single-sided patterns are struck to the standard of a circulation coin to demonstrate the likely look of a proposed coin which was never adopted for circulation.
Uprights are the upstrokes of letters in the legend of the coin.
Varieties of coins are a sub-group of a larger population of similar coins but which have a number of dis-similar characteristics. The differences may be the result of planned or accidental changes to a die. An example of a planned change is the transition from 'long denticles' to 'short denticles on the '1943 I' pennies while the omission of the 'I' mint mark on some of the '1942 I' pennies was accidental.
Verdigris is caused by the chemical reaction of a coin containing some element of copper with its environment. Green spots or a slimy green film can form on the surface of the coin that, if left unattended, can eat into the metal potentially leaving pock marks or micro corrosion. Coins stored in pliable plastic holders which contain chemical softeners are often subject to this problem, especially if the coin has a large copper component as found in the bronze or quaternary silver issues.
VF30 is the median grade of a coin in 'Very Fine' condition. In the Australian context a VF20 is really only a 'good Fine'. A VF25 corresponds to a coin in 'about Very Fine' condition and a VF35 is a coin in 'good Very Fine' grade.
VG10 is a coin in 'Very Good' condition.
Weakly-struck and under-struck are essentially the same thing and describe a coin partially missing areas of design appearing on well-struck examples. This can result for a number of reasons such as insufficient pressure in the coining presses, the use of worn dies past their prime, or the use of filled dies from poor maintenance practices leaving a build up of metal in the fine recesses.
Working dies are the production dies used to strike coins. They are in theory precise replicas taken from a master die.