Downies Coins in Melbourne


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With the recent demise of several Victorian coin stores it can be a struggle to find numismatic items to peer at in Melbourne. However, if you are in Melbourne it’s worth a trip across the Yarra if you do want to look at coins. The Downies store in Melbourne used to be in The Block Arcade but 2 and a half years ago moved to Southbank and into the Southgate shopping precinct. You’ll find them on the Upper Level in shop U4.

If you think it’s a long walk, it’s not. It will take you about 6 minutes to stroll the 500 metres from Flinders Street across the scenic Southbank Pedestrian Bridge or a little less across the St Kilda Road bridge to the shopping precinct. Downies have a modern well lit shop and we can report that their staff, Paul, Steve and Sian are super-friendly and are happy to help you with whatever coin business you have. Perhaps you are looking for a 1930 penny, a Holey Dollar and dump or a gold sovereign, maybe you’re looking for the latest Perth Mint release or silver coins for the Christmas pudding. Maybe you need the latest coin catalogue or want to talk to the team about consigning Grandad’s coin collection in the next Downies Auction.

Downies have a wide range of Australian pre-decimal coins for those on a budget and the serious collector or investor. They stock coins and notes, their individual coins in 2×2’s are easily seen displayed in these cool rotating coin machines. Royal Australian Mint and Perth Mint NCLT are also big sellers as well as releases from various other World Mints that are not easily sourced in Australia. There’s enough in-store to keep a coin collector occupied for a while, making the trip from the CBD more than worthwhile. In conclusion we’d like to thank Paul and Steve in particular for their warmth and enthusiasm every time we enter their shop, and recommend that other coin collectors take the time out to visit the Downies Shop in Melbourne!

Click image to enlarge

Posted in Coin News

ANZAC Remembrance Medal by Dora Ohlfsen


1919 ANZAC Remembrance Medallion – Dora Ohlfsen

Above you can see a remarkable 60mm bronze medal sculpted by Dora Ohflsen and released in 1919. One side depicts a fallen soldier being comforted by a female representation of Australia. The other side shows the outline of a soldier facing left carrying a rifle, and below and right the words

“ANZAC. IN ETERNAL REMEMBRANCE. 1914-18.”

This item is listed in the the key Australian medal reference, Carlisle as C1914-1918/1 (p. 203). Carlisle says that the fallen ANZAC was modelled by Ohlfsen’s brother while the female figure of Australia was modelled by a Miss Alice Simpson who lived in Rome at the same time that Ohlfsen sculpted the design. Our medal is held in a contemporary satin and felt lined box, with the exterior of the box covered in a maroon fabric with the words ANZAC MEDAL in gilt lettering on the top lid. Carlisle mentions that the medals also included a small card that read “in aid of Australians and New Zealanders maimed in war – 1914-1918”. This card is not present in our example.

Who was Dora Ohflsen?

Ohlfsen was born in Ballarat, Victoria in either 1869 or 1877 and studied sculpture specialising in medallic art in Rome, Italy. She was also a noted musician and writer, and lived variously in Italy, Russia, and Germany. In 1914 she enlisted as a Red Cross nurse in Italy and worked in hospitals in Rome and Venice. Sometime during the war (or shortly afterwards) she produced the design you see above. The European influences on the design of this medal are obvious with the design being much more sophisticated than contemporary Australian designs, which are crude in comparison. Ohlfsen was prolific during the 1920’s and 1930’s producing many well known medals, portraits, and sculptures. She was found dead in her apartment in 1948 along with her companion, the Russian Baroness, Heléne de Kuegelgen.

Why was this Medal Made?

Ohflsen created this design sometime during World War 1 (or soon after), the exact date is unknown. What is known is that in 1919 she travelled to London where she masterminded the manufacture, at her own expense (6) and the subsequent sale of the medal to raise funds in aid of disabled ANZAC soldiers. The first medal was presented to the Prince of Wales (the later short reigning Edward VIII) and an influential committee was formed to help the fund raising effort. Members of the committee included Australian Generals Monash and Birdwood, and former NSW Premier Sir Charles Wade. According to Meacham(1) Dora persuaded Wade to take several hundred of the medals back to Australia for sale at 2 guineas (42 shillings) each. Ohflsen herself travelled back to Australia in 1920 to help with sale of her fund-raising medal. The Art Gallery of NSW has a particularly poignant quote from Ohlfsen regarding her design, giving some insight into her motivations behind the design:

‘I am just completing a medal dedicated to the Australians fallen in Gallipoli. However, it could be dedicated to those fallen in this war in general. If it should be put to any use by the Government I should like half of the proceeds to go the mutilated. I have made “Australia” and her son very young — representing as they do the youngest country and the youngest army.’

