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Australia 1920 (S?) Penny (Indian Obverse)

Mint:Sydney Mintage:Part 146,160 Estimate 50,000 Milling:Plain
Weight:9.45 grams Diameter:30.8 mm Composition:97% Copper, 2.5% Zinc, 0.5% Tin
Click to enlarge
Wear
Obverse 2 - Indian (Calcutta)
Click to enlarge
Wear
Reverse C - Calcutta
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:178 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:179 teeth
Mint mark: None
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
$30
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$40
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$50
+
NGC
5
 
PCGS
4
 
$75
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
7
 
$100
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
6
 
$125
+
NGC
15
 
PCGS
10
 
$175
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
7
 
$250
+
NGC
1
 
PCGS
9
 
$500
+
NGC
5
 
PCGS
3
 
$750
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
4
 
$1250
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
1
 
$1500
+
NGC
2
 
PCGS
4
 
$3000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
6
 
$4000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$5000
+
NGC
1
 
PCGS
1
 
$6000
+
NGC
3
 
PCGS
 
 
$10000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
1
 
$20000
+
NGC
2
 
PCGS
 
 
$40000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$80000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$175000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
Y
RB
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
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NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$1500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$1750
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$4000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$5000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$6000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$7500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$12500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$25000
+
NGC
2
 
PCGS
3
 
$50000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
1
1
$90000
+
NGC
2
 
PCGS
1
 
$175000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$250000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
Y
R
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
"
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$6000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$7500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$12500
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$25000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$50000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$90000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$175000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
$250000
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
-
+
NGC
 
 
PCGS
 
 
Y
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:
The official records concerning the minting of the seven acknowledged varieties of the 1920 Penny are often confounding as is evidenced by the differing viewpoints proffered by W.H. Mullet and John Sharples two senior employees of the Melbourne Mint who researched this area.

That said, it has never been doubted that the Indian obverse 1920 //. Penny was the main mintage struck by Melbourne Mint. The Melbourne Mint claimed the //. mint mark when making its emergency English obverse 1919 //. Penny and also used it exclusively to strike two distinct varieties of the 1920 //. pennies.

W.J. Mullet in his book ‘Australian Coinage - An Account of Particular Coins’ writes that “in (August) 1920 (the) Melbourne (Mint) obtained penny master tools from Calcutta with steel die blanks and ‘soft unturned dies’ dated 1920.” Looking at the Mint Records, John Sharples the Melbourne Mint curator goes on further to identify these tools as a “set of obverse and reverse hubs” that the Melbourne Mint used to make 102 Indian obverse dies and 113 Calcutta reverse dies which starting from the 7th of September were used to strike 7,018,800 pennies of which most were of the Indian obverse 1920 //. Penny variety. However, this mintage is also known to have included a small run of the ‘experimental’ English obverse 1920 //. pennies struck on dies which were used to calibrate the presses. These are identified by variety collectors as a very scarce coin.

Sharples notes that the shipment of dies and tools from Calcutta was received by Melbourne on the 16th of August and he also puts a number on the “soft unturned dies.” He identifies these as twenty die pairs comprising Indian obverse dies and 1920-dated Calcutta reverse dies of which seventeen pairs were forwarded to the Sydney Mint so that it could strike its first full mintage of pennies. Sharples says the dies were “partly finished” and “still needed to be shaped to fit the Australian presses” and pencilled in the possible despatch date from Melbourne as the “19th (of) September ?” which infers that this entry is missing in the Melbourne Mint’s die register and could explain why Mullet confuses the number and type of dies sent to Sydney, if he was relying solely on the Melbourne records. A further isolated entry in the Sydney die register indicates that the remaining three pairs of dies arrived in Sydney on the 18th of November which again Sharples guesses were despatched from Melbourne on the “16th (of) November ?” thus rounding out the original twenty sets of “partly finished’’ dies received by Melbourne from the Calcutta Mint.

