Australian Decimal Banknote Plate Identification Letters


The current Renniks Australian Coin and Banknote Values catalogues lists just two Australian decimal notes with Plate Identification Letters (PILs). These are the 1991 $10 R-313a (Fraser/Cole) and 1991 $50 R-513a (Fraser/Cole). This article will display locations of PILs on other decimal notes.

Australia 1974 $2 R-86 (Knight / Wheeler)

Currently observed PIL on OCR-B Centre Thread (R-86b) and Side Thread (R-86c). PIL can be found in curl of wool immediately above and to the right of rear leg of ram on front of note.

1976 Knight / Wheeler $2 OCR-B Center Thread with Plate Letter D

1976 Knight / Wheeler $2 OCR-B Side Thread with Plate Letter O

Australia 1974 $5 R-205 (Phillips / Wheeler)

Currently observed with and without Plate Identification Letter. PIL can be found in first gumnut up from the bottom of the branch immediately to the left of the portrait of Banks on the front of the note.

1974 Phillips / Wheeler $5 with Plate Letter T

Australia 1988 $10 R-310a First Issue (Johnston / Fraser)

Currently observed with Plate Identification Letter. PIL can be found in the upper foliage of the tree immediately above the numeral 0 of 10 on the lower left front of the note.

1988 Johnston / Fraser $10 with Plate Letter V

Australia 1989 $20 R-412 (Fraser / Higgins)

Currently observed with Plate Identification Letter. PIL can be found just among the swirls just the left of the neck of the portrait of Kingsford-Smith on the front of the note.

1989 Fraser / Higgins $20 with Plate Letter R

Posted in Banknotes

Coin Collecting: Off-Metal On Trend


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As a coin collector snapping up each new release it’s exciting when something a little bit different pops up. Not just a new design on an old favourite but a striking of your favourite coin in a different metal to what is the standard. If we’re talking about the Australian 50 cent most will know that it’s silvery appearance is not a precious metal but a cupro-nickel alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel that these coins are struck. Occasionally an issue will be made out of a different metal, this is known as an off-metal strike. This affects the colour and weight of the coin but all other specifications of these legal tender coins remain the same. The weight of these off-metal 50c coins are 14.09g, almost 1 1/2 grams lighter than a standard Cu-Ni at 15.55g.

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The golden alloy used on one and $2 coins is often used as an alternate metal for special collector 50 cent coins. This is aluminium bronze, an alloy of 92% copper, 6% Aluminium and 2% Nickel. Coins struck in this metal are few and keenly sought. Here’s my list off the top of my head, can you think of any others?
2003 50th Anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II -Golden Anniversary
2020 Banjo Paterson Collection
2022 50th Anniversary of the Tamworth Country Music Festival -Golden Guitar
2022 Henry Lawson Collection

Certainly seeing a different coloured coin in your collection of commemorative, special and interesting designs on coins is quite on trend with collectors.

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Posted in Collecting Coins

2022 50 Cent Treasured Australian Stories Henry Lawson Three Coin Collection


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Henry Lawson, a legend of Australian literature is celebrated with this 50 cent three coin set struck in aluminium bronze. The three of his literary pieces that adorn this coin collection are The Drovers Wife, The Loaded Dog and On the Edge of a Plain. Whilst the Australian 50 cent is usually struck in cupro-nickel, these special collector coins are minted on golden coloured aluminium bronze planchets which is referred to as off-metal.

The collection of three coins have been made by the Royal Australian Mint, Australia’s circulating coin producer. Whilst these coins have been intended for the collector market they are the same size and shape of a regular 50 cent piece. Circulating coin are usually sent out in millions however collector coins have a much smaller mintage. These coins, a mere 40,000 coins of each beloved story have been made.

To add these interesting and different Australian coins to your collection head over to The Purple Penny website.

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Posted in Collecting Coins

2022 50th Anniversary of the Tamworth Country Music Festival Al Br 50 Cent

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Acclaimed as one of the top ten music festivals in the world and Australia’s largest, the Tamworth Country Music Festival celebrated its’ 50th year in 2022. Celebrating this milestone with a commemorative 50 cent struck by the Royal Australian Mint collectors and country music fans can own a golden guitar of their own. Struck on a planchet of golden coloured aluminium bronze the design depicts a guitar in festival lights sculpted by designer Tony Dean. Packaged in a capsule in a bright purple and yellow card this coin has a limited mintage of 30,000. Issue price for this collector coin was $10.