Dorah Ohlfsen (Image Courtesy Sydney Morning Herald 1920)

This medal is among the most important items for the collector of World War 1 ANZAC medallions. They appear on the market infrequently and usually cost a few hundred dollars. That being said it is quite unlike other Australian medallions of the period and make a beautiful and striking addition to any collection.

References
1. Sydney Morning Herald, April 25 2009, Steve Meacham Dora’s medal honoured women left to grieve too. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/doras-medal-honoured-women-left-to-grieve-too-20090424-ai1w.html
2. Museum Victoria. 2018. – Dora Ohlfsen, Artist & Medallist (1877-1948). [ONLINE] Available at: https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/1924
3. Museum Victoria. 2018. Medal – Anzac Remembrance, Dora Ohlfsen, Australia, 1919. [ONLINE] Available at: https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/53069
4. Design & Art Australia Online – Dora Ohlfsen-Bagge b. 22 August 1869. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.daao.org.au/bio/dora-ohlfsen-bagge/biography/
5. Carlisle, L., 2008. Australian Historic Medals 1788-1988. 2nd ed. Sydney, Australia: Ligare Book Printing.
6. Australian Coin Review, August 1989 Issue 302, K.A. Sheedy Dora Ohlfsen – The Forgotten Heroine of Australian Medallic Art pp18-21
7. Sydney Morning Herald, August 6, 1920, Dora Ohlfsen – The ANZAC Medallions. [ONLINE] Available at: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/15900990
8. Sunday Times, September 26, 1920, Dora Ohlfsen Home. [ONLINE] Available at: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/120519760

Posted in Collectables and Ephemera, Medals

Clarification of the Circulation 2014 Mob of Roos One Dollar Mintage


The 2014 standard design Mob of Roos dollar coin issued into circulation has a mintage clarification that not everyone is aware of, and it seems not even the Mint itself!

Each year in their annual report the Royal Australian Mint (RAM) publishes the mintages of all the coins they strike. This article is focussed on the 2014 dated standard design dollar with the 5 bounding kangaroos on the reverse.

The 2013-2014 RAM financial report lists 1 million of these struck in that fiscal year. The report for the following year (2014-2015) lists a further 5.2 million which would equate to a total mintage of 6.2 million coins. A clarification however in the following report corrects a typo error adjusting the 5.2 million down to a mere 52,000 coins. Obviously the decimal point had been put in the wrong place. A small “Remediation of information published in previous annual report” appears on page 28 in the 2015-16 annual report that states “In Appendix B on page 94, the total amount of 2014 $1 standard coins should have been 0.052.” This corrects the total mintage from 6.2 million down to 1,052,000.

Our own blog 2014 $1 mintages table lists the correct mintage as does the catalogue Pocket Guide to Australian Coins and Banknotes (23rd edition, 2017) by Greg McDonald. Renniks Australian Coin and Banknote Values (28th edition, 2017) by Michael Pitt incorrectly states the mintage at 6.2 million. The Royal Australian Mint website also incorrectly states the mintage (accessed 16/1/2018).

Posted in Collecting Coins

Canadian Mint Sees Red Over RAM Poppy Coin

2012 Remembrance $2 Coloured Poppy

The future of our 2 dollar coins isn’t looking too bright after the Royal Australian Mint (RAM) was hit with a lawsuit from the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) on December 22nd 2017. The Royal Canadian Mint claims the technology that prints the colour onto our circulating commemorative coins infringes their patent. The RCM wants the Australian Mint to destroy 503,000 2012 dated red poppy $2 coins it minted and sold through the RSL as a fundraiser for the charity helping returned soldiers. The Australian Mint has since gone on to produce many more issues using the same technology, let us paint you a picture-
995,000 Purple 60th Anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation $2 coins in 2013
1,856,000 Green Remembrance $2 coins in 2014
1,466,000 Red Lest We Forget $2 coins in 2015
2,151,000 Orange Remembrance $2 coins in 2015
Approximately 10 million Black, Blue, Green, Red, Yellow Olympic and a Multicoloured Paralympic $2 coins in 2016
Approximately 6 million Multicoloured Magic Possum $2 coins in 2017
and most recently Purple and Green Rosemary Remembrance $2 coins in late 2017.