Mullet makes an unquantified mention of the first shipment of (seventeen) dies sent to Sydney which he describes in passing as “soft unturned dies from Calcutta dated 1920 and finished by Melbourne,” and then appears to confuse the second shipment of three Calcutta dies with another unquantified supply of steel die blanks. Both Sharples and Mullet agree that a second shipment of twelve sets of dies were sent to Sydney around the 16th of November, but Mullet diverges from Sharples’ account clarifying that nine sets of dies were made from ‘Melbourne-steel’ while the other three which were separately recorded were ‘Calcutta-steel’ dies made from the “steel die blanks from Calcutta struck and hardened by Melbourne and dated 1920.” This is significant difference, because if we were to go with Mullet’s version then this would leave three of the original Calcutta die pairs from the August shipment unaccounted for in the die register. It is therefore much more likely that Sharples count was correct and that the two separate shipments of seventeen and three working-die pairs sent to Sydney made up the twenty sets received from Calcutta on the 16th of August.

There appears to be no movement in the position of the ‘dot’ across the mintage of Indian obverse 1920 /./ pennies and so it is tempting to believe that all twenty working-dies were the product of a master die complete with a ‘new’ Sydney /./ mint mark already in place when the twenty working-dies arrived in Melbourne from Calcutta. But, as you work through the various die varieties it becomes more than a possibility that the Melbourne Mint when “finishing’' the soft dies was also responsible for applying the ‘dots.’

The Calcutta Mint being the ‘first’ mint established by the British in India mirrored the London Mint in not marking its coins, but again like London it did mark the dies it supplied to other mints to single out their production but had in the past used ‘dots’ specifically for this purpose. It is obvious that the Melbourne Mint was communicating with the Calcutta Mint before taking over the production of Australia’s copper coinage and is likely to have taken advice from Calcutta on how to mark its own 1919 penny dies with ‘dots’ to isolate their production, and also having no experience nor the tools necessary to apply more substantial mint marks continued on with the practice on the 1920 pennies. It also seems reasonable to assume that the Melbourne Mint having already claimed the //. position on the 1919 pennies liaised with the Calcutta Mint as to where to place the new mark on the 1920 dies to single out Sydney’s Penny production.

The nine ‘Melbourne-made’ reverse dies contained in the twelve sets of dies received by Sydney in the second shipment provide an additional puzzle.

Sharples rules them out having the /./ mark and pushes the idea that they must have been ‘Plain,’ but if that were true then there would be an abundance of 1920 plain pennies struck with weakly struck rims, the 'signature' of the Sydney Mint, which is patently not the case. Mullet on the other hand describes these dies as being made of “Melbourne-steel” and “not (the) steel die blanks from Calcutta” and if so they could only have been struck using the master tools supplied by the Calcutta Mint thus allowing for an array of ‘dots’ to be individually inserted on individual dies for ‘experimental’ purposes, which it is proposed was their intended use.

Sharples addressing Mullet’s musings dismisses his idea that the ‘dots’ that appear on the 1919 and 1920 pennies were used solely to identify whether the coins were struck on Melbourne-steel or Calcutta-steel die blanks, which would seem a confounding proposition anyway considering that the Melbourne Mint’s 1919 //. Penny production finished up on the 18th of May 1920 three months before it received the “die blanks” from Calcutta. Why would the Melbourne Mint think it necessary to brand in advance the type of ‘steel’ used on the blanks used to strike the 1919 //. and 1919 .//. pennies?

The real purpose of the ‘dots’ on the 1920 pennies was revealed with the 1919 .//. Penny which has been reliably proven to have used ‘experimentally’ to calibrate the presses before the striking of Sydney’s ‘first’ official 1920 Penny. So, besides being ‘mint marks’ they were also used to identify ‘experimental’ coins whose numbers could tie in with a mystery mintage of 146,160 pence that are recorded as being struck by the Sydney Mint in 1921, and which Mullet points out could only have been dated 1920. Sharples interpreting the Mint records assumes that these were all struck in January 1921 just before the “Deputy Master informed the Commonwealth that no further work with this denomination could be done until the machinery was upgraded” and thus signalling the temporary suspension of Sydney’s Penny production.

But, both Mullet and Sharples agree that the Australian mints were held strictly accountable for the metal used in coin production and were less concerned about the integrity of the coins released, and so any accumulation of ‘experimental’ coins struck when the coin presses were being recalibrated between interrupted production runs of 1920 /./ pennies had to be counted at some point.

