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Australian Historical Coin Collection


Gilt Dragon Spanish American 8 Reales
One of Australia's most famous shipwrecks, the VOC's Gilt Dragon sank off Western Australia in April 1656, taking more than half of the crew of 193 to their doom. Of the 75 that made it to the Australian shore, only the 7 who sailed to Batavia for help survived, the rest disappearing. The world's most important trade coin at the time, the Gilt Dragon's Spanish Silver Cob 8 Reales are remarkable relics of a crucial event in Australia's early history.

 

Proclamation - Spanish American Pillar Dollar
Of Pieces of Eight fame, traded throughout the world, the Pillar Dollars were struck at the Mexico City mint from 1732 until 1771. Playing a unique role in Australian numismatics, the proliferation of this coin in the colonies saw its inclusion in Governor Philip Gidley King's Proclamation of 1800 at a value of Five Shillings. Just over a decade later, the silver 8 Reales would provide the basis of Australia's first locally struck coins - the 1813 Holey Dollar & Dump.



Proclamation - British 1797 Cartwheel Penny
The first coin officially exported to the colonies and therefore Australia's first official coin, the 1797 Cartwheel Penny was struck at the Soho Mint by Matthew Boulton, a leading industrialist of the age. The first British copper pennies and the first struck with steam power, the arrival of thousands of Cartwheels in New South Wales was the trigger for the Proclamation of 1800.

 


 


1813 New South Wales Holey Dollar & Dump
Australia's first locally struck coins, the NSW 1813 Holey Dollar & Dump are among the nation's highest profile rarities. An ingenious attempt by Governor Lachlan Macquarie to keep currency in the colony, convicted forger William Henshall was directed to punch the centre from 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars to create two coins. Most were melted down when legal tender status was withdrawn in 1829, and less than 200 Holey Dollars and 1,000 Dumps exist today.

 


 


1852 Adelaide Assay Office Gold Ingot
Produced to meet the urgent need for currency in the near bankrupt, labour-starved colony of South Australia - in crisis due to the Gold Rush - the Adelaide Ingots were Australia's first gold coinage. Intended to circulate between banks to back note issues, rather than for daily transactions, the Adelaide Ingots were strips of precious metal, stamped with the roughly standardised purity of 23.1/8 carats. The irregularity of the size, weight and shape of the Ingots created uproar when released, and virtually all were melted down. Today, there are no more than a dozen original Ingots in existence, with a market value upwards of $500,000 apiece.

 


1852 Adelaide Assay Office Five Pound Coin
Although South Australia's 1852 Bullion Act was amended to enable the issue of 10/-, £1, £2 and £5 gold coins, only the Adelaide £1 was ever struck. Dies were produced for the £5, but, if any were struck, no official records exist to verify the fact. The Melbourne Mint used the original dies to restrike a dozen Adelaide £5 coins in 1921, and of those coins not subsequently melted down, most are held by public institutions.
One of the most intriguing early colonial issues, an original Adelaide £5 would be considered priceless today.


 

1853 Port Phillip 1oz Pattern
An early attempt to establish a currency system during the Gold Rush, the 1853 Port Phillip Patterns were the brainchild of resourceful London engraver, William Taylor. Hoping to profit from the colony's lack of hard currency, Taylor's ambitious scheme failed due to a rise in the price of gold and the proliferation of official sovereigns. The Port Phillip Office struck a tiny number of coins, and it is thought as few as four original 1oz issues exist. One of Australia's great rarities, an original 1oz Port Phillip Pattern could fetch over $500,000.



1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign
Born of the Gold Rush and struck at the nation's first mint, the 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign lies at the heart of Australia's early colonial history. Australia's first sovereign, the Type I bore a unique portrait of Queen Victoria and a distinctive reverse - both of which incurred the wrath of Britain. With the obverse revised in 1857, the Type I ended after only two issues, and they are consequently the most sought after in the series. Much of the mintage of the 1855 Type I - just 502,000 coins - has been lost over the 150 years since issue, and it is recognised as one of Australia's classic coin rarities.



Advance Australia Penny
One of the most recognisable of all Australian Tradesman's Tokens, the Advance Australia Penny was at the heart of the battle against the colonial cash crisis triggered by the 1850s Gold Rush population explosion. Overcoming the extreme shortage of small change, this well-respected piece was the work of famous diesinker, W.J. Taylor. Connected with Matthew Boulton's Soho Mint, Taylor is perhaps most well known for his Port Phillip Gold Patterns.




1860 Hogarth, Erichsen & Co 'Aboriginal Threepence'
One of very few silver Tradesman's Tokens to circulate in Australia, the 'Aboriginal Threepence' was produced by Sydney jewellers, Hogarth & Erichsen. Designed by Hogarth, a diesinker associated with Thomas Stokes of Melbourne, the Silver Threepence was also a shrewd exercise in self-promotion. With most withdrawn from circulation, this distinctive, highly desirable Australian icon is a great rarity.


 



1909 Australian Pattern Florin
Just months from inclusion in Australia's first national coinage, the Map of Australia 1909 Florin was instead lost to history. Approved by Treasury, with the die prepared by the Royal Mint, this distinctively Australian coin was never struck. In late 1909, Australia's Governor-General requested the omission of the design in favour of the Australian Coat of Arms. The only two genuine 1909 Florin specimens are electrotype examples.

 



1919-21 Australian Square Penny Pattern
A legendary Australian rarity, the Square Kookaburra Penny resulted from the Melbourne Mint's attempts to find a lighter, more durable alternative to copper pennies and halfpennies. The Mint struck approximately 200 Pattern coins, which were distributed to politicians and dignitaries for assessment. The project died with the resignation of the then Treasurer, but the Square Penny has lived on as one of Australia's most valuable and highly sought after rarities.