These coloured commemorative coins all use the patented technology of creating a plurality of micropores and macropores on the metals surface for better adherance of the paint. This is different to the more commonly used pad-printing of a design on the coin surface which will more easily wear away. The patented process offers superior durability suitable for circulating coins.

The Royal Canadian Mint first used this process on the 2004 Canadian 25 cent coin sent into circulation and one would have assumed the Royal Australian Mint got all the correct permissions for also using the technology. The lawsuit claims differently that the RCM contacted the RAM in writing in December 2015 and also December 2016 to desist from its infringing conduct. The Australian Mint is yet to respond about this latest Royal ruckus.

  • 2013 Coronation $2 Purple (image courtesy of the RAM)
Posted in Coin News

2007 Double Headed Australian 5 Cent Coin

Australian 2007 5 Cent with 2 Heads

For the past 10 years people have been finding in their change the Aussie 5 cent piece with the Queen’s head on both sides -a so-called ‘double header‘. This came about when two head side dies were placed into the coin press and coins were struck. But was this accidental or on purpose?

I’m not sure we’ll ever know if devious behaviour (mint sport) was to blame or it was a mere mistake with huge consequences. Initially only a few were found but in the last few years more and more have surfaced leading to the idea that there could be thousands of these error coins in circulation. As the word trickled through to collectors more and more coin noodlers fossicked bulk lots searching for the coin with 2 heads. Previously thought of as a needle in a haystack find, I’d say today, look through bulk coins and you have a reasonable chance of finding one.

They are very easily overlooked. Glancing at bulk coins it won’t easily stick out like a mule, a collector coin that’s been spent or a mis-strike. You have to search more carefully noting each side as a head. When you do find one don’t jump for joy too hastily, a double header coin is easily faked. Boring or grinding out the tails side of a coin, grinding down the tails side of another and joining the two together is the most common type of fake. The following is what you need to check to help determine the authenticity of your double headed 5c coin.

1. What is the weight? If two coins have been joined it’s not likely the weight will match a genuine coin. An Australian 5 cent piece weighs 2.83 grams. A small tolerance is within specification but if the weight is grossly higher or lower then you might not have a genuine error.

2. Do the dates match? Double headed coins that have been found are all dated 2007 on both sides. Having different dates is an indicator the error is a fake.

3. 180 degree rotation. The opposing side will be struck exactly 180 degrees upset or rotated. This means one side will appear completely upside down. This is a result of how the dies are inserted into the coin press and an indicator of a genuine error.

4. Use magnification. Look closely at the rims on both sides to see if there is indication that 2 separate coins have been joined. If two halves have been glued together then you have an interesting but not valuable magicians coin. This is post mint damage and it is illegal to deface currency.

Turning 5 cents into $500 or more sounds like a great idea but handling lots and lots of very small coins needs patience and good light. These errors have sold for hundreds up to thousands of dollars (for higher grade examples). If you are looking to purchase one of these coins look for PCGS graded examples to ensure authenticity. I would avoid coins in APCGS slabs as the error may not be genuine as outlined above.

The Royal Australian Mint struck 59,036,000* 5 cent pieces dated 2007, it’s quite possible thousands of these double headed coins exist -it’s up to you to find them!

*Royal Australian Mint financial reports 2006-7,2007-8 and 2008-9

Posted in Error Coins

Error Coin Spotlight – 1974 5c Flip Over Off Centre Double Strike

Off Center Double Struck 1974 5 Cent Error

Off Center Double Struck 1974 5 Cent Error

Above you can see a stunning 1974 5 cent that has a second strike about 75% off centre from the first. Keen observers will also note that the second strike on the obverse shows part of the 5 cent reverse design. The second strike on the reverse by contrast, shows some remnants of the first strike but is largely blank. This peculiar appearance is quite distinct from what is a normal off centre double strike such as the 2008 or 2009 double struck $2 coins that first appeared a few years ago. The second strike on those $2 coins is an off-centre duplicate of the first, obverse to obverse and reverse to reverse.

