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Australia 1919 (S) .//. Penny

Mint:Sydney Mintage:Part 146,160 Estimate 20,000 Milling:Plain
Weight:9.45 grams Diameter:30.8 mm Composition:97% Copper, 2.5% Zinc, 0.5% Tin
Click to enlarge
Wear
Obverse 1 - English
Click to enlarge
Wear
Reverse Bm - Birmingham (melbourne modified)
Designer: Sir (Edgar) Bertram Mackennal (Initials 'B.M.' raised on truncation)
Design:Left facing profile of George V
Legend:GEORGIVS V D. G. BRITT: OMN: REX F. D. IND: IMP: •
Denticle Count:177 teeth
Mint mark: None
Characteristics:
Designer: William Henry James Blakemore (no attribution)
Design:'ONE PENNY' surrounded by 90 beads contained within concentric circles
Legend:• COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA •
Denticle Count:177 teeth
Mint mark: .//. (Dot above top scroll & below bottom scroll)
Characteristics:
Click on Wear to show high points first susceptible to wear
Value
BM
Ad
NP
8
Good
VG10
10
VG
F12
12
about F
F15
15
Fine
VF20
20
good F
VF25
25
about VF
VF30
30
Very Fine
VF35
35
good VF
EF40
40
about EF
EF45
45
Ext Fine
AU50
50
good EF
AU53
53
about Unc
AU55
58+
virt Unc
AU58
58-60
Uncirc
MS60
58-61
Uncirc
MS61
58-62
Uncirc
MS62
63-64
Choice Unc
MS63
64-65
near Gem
MS64
65-66
Gem
MS65
66-67
Gem
MS66
67-68
Gem
MS67
68
near Flaw
MS68
69
virt Flaw
MS69
70
Flawless
MS70
Proof
B
$40
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
3
 
$50
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
4
 
$75
+
NGC
1
 
PCGS
5
 
$100
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
6
 
$125
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
5
 
$175
+
NGC
1
 
PCGS
6
 
$250
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
3
 
$500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
2
 
$750
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
2
 
$1250
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$2500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$4000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
3
 
$7500
+
NGC
1
 
PCGS
 
 
$12500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$15000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$20000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
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NGC
 
 
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-
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NGC
 
 
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-
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NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
N
RB
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
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NGC
 
 
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-
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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N
R
"
+
NGC
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
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NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
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+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
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NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
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-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
N
BM
Benchmark
Ad
Adjectival
NP
NGC/PCGS
Collectable grades
Does not exist by definition

Investment grades
-
Unlikely to exist

Aspirational grades
BV
Bullion or metal value

Not known in these grades
''
Value as above
Proof
Y (Yes)
N (Not known)
Last updated February 2024
Notes:
In 1919, the London Mint for the first time devolved responsibility for striking all Australian coins to its branch mint in Melbourne, and as the newly recognized senior Australian mint it received 1919 ‘Plain’ Penny dies i.e., without mint marks from London to strike its first pennies.

The London Mint in its senior role never marked its dies when striking Australian coins, but it did mark dies with mint marks when it subcontracted part or all of a mintage to other mints i.e., the 1911 (L), 1913 (L), 1914 (L) & 1915 (L) pennies are all without mintmarks and the 1912 H, 1915 H, 1916 I, 1917 I & 1918 I pennies are all with mintmarks. Following this protocol, the London Mint accorded Melbourne the right to use unmarked dies as it was fully expected to strike the entire 1919 Penny mintage, and it also received 1919 ‘Plain’ Halfpenny dies for the same reason, but in the end it was the Sydney Mint which was tasked with striking the Halfpennies.

By tradition, the Melbourne Mint as the senior Australian mint should have mint-marked the Halfpenny dies forwarded to Sydney but as they were already hardened it wasn’t possible, and as Melbourne expected the Sydney Mint to strike the entire mintage anyway it probably thought it wasn’t necessary.

The London Mint did not completely cut the apron strings because Melbourne only received hardened working-dies and not hubs or master-dies with which it could make additional working-dies.

W.J. Mullet, who held a senior position at the Melbourne Mint from 1936 - 1977 wrote in 1991 that “to meet an emergency (i.e., they ran out of working-dies) a pair of London working-dies was used to produce hubs and a further supply of working-dies.” He commented “that if they (the original pair of London-made working dies) were used as master dies without a heavy steel holder (shrouding) there would be some reluctance to exert enough pressure to bring up a full impression on the new hubs.” He had no doubt observed that the new reverse hub was weak on the perimeter and had needed additional work as is borne out by the tooling on the legend that resulted in the serifing (curvature) on the base of some letters on the 1919 //. Penny. This was a clear alteration to the source die as this serifing was not there on the crisply struck coins emanating from the original London-made 1919 ‘Plain’ Penny dies which had flat-based lettering, and this change to the legend was noted in the variety catalogues published in the 1960s.

It is logical to assume that a 'dot' i.e., //. was added as a mint mark to separate out the later coins struck by the Melbourne Mint on the ‘emergency dies’ in case there was blow-back from the London Mint for an unauthorized procedure conducted by its branch mint. However, even today there remains a claque of variety collectors on internet forums who twist themselves in knots to deny the ‘dot’ is a mint mark while still acknowledging that the //. pennies are Melbourne-struck, which is surely the point of a mint mark.