In Mullet’s own words, coins struck from ‘experimental’ dies "would be placed in a calico bag, added to the canvas draft bag and held in the strongroom and still accounted as a draft of blanks. The main responsibility was to account for the metal belonging to the Commonwealth rather than to claim an inconsiderable coin production." It is therefore a distinct possibility that the 146,160 coins noted in the records in January 1921 was actually a strongroom audit of the pennies struck on the 1920 ‘experimental’ dies as well as the 1919 .//. ‘experimental’ pennies which were counted at the cessation of the 1920 penny production before their release into circulation, and with their numbers subsumed into Sydney's official 1920 Penny mintage of 1,233,000 coins.

So, other than the ‘experimental’ strikings, Sydney’s entire mintage of 1920 pennies would have been struck on the twenty or less ‘Calcutta steel’ ‘/./’ marked dies, even if the pennies struck were often of poor quality.

In this regard, it has never been doubted that Sydney was the origin of the Indian obverse 1920 /./ pennies which although crisply struck in part are usually found with poorly defined edge detail. At the time, the Sydney Mint was operating lightweight Sovereign presses which while fine for striking gold coins did not have enough ‘grunt’ to successfully strike-up the hard copper pennies. Again, there is a rider to this statement as a claque of variety collectors who do not recognise the ‘dot’ below the bottom scroll as a Melbourne mint mark also do not recognise the ‘dot’ above the bottom scroll either, while all along not disputing that the coins were Sydney-struck. However, common sense dictates that the /./ is a mint mark and that the Indian obverse 1920 /./ Penny was the main mintage struck by the Sydney Mint.

The source of the other five recognised varieties is not so straight forward, but if logic is applied then a convincing hypothesis emerges.

First it must be determined what version of the 1920 Penny was Sydney’s first ‘official’ Penny ?

In the 1921 publication 'Australasian Tokens & Coins,' the renowned author Dr Arthur Andrews wrote that it was an Indian obverse 1920 /./ Penny, and it is this one unconfirmed mention that has been quoted by a host of researchers including Sharples ever since. But, if you question Dr Andrew’s certitude then it can be well argued that the more likely reverse die used at the actual ceremony was a 1920 'Plain', i.e. with no mint mark for a number of reasons.

To begin with, it would have been inappropriate to present dignitaries with coins bearing a mint mark which at that stage was not authorised by either the London Mint or the Australian Treasury.

Also, the paradox of the Indian obverse 1920 'Plain' Penny is that it is extremely rare in high-grade, very difficult to find in middling grades, but is a coin which folklore suggests is very common in low grade. But, if they are so plentiful in average circulated condition then surely this would translate to far more coins being found in uncirculated quality.

However, there is a plausible explanation for this mystery.

Firstly, that so few coins are found in high-grade could be easily explained if only one ‘Plain’ reverse die was employed in order to demonstrate the presses to the official party at the striking ceremony. No doubt freshly struck examples would have been offered as souvenirs to those in attendance. From its preliminary ‘experiments’ with the 1919 dies, the Sydney Mint would have known that the pressure on the Sovereign presses would need to be ramped up to an unsustainable level in order to produce suitable presentation quality coins for the ceremony thus resulting in ‘specimen-strikes.’

To add weight to this theory, in 1996 a ‘specimen-strike’ Indian obverse 1920 'Plain' Penny reputedly from the collection of A.M. Le Souef, who overseered the closure of the Sydney Mint in 1926, came back on the market and was sold by Noble Numismatics (Sydney). If you add to this two coins of similar appearance that were sighted in 2013, one being from an old Sydney collection sold privately by the Sydney dealer KJC Coins and another found in a local contemporaneous Sydney collection sold by Lawsons Auctions (Sydney) which was subsequently graded PCGS PR64 RB, then there would appear to be a disproportionate number of early ‘specimen-strikes’ found in Sydney for a coin that was purportedly struck in Melbourne.

There are no ‘specimens’ or ‘proofs’ of the Indian obverse 1920 ‘Plain’ Penny in the Melbourne Mint Collection yet it retained two ‘proof record’ examples of the Melbourne-struck Indian obverse 1920 //. Penny, further evidence that the ‘Plain’ Penny was likely struck by the Sydney Mint at its official ceremony. Melbourne had already supplied Sydney with seventeen /./ reverse working-dies to strike its circulation pennies and it also had no justifiable reason not to proudly use the //. mark on all of its pennies.