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Posted in Collecting Coins

1951 Penny Flaking Planchet Flaw Error

As originally published in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine July 2021

What Went Wrong -error coins that escaped the mint

Image 1 – Australia 1951 Penny Flaking Flaw

Collectors of error coins would know that the most common type of pre-decimal coin error is the ‘planchet flaw’. This type of error is also known as a ‘lamination flaw’, ‘planchet peel’, or ‘lamination peel’. Regardless of the name it is caused by some sort of contamination in the metal from which coin blanks are made. Whether the contamination is some sort of gaseous inclusion or a solid impurity like sulphur or carbon the outcome is largely the same, some of the metal in the coin fails to bond correctly to the metal around it.

If this happens to occur near the surface of the coin it can lead to a ‘planchet flaw’ or a region of improperly bonded metal. Sometimes the metallic flaw has fallen off, resulting in a ‘detached planchet flaw’. Other times the metallic flaw remains attached, generally at one end and usually has a flaking appearance. In the case of the 1951 penny shown in Image 1 you can see a large boot-shaped flaking flaw covering nearly a quarter of the reverse. It stands proud of the surface of the coin and is attached on the left side at the kangaroo’s ears. See Image 2 to get an idea of how the flaw protrudes from the surface of the coin.

Image 2 – Australia 1951 Penny Flaking Flaw

Most ‘planchet flaws’ are minor, and in the case of Australian pre-decimal bronze coins, usually found on circulated low grade examples. Sometimes you’ll find one on a high grade penny or half penny, and if large enough they are nice to put into a collection. In the case of the 1951 penny shown here you’ve got the best of both worlds, the coin is a lovely high grade, and the planchet flaw is (and excuse our vernacular), a whopper. We’d be happy to say that this is among the best errors of this type that we’ve seen.

Mark Nemtsas and Kathryn Harris own and run The Purple Penny coin shop in Adelaide and are passionate about error coins.

Posted in Error Coins

1961 Elliptical Clipped Shilling

As originally published in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine June 2021

What Went Wrong -error coins that escaped the mint

Figure 1 – Australia 1961 Shilling Elliptical Clip Error – Obverse

In this article we showcase an unusually shaped 1961 shilling which at first glance appears to be a cut down coin. However, close examination of the coin shows that it is indeed a genuine mint error. What aspects of the coin should you, the error coin collector, examine to distinguish this coin from a damaged one? Three key points of interest are below:

1. Examine the bases of the legend lettering near the missing areas of the coin. They should show the characteristic ‘fish tail’ appearance that is a sign of unconstrained radial metal flow. The letters TIA REGIN of GRATIA REGINA clearly show this on the obverse.
2. Do the design elements near the missing areas of the coin appear to be “falling” toward the edge of the coin? This is another sign of unconstrained metal flow. Note on the reverse how the arms of the star are bending toward the rim of the coin.
3. Look at the transition from areas of fully struck up rim to poorly struck up rim. A genuine error should show a gentle flowing transition rather than a harsh or sharp transition. The rim near D: + at the top of the obverse is fully struck and smoothly transitions clockwise as it becomes more and more weakly struck.

Figure 1 – Australia 1961 Shilling Elliptical Clip Error – Reverse

There are other elements on this coin that prove its authenticity but the three points above are the most important.

Of course we haven’t classified this error yet. There’s a clue in the shape of the coin which allows us to call it an Elliptically Clipped Planchet Error. The error has come about due to a failure in the process that punches out coin blanks from a metal strip, leading to an incomplete planchet being struck. The Elliptically Clipped Planchet Error is probably the second hardest clipped planchet error to find, and if you ever have the chance to purchase one at a reasonable price you should do so. You’re unlikely to see another one any time soon!

Mark Nemtsas and Kathryn Harris own and run The Purple Penny coin shop in Adelaide and are passionate about error coins.

