Australian coins are rich in history and diversity. The Royal Australian Mint has been responsible for some of the most beautiful designs with rarities that are sort the world over. The most famous Australian coin is the 1930 Penny – which has sold in the millions, though a look through history reveals many coins worthy of our attention.
When Australia was colonised by England the first fleet arrived with “everything” to remain self-sufficient for a long time. As the population of the colony grew there became a need for reliable currency. Rum, foreign coins and general barter were becoming problems for the authorities and no doubt the will to tax the people was a pressing one. In 1800 Governor King decided to give the myriad of foreign coins being used in the colony artificially high values – worth more in the colony than anywhere else. For example King proclaimed that a gold Pagoda from India was worth 8 shillings and a gold Johanna from Portugal was worth 8 pounds. Coins from Britain, Portugal, India, Spain and the Netherlands were most common. These substitute coins are now known as Australia’s Proclamation coins.
In 1812 Governor Macquarie further solved the lack of coinage by securing 40,000 Spanish Dollars and having them altered for the colony. He ordered they have the centres punched out to form a ring style coin to be worth five shillings and the round centre “dump” to be worth 15 pence. These values were inflated over the original silver value of the Spanish dollar – so very few left the colony. We now call the coins the Holey Dollar and the Dump.
Between 1852 – 1910 Australia produced it’s own coins – the Adelaide Pound, Half and Full Gold sovereigns. Small coin denominations during this time were predominantly of British origin, the Penny is a good example.
Over the years 1910 and 1911 Australia introduced a new series of currency to it’s population. The Half-Penny, Penny, Threepence, Sixpence, Shilling and Florin became the norm for everyday transactions. In 1937 a Five Shilling “One Crown” was produced but by the end of production in 1938 the coin had become unpopular due to its large size and weight. Over the years commemorative Florins were minted as well. These coins are now known as the “Pre-decimal” series and continued in use until 1966. Some proof sets were also pioneered in the Pre-Decimal era, though they were never produced in high mintages.
Decimal currency was introduced to Australia in 1966. Dollars and cents replaced the old and tired coins / notes. The Royal Australian Mint started to produce Mint and Proof sets for interested collectors in relatively large mintages. From about 1975 on the Mint realised it had a public who thirsted for coin sets and commemoratives – they have obliged and increased mintages to accommodate the demand. In 1984 a new $1 coin replaced the paper notes of the same value. The $2 followed shortly after. The decimal system is still the current day currency of Australia. Special edition Decimal coins are now minted for many commemorative reasons, matched with stamps for PNCs, produced in gold or silver bullion and can be found with colourful patterns and artworks.
Each era has produced coins that are now highly sort after. The Proclamation Holey Dollars, pre-decimals like the 1923 Half-Penny and Decimals such as the 1966 Wavy and One Dollar Mule are examples of coins worth a great deal of money if they are secured in mint condition. On the whole Proclamation and Pre-Decimal coins have had time to mature and prices have now inflated to reflect their rarity. Many collectors and investors simply can’t afford quality, significant coins from those series. Attention has now turned to the Decimal series for coins that will / already prove to be rare in un-circulated condition. These rare decimals are being tucked away as sound investments as history shows us they will one day be worth a great deal more than they are now.