The use of small dots as mint marks was not a new practice and was being used by the Royal Mint’s branch in Calcutta when supplying dies to branch mints e.g. from the early 1920’s a 'dot' appeared on coins struck at the Bombay Mint to single out its mintages. The Melbourne Mint was no doubt consulting with the Calcutta Mint regarding Penny production and could have sought advice in applying a ‘dot’ mint mark to the 1919 //. Penny reverse which it commenced striking sometime after September 1919, and in the following August Melbourne received twenty Indian obverse dies and twenty 1920-dated reverse dies from Calcutta of which seventeen pairings of these working-dies were forwarded to the Sydney Mint on the 21st of September 1920 in preparation for the striking of its first official pennies. The pin-prick sharpness of the ‘dot’ on the 1920 /./ Penny is distinctive of the Calcutta mint marks and it is plausible that these dies arrived in Melbourne already hardened by the Calcutta Mint and at the direction of the Melbourne Mint with the new /./ Sydney mint mark in place. This would make sense of the three extra sets of dies which were separately listed as being sent to Sydney on the 18th of November thus completing the original twenty sets received by Melbourne in August. The consistency of the placement of the 'dot' on the Indian obverse 1920 /./ pennies also presses the case that the 'dot' was applied in Calcutta to a master-die from which the twenty working-dies were struck, but there is also a plausible argument that the 'dots' were added to the dies by the Melbourne Mint.

So, on the evidence seems it seems clear that the 1919 ‘Plain’ and 1919 //. mint mark pennies were both struck at the Melbourne Mint, but what of the 1919 .//. Penny?

Some intransigent variety collectors combing through their 1960s catalogues remain convinced that this coin too was struck in Melbourne. However, there is now enough strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that the Sydney Mint struck the 1919 .//. pennies on 'experimental' dies it received from Melbourne.

In his book, ‘Australian Coinage - An Account of Particular Coins’ , Mullet says that in July 1920 “three (reverse) dies of Melbourne manufacture dated 1919” were sent to Sydney to help it prepare for the striking of its first official pennies in September of that year (it actually happened in October) and he speculated that the 'dot' mint mark “below the scroll on (the) 1919 (Penny)” i.e., the 1919 //. Penny were “the three Melbourne made dies sent to Sydney.” These appear in Sharples’ list of dies held by the Sydney Mint which records that on the 21st of July 1920 it received three English obverse dies (the only ones held by Melbourne at the time) coupled with three 1919-dated Birmingham reverses. However, Mullet’s guess that these were the 1919 //. Penny dies does not hold up to scrutiny for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Mullet was an ex-Mint employee reviewing the records at hand which made no mention of a 1919 .//. Penny and so this variety wasn’t in his thinking, but had he even done a cursory census of the split between the 1919 ‘Plain’ and the 1919 //. pennies he would have quickly determined that the 1919 //. Penny far outnumbers the 1919 ‘Plain’ Penny and could not have been the product of just three reverse dies. The author once examined an accumulation of over two thousand 1919 pennies from which the 1919 .//. pennies had been gleaned and found roughly one 1919 ‘Plain’ Penny for every five 1919 //. pennies suggesting an estimated mintage of towards five million for the latter. This high number obviously can’t be contained in the Sydney 1920 Penny mintage of 1,223,600 which Mullet says, “were mostly dated 1920, with a strong possibility of some dated 1919” the product of the three 1919-dated dies that were sent to Sydney.

Secondly, Mint records indicate that seventy-eight ‘emergency’ 1919 //. Reverse dies were “made (by) Melbourne” between the 30th of September 1919 and the 4th of March 1920 and, in comparison it received just twenty-seven of the original ‘Plain’ Birmingham reverses from London. The Melbourne Mint held only five 1919-reverse dies when it tabled its Quarterly Report on the 4th of March 1920 with the remainder of the dies having been exhausted and destroyed, confirming the bias in the split of 1919 ‘Plain’ and 1919 //. Pennies and ruling out the possibility of the latter being an exclusive Sydney mint mark.

The ‘late’ discovery twenty years ago of the 1920 /./ Penny with an English obverse would seem to confirm that the obverse dies at least were used by Sydney. This variety was unrecorded in the collection of the Melbourne Mint Museum which, to paraphrase its curator John Sharples, held examples chosen to display every known die configuration. That the Melbourne Mint didn’t know of its existence would point to this variety being Sydney-struck. This is further confirmed by the under-struck rims on this variety which is a 'signature' of the Sydney Mint.

To recap, we know that the Melbourne Mint had run out of 1919 the ‘Plain’ Penny dies sent from England and that it had continued its penny production with its ‘emergency’ //. dies, and so the question to be answered is which 1919 Penny dies were sent to Sydney?

Well, the obvious answer is three 1919 .//. Penny reverse dies from which it is estimated that about 20,000 coins were struck. This would tie in with the ‘experimental’ role of Sydney’s 1919 dies producing a mintage that fits comfortably within the cap of Sydney’s 1920 Penny production.