Posted in Error Coins

1966 10 Cent Upset Error

As originally published in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine May 2021

What Went Wrong -error coins that escaped the mint

Australia 1966 10 Cent Error Struck with Upset Dies

Let’s play a game! Take an Australian coin out of your purse or wallet and hold it by the edges with your forefinger at the top, your thumb at the bottom and the portrait of the Queen upright. Spin the coin between your fingers so the tails side is facing you. What you’ll be looking at now is the tails side of the coin the right way up. That’s because Australian Coins (but not all coins) are struck in what is known as “medal orientation”. That’s just a fancy way of saying the head and tails side of a coin are the same way up!

Very occasionally obverse or reverse coin dies may not be oriented correctly when striking coins. This might have been due to an installation error, an error in the coin die hubbing process, or perhaps a mechanical failure. Coins struck from mis-oriented dies result in what is known as “rotated die” or “upset die” coin errors where the obverse and reverse designs of the coin are not oriented correctly. In the image shown here you can see one of the better-known upset coin errors in the Australian coin series, the 1966 10 cent coin.

During the production run of one pair of dies striking 1966 10 cents struck at the Royal Mint in London the obverse die was loose and rotated continually as coins were struck. As a result, upset or rotated die 1966L 10 cent coins have been found in many different degrees of rotation. This can be labelled as degrees or angles of the clockface. The error shown here is an almost perfect 180 degree or 6 o’clock rotation. You might be wondering how we know it was the obverse die that was moving and not the reverse? That’s because the edge reeding on all the upset 10 cent coins we’ve observed is fixed relative to the reverse design, but not the obverse. Which indicates a moving obverse die!

This type of error is the most easily overlooked but as a collector it’s one you can look out for and may still find in your purse or wallet even after 55 years in circulation.

Mark Nemtsas and Kathryn Harris own and run The Purple Penny coin shop in Adelaide and are passionate about error coins.

Posted in Error Coins

1966-1984 2 Cent Off Centre Strike Error

As originally published in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine April 2021

What Went Wrong -error coins that escaped the mint

Australia 1966-1984 2 Cent Off Centre Error

If you’re new to coin collecting or just new to error coins then the ‘off centre’ coin error is among the most instantly recognisable. As well as being distinctive, they are extremely desirable because it’s so obvious what has gone wrong with them! The coin in the image seen here is an Australian 2 cent that has been struck 40% off centre. 40% of the coin remains unstruck while 60% of the design is present. We’re not sure of the date (because the date is missing) but the Arnold Machin portrait of Queen Elizabeth II places it somewhere from 1966 to 1984.

This error two cent coin was produced when the blank planchet entered the coin press while the collar die failed to engage. The collar die is the third die that holds the planchet and if required, applies any edge milling. The coin blank was not located properly (perhaps due to the lack of the collar die engagement) and when struck was several millimeters away from where it should have been. This gave us our off-centre strike. How do we know the collar die was not engaged? Primarily because the coin is flat without any noticeable step in it.

What makes an off-centre strike a more desirable error to own? There’s a number of factors which of course include grade and condition. Another major factor is how far off centre the error is and generally the further off centre the more desirable it becomes. The final factor is the denomination as this usually dictates the scarcity of errors. In the Australian decimal series $1, $2, and 50 cent off-centres are the most sought after. This is followed by 20 cent, 10 cent and the remaining three smaller denominations more commonly found.

Mark Nemtsas and Kathryn Harris own and run The Purple Penny coin shop in Adelaide and are passionate about error coins.

Posted in Error Coins

1953-1964 Half Penny Die Adjustment Strike Error

As originally published in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine March 2021

What Went Wrong -error coins that escaped the mint

Australian 1953-1964 Half Penny Die Adjustment Strike

The accompanying image shows an Australian coin, half penny in size and weight, that is missing almost all the design around the edges of the coin. It has almost no trace of the legends apparent. The keen-eyed observer may also note that the portrait of the Queen and the kangaroo are very weak and incomplete. Why is this the case? It’s a simple enough explanation, the coin was struck with a much lower pressure than that required to produce a fully struck up design. The next (and obvious question) is HOW did it get struck with such a low pressure? That’s a more difficult question to answer precisely. Before we address that we’ll look at a couple of other characteristics of this coin that gives us interesting insights into the coin production process.