Mullet writes that the Melbourne Mint also holds a ‘specimen‘ of the Indian obverse 1920 /./ Penny but, other than his mention, it does not appear in its official collection. It is also worth noting that no proofs of either the Indian obverse 1920 ‘Plain’ Penny or the Indian obverse 1920 /./ Penny were sold off in the 1988 ‘Melbourne Mint Duplicate Coin Sale’ which would seem to confirm that no ‘official’ ‘specimens’ or ‘proofs’ of these issues exist, and so Sydney with three confirmed sightings of ‘specimen-strikes’ of the Indian obverse 1920 ‘Plain’ Penny certainly firms up as the probable source of this variety.

However, there is a fork in the road for this proposition to work, because any ‘Plain’ die sent to Sydney must have been included in the original seventeen dies received by Sydney on the 21 of September. So, either the Calcutta Mint intentionally omitted the /./ mark on a die to be used at the ceremony or the Melbourne Mint ditto, which in that case would mean that Melbourne was indeed responsible for applying the /./ mark when finishing the “soft unturned” working-dies sent to Sydney. Another remote possibility which mirrors Mullet’s version of events for the second shipment of ‘Calcutta-steel’ dies shipped to Sydney is that the Melbourne Mint struck for the occasion an unrecorded ‘Plain’ die using a steel die blank and the reverse hub supplied by the Calcutta Mint in August. This would add an additional ‘unrecorded’ die to the three which according to Mullet were despatched to Sydney in November, which is an unsustainable proposition if the Melbourne Mint was acting responsibly and was fully accounting for its operations.

We do know that it was the established practice of the Australian mints to continue using a die until it was thoroughly exhausted, so if Sydney did strike the ‘Plain’ pennies then perhaps another 50,000 coins were struck making their way into circulation. This would marry up proportionately with the number of coins found in higher grades especially if the ’souvenired’ coins were cosseted by the recipients for decades before being eventually sold off by their families.

Secondly, on first count the Indian obverse 1920 'Plain' Penny variety does appear to be a very common coin in worn state if you take as your measure the ubiquitous average-grade penny sets compiled in the tens of thousands from the 1960s, but how often do you find that the coin occupying the ‘Plain’ slot is actually a ‘//. Penny’ with a barely distinguishable ‘dot’ the result of having been struck on a filled die. Most collectors don’t look or don’t care, but this is a very common occurrence. Although it is not as pronounced as on the English reverse 1919 //. pennies, the Indian reverse 1920 //. 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 Indian obverse 1920 'Plain' Penny in your collection, then unfortunately it confirms that your coin is in fact a Indian obverse 1920 //. Penny struck on a filled die.

Certainly, it is difficult to see the slight curvature on worn coins and so it cannot always be relied upon to identify this variety, and contrarily an undetermined percentage on the Indian obverse 1920 //. pennies also appear to be struck with flat-based lettering which further confuses the matter.

Whether the reverses of the ‘Calcutta-steel’ dies arrived fully detailed by the Calcutta Mint or the ‘dots’ were left to be added (or omitted) by the Melbourne Mint, based on circumstantial evidence there is a reasonable case to be argued that the Indian obverse 1920 ‘Plain’ Penny variety was struck by the Sydney Mint on a single die with a mintage of perhaps 50,000 coins.

The next variety to tackle is the English obverse 1920 /./ Penny which circulated until 2003 before its belated discovery. Despite an intense 1930 Penny-style search by keen collectors just fourteen coins have been third-party graded in the interim, but there will no doubt be a handful of raw coins still floating about. If you take a line through a similar rarity, the 1931 Indian obverse ‘Dropped 1’ Penny, that has a recorded mintage of ‘nil’ i.e., less than 1,000 pieces struck and has been sought after by avid collectors for over half a century, then it is likely that over the course of time the surviving mintage of this variety will settle at less than fifty ‘identifiable’ coins.

