Stuart Devlin Designer Goldsmith Silversmith 2018 -Book Review


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I have never written a book review before and the task for this hefty 529 page pictoral history of Devlins work is eased by the beautiful depictions within the pages. To say I’m a Devlin fan is probably an understatement, his work drew me from coin collecting to arts and sculpture and I have many pieces of his work.

This recently released hardcover masterpiece was assembled by Devlin’s wife Carole and her sister Victoria Kate Simkin after a health scare saw Devlin relent on his negative thoughts on publishing a book. The now 86 year old Order of Australia medal recipient and jeweller to the Queen has achieved so much in his life which is all featured with the pages of this book.

The book features chapters on:
Silver,
Candelabra, candlesticks and centrepieces,
Commissioned works,
Coins, regalia and medals and art medals,
Jewelled surprise eggs, clocks and Objets d’art,
Jewellery,
Limited edition silver and commemorative silver,
Furniture,
Sculpture,
Innovations and computer-aided design,
Houses
and a Biography.

The book begins with a Foreward from Windsor Castle with His Royal Highness Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh praising the efforts and achievements of Devlin in his lifes work. In each chapter the book carries on documenting much of his work with stunning pictures -it’s almost a Devlin dictionary!

Stuart Devlin is the designer of Australia’s decimal coins first issued in 1966, these were his first coin designs he went on to design coins for over 36 countries! Winning the competition to design Australia’s new coins is said to have transformed Stuart Devlin’s life.

As a Devlin collector this book opened my eyes wider seeing the sheer scale of the items Devlin produced. It’s also help me date and read more about pieces I’ve seen and pieces in my own collection. This book was definitely a must-have for my library. A surprise was that Stuart Devlin designed houses! He did so for the likes of Mick Jagger and H.R.H Princess Margaret. The finale of the book is the extensive biography, more detailed than ever seen before with photos of his private life too.

This publication has a recommended retail price of £75 or $225AUD but I was able to pick up my copy for half that price. Overall this is the most detailed and concise compilation of his work that has gone to print.

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Posted in Books

Rare Coin Company Collapse Leads to Jail Time for Director


Former Rare Coin Company director Rob Jackman was earlier this month sentenced to 4 years and 2 months jail time for stealing and fraud. Investors and collectors suffered massive losses as the director tried to keep his failing coin business afloat before it was placed into liquidation in July 2013. The company thrived on offering premium collector coins or banknotes to customers with the cherry on the top being a guaranteed buy-back price including an investment return for coins or banknotes purchased. The Rare Coin Co kept investor’s numismatic items safe in secure vaults (and happily charged investors storage fees) as investors waited to collect their anticipated returns.

As the global financial crisis hit and the coin and banknote market began to slide more investors sought to collect on the buy back guarantee and the company that grew from a $600,000 turnover in 1997 to $44.3 million in 2010 was unable to honour the guarantees. It is understood that efforts to keep the company viable included the company selling numismatic items that belonged to the investors and not the company. The dishonesty of the director will see Jackman serve at least half his jail term before being eligible for parole and has been ordered to pay restitution, but without assets and having been declared bankrupt it’s hard to see any of the $1.8 million being repaid.

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Posted in Coin News

2018 Next Generation $50 Note Design Revealed


The design for the Next Generation $50 was revealed yesterday by the Reserve Bank of Australia. It will be released into circulation from October 2018. This follows the redesigned $5 and $10 notes transitioned in the last 2 years and the $20 note will follow in 2019.

The new fifty dollar note will retain the same colour scheme and feature the same famous Australians Aboriginal writer and inventor David Unaipon and the first female member of parliament Edith Cowan. A theme of the Next Generation notes is to include a different species of Australian native wattle and bird on each denomination. The new $50 will depict an acacia shrub Acacia humifusa and the Black Swan. It will also exhibit security and anti-counterfeiting features seen on all new Next Generation notes such as a top-to-bottom clear window, the rolling colour effect, embossing and UV fluorescence. Microprinting features exerpts of David Unaipon’s book and Edith Cowans maiden parliamentary speech.

David Unaipon features on the signature side of the note which, as collectors, we call the front. These signatures are Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe and Secretary of the Department of Treasury John A Fraser. Edit Cowan features on the serial number side or the back.

2018 $50 Next Gen Design Revealed (image courtesy rba.gov.au)

Posted in Banknotes

Coin Designers Stuart Devlin

Stuart Devlins Australian Coin Designs as shown in The Australian Numismatist Supplement September 1964 -first look at his new designs


In 1963 a competition was held to design the new Australian decimal coinage that was to be introduced in 1966. The new decimal coins were to replace the pre-decimal coinage that had been in circulation since 1910. Six competitors vied for the honour of designing these new coins.

