Australian Dollar Coins - 1996 Henry Parkes Centenary

June 13, 2009

Australia 1996 $1 Henry Parkes Dollar

In 1996 the Royal Australian Mint released an aluminium bronze dollar coin into circulation that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of Sir Henry Parkes. More than 26 million of these coins were issued for circulation as well as much lower mintage collector coins with C for Canberra, S for Sydney, B for Brisbane, A for Adelaide, and M for Melbourne mintmarks. About 20,000 of the coins were also struck in sterling silver specifically for the collector market. A Parkes dollar is depicted above, the obverse depicts the the Raphael Maklouf portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The reverse depicts Sir Henry Parkes with the legend "SIR HENRY PARKES 1815-1986" and "FATHER OF FEDERATION". The reverse was engraved by the Mint engraver Wojciech Pietranik.

Sir Henry Parkes was an interesting character. He was a serial politician (he stood for more than 10 different seats in the colony of New South Wales), a serial bankrupt (he failed in business 5 or more times), a serial husband (he had 3 wives), and prodigous father (he had more than 10 children). He was born in England in 1815 and emigrated to Australia in 1839 after becoming bankrupt in London. His lifetime in Australia consisted of a series of failed businesses (including a toy factory, a newspaper, and a fancy goods importing businesses). These business failures were punctuated by attempts (some successful and some not) to run for the New South Wales parliament, he won seats in Sydney, East Sydney, Kiama, and Mudgee in a period of 25 years before becoming Premier in 1877. In this same period he also lost elections in another seat in Sydney, was forced to resign from a seat because of bankruptcy, and failed to gain the seat of East Maitland.

He was Premier on and off from 1877 to 1882 (because of faction disputes) before his government collapsed in 1882 and he lost his seat in East Sydney. The next 15 years saw him win and lose a succession of different seats in NSW and gain one more period as Premier (his fourth). At the time of his death in 1896 he'd spent more than 50(!) years sitting in the NSW parliament. A colourful character his politics changed radically during the course of his career, despite being known as the father of federation he did not support the concept strongly until the last few years of his political life. The general consensus of his support is that it was one of convenience, but despite this he is known for a strong speech at Tenterfield urging Federation of the colonies of Australia. His reasons for doing so were mixed at best, and he is recorded as saying that federation would be a great idea so that trouble makers in Broken Hill would become South Australia's problem and not those of NSW!

So there we have it, the Parkes Dollar. Not one of the more attractive dollar coins released by the RAM, and one that wears very poorly. But an interesting coin none the less, simply because of the character of the man whose life it commemorates.

Posted by mnemtsas at June 13, 2009 2:56 PM
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