Not all of this variety will be ‘identified’ because even the finest known example graded PCGS AU58 BN as well as all other examples that have emerged have the weak edge detail typical of the circulation Indian obverse 1920 /./ pennies struck in Sydney. During normal penny production the light gold presses on which Sydney relied proved incapable of striking up the hard copper pennies to the extent that it is often difficult to use the perimeter beads on worn coins to determine if the obverses are ‘English’ or ‘Indian,’ so there may well be a significant number of this rare variety that will go unnoticed.

Besides the poor strike which mirrors that of the Indian obverse 1920 /./ pennies, we know that the Sydney Mint possessed three ‘English’ obverse dies which were delivered on the 19th of July and so it had the means to produce the crucial half of the coin. Writing in 1985, Sharples had dismissed Sydney as the source of the English obverse 1919 .//. Pennies reasoning that there was no evidence that Sydney had employed the three English obverse dies it possessed, but by 1991 he was softening his position when he tabled “Sydney ?” as the possible source, and the discovery of the English obverse 1920 /./ Penny in 2003 would certainly confirm their use.

Writing in the 1985 Numismatic Association of Australia Journal, Sharples tabulated over five hundred 1919 and 1920-dated coins including “200 pence of these two years” in the Museum’s own collection that were not randomly selected but were “specifically gathered for coins showing die variations.” The English obverse 1920 /./ Penny variety was conspicuously absent from Melbourne Mint Collection, and nor was one found in the additional three hundred privately-held coins examined by the Melbourne-based Sharples for his survey, which certainly points to the coin being Sydney-struck. It is suggested that like the 1931 Indian obverse ‘Dropped 1’ Penny, this variety probably had a mintage of ‘nil’ i.e., less than 1,000 pieces.

It is interesting to notice the progression in Sharples thinking between 1985 and 1991. In 1985 he was adamant that the English obverse 1919 .//. Penny was Melbourne-struck and as a consequence so too was the Indian obverse 1920 .//. Penny. But by 1991, well before the late unveiling of the English obverse 1920 /./ Penny, Sharples was now doing the sums and questioning whether the English obverse 1919 .//. Penny, the Indian obverse 1920 .//. Penny and the yet to be discussed Indian obverse 1920 .// Penny were struck by the Sydney Mint.

Mullet self-published his research in 1991 the same year that Sharples seemingly reacted with an article in the ANS Journal where he wrote that the emergency 1919 pennies produced by the Melbourne Mint “were marked with a ‘dot’ below the lower scroll while a few, perhaps only three, were marked with a dot above the top scroll as well,” recognising the link to the three 1919-dated dies sent to Sydney.

Sharples was slowly coming around to acknowledging that the Melbourne Mint had from the start followed the protocols of a senior mint by singling out the dies it sent to branch mints with identifying marks, and was also following through that if the English obverse 1919 .//. Penny was Sydney-struck then so too was the Indian obverse 1920 .//. Penny. A table in his article set out his new thoughts as to where the 1919 .//. (Sydney ?), 1920 .//. (Sydney ?) and the 1920 .// (Sydney ?) were struck.

On the numbers found, it is likely that it was the Indian obverse 1920 .//. Penny dies that were used to calibrate the presses for the main production of the Indian obverse 1920 /./ pennies. These coins are scarce but not rare and so if you were carving them out of the ‘proposed’ mintage of 146,160 ‘experimental’ pennies struck at the Sydney Mint then they would likely make up half or about 70,000 coins.

The evidence is now relatively clear that the Indian obverse 1920 .//. Penny variety is a product of the Sydney Mint.

This leaves outstanding the aforementioned Indian obverse 1920 .// Penny as the only one of the seven acknowledged 1920 penny varieties that has yet to find a home. Sharples in his 1991 table tentatively placed it in the Sydney column which is probably where the dies were originally sent, but with all good mysteries there remains a further twist to the tale.

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 unused 1920-dated dies. If mint protocols continued to be followed then these dies probably had the .// mint mark as it seems logical that the Sydney Mint at Melbourne’s direction would pass on this mint mark to Perth so its coins would be readily identifiable. Mullet reflects that 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 late in that year at the Perth Mint were probably the Indian obverse 1920 .// Penny.