One of these competitors was Geelong born artist and goldsmith Stuart Devlin. Devlin and the five other entrants met monthly in Sydney to discuss their ideas and designs offering each other constructive criticism. Stuart Leslie Devlins designs featured Australian native fauna hoping this would be well accepted by the Australian public. Stuart Devlin was announced the winner with the 1 cent coin featuring the feather-tailed glider, the 2 cent a frilled neck dragon lizard, 5 cent a spiny echidna, the 10 cent a lyrebird, the 20 cent duck billed platypus and the 50 cent Australian Coat of Arms. The kangaroo didn’t leap onto a coin design (aside from the Coat of Arms) until the one dollar in 1984. In fact Devlins kangaroo 2 cent coin design was rejected but struck in his honour by the Royal Australian Mint in 2017 as a collector piece. Devlin wanted depth in his designs and the feeling of movement in the coin design. Hence the 20 cent platypus, Devlins’ favourite brings the idea of looking through water at the platypus swimming into the third dimension. The Australian decimal coin designs were Devlins first coins and this achievement is said to have transformed his life.

In 1988 his artistry became computerised allowing him to realise his design much faster. It took an average of a month for Devlin to design a coin, with 2 weeks spent on research and 2 weeks for the design. The design on paper must then be modified to involve depth and details and is sent to a sculptor to make a 3-D plaster model. It is then sent to the Mint for approval.

Devlin, the designer who is said to have the “midas touch” is now retired and resides in England after designing coins for over 36 countries in his career. His Australian coin designs have stood the test of time, still being minted today and have been circulating for over 50 years. It is interesting to note that very few of his designs actually carry his initials. On this Devlin states “It is satisfaction enough to know that millions of people throughout the world carry my work in their pockets.”

Devlins Favourite -Platypus 20 Cent Coin Reverse (1972)


Hand Carved by Devlin 20 Cent Plaster

Posted in Collecting Coins

How Many Coins in a Roll?

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Have you got a roll or security bag of coins and don’t know how any coins are in the roll? Here’s a handy list for reference.

1 Cent roll- 50 coins face value 50 cents
2 Cent roll- 50 coins face value $1
5 Cent roll- 40 coins face value $2
10 Cent roll- 40 coins face value $4
20 Cent roll- 20 coins face value $4
50 Cent roll- 20 coins face value $10
1 Dollar roll- 20 coins face value $20
2 Dollar roll- 25 coins face value $50

Guaranteed NEW coins in the roll?
To be certain of new coins in the rolls only purchase Royal Australian Mint rolls or Reserve Bank rolls. Quite often new coins are found in security company rolls such as Armaguard, Brambles, Chubb, Brinks or Prosegur but it’s not a 100% certainty, you need to check with the source or the seller to give yourself peace of mind. Even then the ultimate peace of mind is opening the roll -but then you don’t have a roll of coins!

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Posted in Collecting Coins

Error Coin Spotlight – 1988 2c Struck on 1c Planchet

1988 2 Cent Struck on 1 Cent Planchet - Visible Date

1988 2 Cent Struck on 1 Cent Planchet – Visible Date

Coins struck on the wrong or incorrect planchets are a favourite among error collectors. In the Australian coin series wrong planchet errors are one the toughest error types to find and many collections lack an example. However, there’s one exception that is more affordable and common, the 2 cent struck on a 1 cent planchet. You can see an example of this particular error above -this one dated 1988. When the Royal Australian Mint was striking 2 cent coins with the Maklouf portrait for Australia’s bicentennial year the 2 cent blank supply was contaminated with 1 cent blanks. Exactly how many of those 1 cent blanks found their way into the wrong place is unknown but we suspect it’s in the dozens.

Why do we suspect that many? Two reasons. The first, as we keep an eye on the error coin market we see these 1988 2c wrong planchet errors come up for sale reasonably often. You almost always see one in a public auction with a decent error coin session. Also, as we’re always watching error coin sales on the secondary markets such as eBay and various social media channels we see them come up at the rate of one or two a month. That’s proof enough to us that there are quite a few extant examples.