What can we learn from the appearance of the second strike? Firstly, with the second strike showing reverse design elements on the obverse of the first strike we’re looking at what is known as a “flip over double strike”. Which is exactly as it sounds, the coin has flipped over in between the first and second strikes. Secondly, the relative lack of features in the double struck region on the reverse of the coin indicates that there was a coin blank in between the error coin and the reverse die when the second strike occurred. Having been struck the second time with another coin blank in the die press means the second strike was a much higher pressure than a normal strike, and this has completely obliterated all evidence of the initial strike on the obverse (LIZABETH). Compare this with the double struck $2 coins mentioned earlier where evidence of the second strike is usually quite obvious in the double struck regions of the coin due to the lower pressure of the second strike.

It is worth considering what the other coin this error was struck against might look like. It will have a crescent shaped indentation on the reverse, and within that indentation there might be a partial brockage impression of the obverse of this coin. Actually it might look something like the coin below:

1966 Indent 5 Cent Error

1966 Indent 5 Cent Error

Of course the year is wrong and it’s not the actual coin that mates with our 1974 flip over double struck error above, but that’s pretty much what the other coin would look like, it is of course an indent error. Indent errors and off center double struck errors like the coin we’re talking about here fit together to form what is known as a “saddle strike”. Decimal indent errors are rare, off center double struck coins rarer again, and having a matched pair as a saddle strike is almost unheard off. We’ve heard of less than 5 matched saddle strike pairs in the last 15 years and never actually seen one in hand to be able to take an image of one. That’s how rare they are. The best we can offer is the image below, of a 10 cent saddle strike pair that appeared on eBay 4 years ago. These are the seller’s images and credit must go to that person for them.

10 Cent Error Saddle Strike Pair

10 Cent Error Saddle Strike Pair

There you have it, an off center flip over double struck 5 cent from 1974. Extremely desirable and a fine addition to any error collection. And one half of a pair of errors that would be the magnificent centre piece of error types.

Posted in Error Coins

2017 25th Anniversary of International Day of People With Disability 20 Cent

2017 International Day of People with Disability 20 Cent (image courtesy ramint.gov.au)

To mark the 25th anniversary of International Day of People with Disability on December 3rd 2017 the Royal Australian Mint (RAM) released this specially designed commemorative 20 cent coin for the collector market (NCLT-not for circulation). Issued on a collector card and in an Australia Post PNC the coin features an artistic extension of the International Day of People with Disability logo on the reverse. Total mintage of the coin is declared at 10,000 coins and these were quickly snapped up with an early sellout at the Mint, their value more than doubling over the issue price of $10 in a matter of days for the coin in the RAM card. This pretty little coin striking a chord with many of the 4.3 million Australian’s living with some form or disability, the release empowering their voice for inclusion and empowerment in this fast paced world. This International Day is observed by the United Nations to promote awareness, the commemorative coin doing just that. The packaging features Paralympian Mr Dylan Alcott OAM patron of the 2017 International Day of People with Disability.

The coin is issued in the two packaging types seen below, the coin in the blue card from the Royal Australian Mint and in an Australia Post PNC (postal numismatic cover). The RAM packaging is believed to be limited to 3,000 and the PNC 7,000 giving the total 10,000 coins released. The blue cards were issued at $10 and the PNC $17.95.

25th anniversary of International Day of People with Disability 20c Coin in Card (image courtesy ramint.gov.au)

25th anniversary of International Day of People with Disability 20c PNC (image courtesy Australia Post)

Posted in Collecting Coins

Error Coin Spotlight – 2001 20 Cent Struck on Bi-Metal Planchet

2001 20 Cent on Bi-Metal Planchet

Above you can see a truly spectacular error, a 2001 Australian 20 cent struck on a bi-metal planchet. Wrong or foreign planchet errors are at the apex of desirability for Australian error collectors, and errors like this coin that are so obviously wrong are the most wanted of the bunch. Struck on a 10.66g planchet with a nickel or copper-nickel core surrounded by a brass or aluminium bronze ring, this 2001 20c is not the first error of this type sighted. That honour belongs to an example that appeared in 2007 Downies Auction where it sold for about $3500. The example you can see above surfaced this year and was the subject of an article of an article in the September 2017 Edition (page 10) of the Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine.