Reading the 1991 accounts of both Mullet and Sharples, there seems tentative agreement that the .// marked dies were initially shipped to Sydney, and on the timing it is likely that these were the reverses contained in the final three die pairs. So, if it is agreed that two reverse .// dies were repurposed for use by the Perth Mint, then consequently the remaining die must have stayed in Sydney and was left unused or else contrary to protocol the Sydney Mint must share the mintage of the Indian obverse 1920 .// Penny.

However, on this point there is sharp disagreement between Sharples and Mullet who was adamant that “no (penny) dies were sent by Melbourne to Perth in 1921” meaning that the 93,600 coins had to be dated 1920. Sharples writing in 1985, claims that they were an “neglected” mintage of 1921-dated coins missed through the years by the cataloguers that were struck in December 1921 on dies supplied by Melbourne in November of that year. In January 1922, the Perth Mint did receive 1921-dated reverse dies, which it can be argued were used ‘experimentally‘ to strike the very scarce English-obverse 1921 pennies, and so its possible that on this occasion Sharples simply mis-read the die register, taking a ‘1’ for an ’11.’

However, before it ended up as a ‘Perth ?’ mint mark what was the original intended purpose of the single ‘dot’ above the upper scroll.
Was it applied to the three ‘Calcutta-steel’ blanks sent to Sydney to single out their production as is proposed by Mullet? The problem with this theory is that for the die register to tally the remaining three ‘Calcutta-steel’ dies shipped to Sydney must have been part of the original shipment of “soft unturned” dies received by Melbourne Mint on the 16th of August. Melbourne may well have inserted the single upper ‘dot’ on the three dies, but Mullet’s description that these dies were freshly struck on ‘Calcutta-steel’ blanks simply doesn’t fit, and I think we must just dismiss his description as just a poor choice of words. Of course, if the dies were from the original shipment then they would not be materially different to the other seventeen ‘Calcutta-steel’ dies shipped to Sydney and a new .// mark would not have been required.

The answer may lie in Sharples’ wording concerning the ‘Calcutta-steel’ reverse dies which he says needed to be “shaped to fit the Australian presses.” Did the Sydney Mint push on with the weakly struck pennies from the original seventeen dies and the Melbourne Mint noting the poor results adjust the final three dies tagging them with the .// mark? Certainly the Indian obverse 1920 .// pennies are not prone to having weak rims like the Indian obverse 1920 /./ pennies, even though the Perth Mint was using the same lightweight Sovereign presses as Sydney.

The theory that the Indian obverse 1920 .// pennies were Perth-struck may well have been proven in the past before modern modes of transport obviated the tyranny of distance. Even up until the 1970s the majority of these coins would have stayed local in Western Australia before spreading out across the Continent, and a simple survey determining if they turned up more often in the West could have proved conclusive.

That said, according to Mullet the Perth Mint certainly struck 1920-dated coins on dies it received from Sydney and although the available evidence may be circumstantial it points to the Indian obverse 1920 .// Penny being struck by the Perth Mint.

Thus to summarise the hypothesis proposed for the 1920 Penny varieties it is as follows:

• The Melbourne Mint claimed the //. mint mark on the English obverse 1919 //. (M) Penny and used it exclusively on the Indian obverse 1920 //. (M) Penny.

• Against accepted opinion, it is proposed that the ceremonial first ‘official’ Penny was the Indian obverse 1920 ‘Plain’ (S ?) Penny variety and was the product of one die with a revised mintage of perhaps 50,000 coins.

• The .//. mark had been assigned to the Sydney Mint when it was provided with the ‘experimental’ 1919 .//. dies to prepare for the striking of its first ‘official’ Penny.

• The protocol having been set, it can be safely assumed that the Indian obverse 1920 .//. (S) 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 Indian obverse 1920 /./ (S ) pennies.

• All 1919 pennies struck by the Melbourne and Sydney mints had English obverse dies, and so both mints had access to the now redundant dies needed to produce the small ‘experimental’ runs of the English obverse 1920 //. (M) Penny and English obverse 1920 /./ (S) Penny found with this obverse.

• In November 1921, the Perth Mint requested from Melbourne dies to experiment with Penny production but it was the Sydney Mint which responded to this request first sending two sets of 1920-dated dies which, on balance, probably had the .// mint mark resulting in the Indian obverse 1920 .// (P ?) Penny.