Firstly, how do we know this error coin that escaped the mint is actually due to a low-pressure strike and not a filled die? The primary indicator is the consistency of the quality and strength of the strike across each side of the coin and when comparing the two sides to each other. Notice how both sides are (relatively) strongly struck in the centres and the quality of strike gradually weakens out toward the edges of the coin. Filled dies tend to show random changes in strike strength depending on where the die is filled while weak strikes show the gradual change in strike strength seen here.

Secondly, WHY does the coin appear more strongly struck in the centres and not struck at all around the edges? That’s because often coin dies are not flat! They are ever so slightly dome shaped with the highest portion in the centre and the lowest at the edges. As a result, extreme weak strikes like this half penny show the strike characteristics you can see so clearly here.

What is the name for this type of error? Typically, you’d see it labelled as a “die adjustment strike”. This suggests that it was produced deliberately during the coin press setup process and the die striking pressure was being adjusted or ‘dialled in’ to create coins that are properly struck up, but not struck so strongly that the life of the coin dies is reduced. Of course, if striking pressure was reduced accidentally (due to a machine failure for example) exactly the same type of error coin would be produced. Whether we call this handsome half penny a “die adjustment strike” or a “weak strike” it’s an impressive coin error well worth seeking out!

Mark Nemtsas and Kathryn Harris own and run The Purple Penny coin shop in Adelaide and are passionate about error coins.

Posted in Error Coins

1988 10 Cent Struck on 2 Cent Planchet

As originally published in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine February 2021

What Went Wrong -error coins that escaped the mint

Australian 1988 10 Cent Struck on 2 Cent Planchet

Leave an Australian copper nickel coin (5c, 10c, 20c, or 50c) lying on the ground for several months or years or perhaps bury it for some time and it will often tone a distinctive brown earthy colour. On first glance the coin shown here has this type of colouring and perhaps it would be spent by a member of the public without too much thought. This coin is quite different though, it is clearly uncirculated and shows considerable mint bloom, similar perhaps to a bronze coin. We knew it was something special and an XRF test confirmed that this coin was not struck on a cupro-nickel blank but in fact a copper alloy blank intended for two cent pieces.

The coin weighs in at 5.16g well within tolerance of the nominal weight of a two cent coin. This is exactly half a gram less than a regular 10 cent coin. Could a 2 cent blank be struck by ten cent dies? The diameter of a 2c is about 2mm less than a 10 cent, so yes, a 2 cent blank could fit into the collar die intended to mint a 10 cent coin and be struck. But of course, the lower mass and smaller diameter would give rise to key indicators in the strike of the coin. Are these indicators present? Yes, indeed they are.

The obverse legends in particular ABETH II of ELIZABETH II exhibit fishtailing of the lettering, this is a sure sign of unconstrained radial metal flow due to the small blank not filling the collar entirely prior to being struck. You’ll also note that the rim is not fully formed for about one third of the circumference of the coin. This is another sign that the blank was both undersized and underweight. Sadly scratches on the reverse are tell-tales that this coin may have failed to exit the coin press and was helped along the way by an eager mint technician with a metal tool of some sort.

Wrong planchet errors are always highly sought after by collectors. Wrong planchet, off-metal errors are more visually appealing because they are obviously the wrong colour. Underweight, wrong planchet, off-metal errors are even more desirable because of the distinctive qualities of the strike that help establish their authenticity. This 1988 10c struck on a 2c blank fits all these criteria nicely and as such is a very desirable coin. Eagle-eyed readers might have noted a small cud on the top lip of the Queen’s portrait. This may allow the fastidious collector to find a regular copper nickel 1988 10 cent struck from the very same dies as this spectacular error. That would be a fine pair of coins to own!

Mark Nemtsas and Kathryn Harris own and run The Purple Penny coin shop in Adelaide and are passionate about error coins.

Posted in Error Coins

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Australian 1966 Round 50c
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