Melbourne struck its final 1919 pennies on the 18th of May 1920 and from its store of five or less remaining //. Penny reverse dies sent three 1919-dated dies to the Sydney Mint with an additional upper ‘dot’ applied, if you believe the account of A. Austin a Melbourne Mint worker who was there when the 1919 and 1920 pennies were struck and is quoted by Mullet as remembering “stamping them (small dots) on dies for Sydney.” Unfortunately, the 1919 dies used by the Sydney Mint were destroyed in 1924 so this cannot be categorically proven, but of course we do have a first-hand account and established mint protocol to fall back on.

We know the Melbourne Mint experienced production problems striking the 1919 //. pennies even when using its heavy presses, and knowing that Sydney had only unsuitable light gold presses to strike its first pennies in hard copper it is reasonable to assume that the Melbourne Mint in its newly assigned role as the senior Australian Mint would follow the established protocol of marking the Sydney-bound reverse dies with an additional ‘dot’ either to claim its additional work on the dies or to single out what was likely to be a substandard production run. Being the progenitor of the //. reverse dies, the Melbourne Mint was certainly in the position to add the upper ‘dot’ by hand to three soft working-dies before they were hardened and sent to Sydney, and of course this also raises the distinct prospect of small deviations in the placement of the new ‘dot’ marking.

In John Dean’s seminal work titled ‘Australian Coin Varieties Catalogue’ first published in 1964, the author writes that the 1919 .//. Penny “has an English die obverse” and the upper “dots occur in varying positions." He goes on to say that “the top 'dot' is almost always surrounded by a depression as if a punch-die has been used.” and that the other known position “is regarded by many collectors to be a false variety.” Dean was careful with his wording and his choice of the word ‘many’ suggests that he was not fully on board with this thinking as he goes on to note that there were equal doubts cast about the veracity of the other position with the 'dot' “surrounded by a depression.” The coins with the ‘dot’ surrounded by a ‘moat’ or ‘depression’ are no doubt the product of one heavily used die that make up perhaps 90% of 1919 .//. pennies, but this does not rule out the authenticity of coins with the ‘dot’ in the second known position with is obviously the product of a different die. This ‘dot’ looks more professional and is positioned slightly to the right of centre, whereas the upper ‘dot’ on the mainstream 1919 .//. Penny is described by Dean as having “no resemblance” to that on the 1920 .//. Penny going on to note that “nor is there any other mint pellet in the Australian series that bears (a) resemblance.” Praise or damnation, this quote has been latched on to by some variety collectors seeking to protect the exclusivity of ‘their’ 1919 .//. Penny. Of course, Dean writing in the 1960s had no knowledge that three 1919 reverse dies were sent to Sydney thus raising the probability of two positions for the upper ‘dot,’ or even three if all reverse dies were utilized by the Sydney Mint.

It should be noted that although PCGS has graded many other 1919 .//. Pennies with the 'dot' in the second position the best known example which was graded by NGC AU58 and crossed by PCGS as AU58 was removed from the PCGS Registry recently after exerted pressure from an indignant variety collector who had lost his prized number one spot (I wish we all had such partisan influence). Like all 1919 .//. pennies of both types, this coin has the under-struck rims typical of the Sydney Mint.

The 1919 //. Penny itself from which .//. Penny was derived was also a coin in flux if Dean’s listings can be confirmed of ‘experimental’ strikings of coins with a “dot under the bottom scroll … with flat based letters” and a “no dot (with) … curved based letters” both of which would appear to be evolutionary steps towards the production of the major ‘Melbourne-made’ 1919 //. coin which Dean notes has a “curved-base letters reverse” with “dots (that) occur in varying positions.” This is obviously the result of the dots being hand-applied to master or working-dies and so it seems illogical for some variety collectors to argue that the placement of the top 'dot’ on the 1919 .//. Penny which would certainly have been hand-applied to just three working-dies is somehow different.

Dean’s work still underpins current variety catalogues which persist with his early observations but, like all cataloguers from the 60s, he was on an uncharted voyage of discovery and his research was based on the information available at the time, and there is no doubt that as a scholar and not a pendant he would have changed his thinking if he was privy to the information around today.

However, any new information still needs to be tested where possible against other sources. For instance, Mullet’s information often proves insightful although not always dependable and still needs to be cross-checked rather than taken on face value or contorted as it has been by some variety collectors trying to protect their 1960s pet theories about the 1919 pennies. He relied on Mint records which were haphazard up until 1927 which could explain his glaring error concerning the number of 1920-dated Penny dies dispatched to Sydney, while his disproven theory that the 1919 //. Pennies were Sydney-struck demonstrated that he too could mis-interpret his own information. But his insights when used collaboratively with information from other sources such as Sharples can lead you on a far more evidentiary path than the static guesswork relied upon by others.

So in summary, it seems proven that the 1919 ‘Plain’ and the 1919 //. pennies were struck exclusively by the Melbourne Mint, whilst on the balance of probability, at least two versions of the 1919 .//. Penny were struck in Sydney on ‘experimental’ dies provided by Melbourne.