It then appeared in Downies Auction 325 (lot 1785) where it was incorrectly described as the discovery coin from 2007. The coin sold for $8000 plus commission of 20% in that auction. The coin has been wiped (cleaned) sometime in the past, with the very first images of the coin posted online in early 2017 by the original owner clearly showing the cleaning applied by some mis-guided individual trying to ‘improve the coin’.

How does this type of error occur? So called ‘blank contamination’, where coin blanks of one type inadvertently contaminate the supply of another type. This could happen at the source of the blanks, which in this case was likely to be a company in South Korea. That company makes hundreds of different types of coin blanks and it’s not to difficult to imagine that every now and again a blank of one type could end up contaminating the supply of another type. For example, in the the Australian $1 coin on a bi-metal planchet was a result of that sort of contamination. Alternatively it could happen at the mint of origin when blanks of one type of coin minted contaminate the blank supply of another. For example, this 1944s florin on a shilling planchet, struck in San Francisco when the US mint was manufacturing both Australian florins and shillings (and threepences for that matter).

One of the two major Australian coin catalogues mentions the discovery piece for this error where it’s vaguely described as being struck “on a blank for a foreign customer”. We’ve got a more firm opinion having conducted a survey of all bi-metal coins from the 2000 and 2001 periods. The only coin which matches the specifications of the blanks these errors were struck on is KM#1262 , the Iranian 250 Rials. That coin weighs 10.7g, with a brass ring and a copper nickel core. It’s more than likely that blanks for the 250 rial coins of the period are the source of the blank that these amazing bi-metal errors were struck on.

Posted in Error Coins

2017 20c Struck on Cook Islands 2 Dollar Planchet

Australian 2017 20 Cent Struck on Cook Islands $2 Planchet

Above you can see one of the most spectacular errors to come out of the Royal Australian Mint since the Australian 20c and dollar coins struck on bi-metal planchets. Or perhaps an error by the Royal Mint accidentally striking Australian 20c on Hong Kong scalloped planchets back in 1981. This coin above is truly a one in a million, or perhaps one in 50 million or even a billion. Falling from a mint roll this coin is absurdly wrong for an Aussie 20 cent piece. Firstly it’s the wrong shape, our coins are round right? Yes, this coin is triangular! Next it’s the wrong colour, appearing aluminium bronze like our one and 2 dollar coins and not as a cupro-nickel 20 cent should. Not like any of the other coins in the roll.

That’s because the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra has made a terrible mistake…….

A planchet intended to become a Cook Islands 2 dollar coin has accidently got mixed up in the barrel of blanks intended to strike Australian 20c cents. This error is not improbable as the Mint struck $2 coins for the Cook Islands dated 2015 over the past few years. What an incredible error coin though to find for just 20 cents! Technically though it is an Australian 20c, but worth a lot more to coin collectors. This coin error is known as a wrong planchet error, foreign planchet error and off-metal planchet error, what a stunning coin.

Update 14 December 2017

This coin appeared in the Universal Coin Company December live auction where it sold for AUD$9600 plus AUD$1440 buyers premium.

Posted in Error Coins

Collecting the Australian 2 Dollar Coin

2017 Remembrance C mintmark -the latest release from the Mint (image courtesy ramint.gov.au)

2017 Remembrance C Mintmark -the latest release from the Mint (image courtesy ramint.gov.au)

Collecting the Australian $2 coin continues to be a very popular pastime with more and more commemorative coins released in the last few years. The Royal Australian Mint has just released its’ annual report for the 2016-2017 fiscal year which adds to the official mintages of many issues. I’ve spent some time updating a fairly recent article page on the Coin Blog that lists each circulation $2 coin and mintage. Stay tuned for more special coloured 2 dollar coin announcements in the coming weeks. Soon to be released is a Remembrance themed coloured $2 coin featuring rosemary and rosemary flowers. New coins will be making their way into your pockets soon.

The “Circulating Australian Two Dollar Coins” article page can be found in the header above by clicking the dropdown “The Australian Dollar Coin” or click this link.

Posted in Collecting Coins

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