Date Detail - Note Fishtailing of Legends

Date Detail – Note Fishtailing of Legends

The second reason we suspect there’s several dozen examples of this particular error has less solid evidence to back it up but it’s interesting none the less and perhaps a little piece of Australian coin folklore. The story goes that in the first decade of this century a certain coin dealer in Melbourne purchased a roll (or rolls) of 2 cent coins that included multiples of these wrong planchet errors. The coin dealer would have one of the coins for sale in their cabinet, and when it sold would watch the happy buyer leave the shop before reaching under the counter and removing another of the errors from their roll and putting that up for sale at the same price. Whether it’s true or not we’re not sure, but it’s a great story. Funnily enough one of the authors of this blog purchased their Maklouf portrait wrong planchet 2 cent error from the very same dealer in Melbourne in 2006. Right around the time that the story above is supposed to have taken place.

If you’re looking to purchase one of these desirable wrong planchet errors there are two main things to look at. The first is grade, look for the best grade you can afford showing the most amount of mint red. The example at the top of this article is full red with an unfortunate fingerprint, obviously the fingerprint makes the coin less desirable. But compare that with the coin imaged below which is toned red brown without a detracting fingerprint. Some collectors would prefer the full red example, while others would find the fingerprint too distracting and choose the Red-Brown example. Fussier people may choose to wait for a superior specimen to appear on the market. The second factor to consider with these coins is the visibility of the date. The first coin pictured clearly shows the date, while the second does not. You can see the bottom loops of the date but there is a bit of uncertainty. We’ve seen examples of this error with no trace of the date at all. With no date there is less information and certainty as to the exact nature of the coin and error, lack of certainty with regard to error coins generally means less value. For example, which would you rather purchase “a 1988 2c struck on a 1c planchet” or “a 2c on a 1c planchet date uncertain ranging from 1985 to 1991”. The answer is obvious.

Don’t look past the most crucial identification of the error, weigh the coin to see that it is the weight of a 1 cent piece 2.59g (or it may be that the coin is a different error or just damaged) and being underweight for a 2 cent we’d expect to see weakness in the strike and/or metal flow such fishtailing of the design -obvious fishtailing seen in the close-up image of the date above and the obverse legends on the coin below.

1988 2 Cent Struck on 1 Cent Planchet - Partial Date

1988 2 Cent Struck on 1 Cent Planchet – Partial Date

Summing up, the 1988 2c on 1c planchet is the most affordable example of a wrong planchet error in the Australian decimal series. Other wrong planchet errors typically sell for multiples of what this error would sell for. As always purchase the best example you can find, looking at mint red and detracting marks in particular. And make sure there’s a visible date, having a coin whose origins are obvious is always going to be an easier coin to sell when it comes time to divest yourself of it.

Posted in Error Coins

1986 Mint Set with 1985 10 Cent Coin

1986 Mint Set with 1985 10 Cent


Early decimal mint sets were held in PVC wallets with pockets for each coin and those could easily be interchanged. In 1984 the Royal Australian Mint moved to a bubble type of packaging where each coin had its’ own blow moulded space incorporated into a card which opened revealing the well presented coin set. It didn’t take long for a mishap to occur with the first wrong coin in a set turning up in the 1986 mint sets. The coins should have all been 1986 dated but the 10 cent piece was from the previous year (see above).

The popularity of the mint set was increasing with the Mint churning out higher volumes each year which likely led to this error occurring. Mint controller Mr J B Joslin confirmed the existence of the 1985 10c coin in the 1986 set and said the error occurred in the packing room.

“Simply, a tray containing 1985 ten cent pieces destined for normal circulation was accidently mixed with trays of 1986 coins earmarked for the 1986 sets…..The error was picked up early and most of these sets were stopped before they left the mint”

The error sets were first identified in mid-1986 and collectors began checking their sets very closely. Soon after it was reported that collectors returned 3 sets to Ringwood Stamps and Coins after they were upset that their new sets didn’t feature the first commemorative dollar, the peace dollar, but had 1985 Mob of Roos dollars inserted instead. Yet another packaging mistake by the Mint.

Today a regular 1986 mint set might fetch $15, and the error mint set with the wrong dated 10 cent coin, $200. A much better return on the $4.50 it cost to purchase the set originally. Since that first error set there have been quite a few mishaps within the packaging room at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra. Both proof sets and mint sets can be found with wrong coins but these are just packaging errors and don’t contain coins you couldn’t get elsewhere. If you are looking to purchase a set be sure to have a very close look at the packaging to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with to swap coins. Perhaps the the most exciting “multi-date” set is the set that contains a coin that doesn’t exist elsewhere, the 2005 proof Mob of Roos dollar in the 2006 proof set.

The Outer Cardboard Sleeve of the 1986 Mint Set -what’s inside your set?

Posted in Error Coins

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!

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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

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