150 Years of Dropped Pocket Change

June 30, 2010

If you ever get the chance to visit Adelaide in South Australia you should make your way down to Glenelg, the premier seaside suburb in the state. With lovely calm sandy beaches and lots of nice hotels it's a great place to come stay for a few days or just spend a few hours. Glenelg is very well known for the trams which run from the city centre to Glenelg and for the long jetty right at the end of the tram tracks. I dont know what the official numbers are but I'd venture that many thousands of people each week walk the length of the jetty, and that this has been happening since the very first jetty was built on the site in 1859. The original jetty was mostly destroyed in 1948 by a storm and was finally rebuilt at less than 2/3's of it's original length in 1969.

Just near the entrance to the jetty is the Bay Discovery Centre, a volunteer run museum which can be entered with a small donation. Within the Centre is a fascinating display documenting an underwater archaeological dig under the existing jetty and where the jetty used to extend to. This dig recovered more than 5000 artifacts, and as you'd imagine a lot of these were pocket change dropped by happy people strolling the jetty, looking out to sea and enjoying the view of Glenelg as they walk back.

A small selection of the recovered coins

Many thousands of the coins, mostly pre-decimal, are on display at the Discovery Centre along with some informative cards educating people as the types of old money that was used in South Australian and the value it had. Above you can see a small selection of the coins that are on display.

What the Money Could Buy

Above you can see what the money found could have bought a visitor to Glenelg. For example, 9d for a return tram ride from the city to Glenelg, or 9d for a ride on one of the many amusement rides that used to be present where the hotels now stand. On the right of the card you can see some of the different types of coins that were found, it pretty much included all types from all monarchs (although I didn't see any Centenary florins), and extended further back to when British Coinage was the accepted currency in Australia and the former colony of South Australia.

Traders Tokens found Under the Jetty

Interestingly they found a number of traders tokens under the jetty. Other than coin collectors very few people would even know what these were and the Discovery Centre devoted an entire information card to the subject. It included images of the tokens themselves and archival images of the issuing Adelaide merchants.

I had two small children with me on the day, and the older one was pretty much captivated by all the money and was asking all sorts of questions as to the value of the old money which he'd never seen before. It's that sort of interest that gathers new collectors to the hobby. I'd recommend a visit to the Bay Discovery Centre if you're ever in Glenelg and putting aside an hour or so to peer at all the found coins to see if you can spot a key date!

Posted by mnemtsas at June 30, 2010 4:40 PM
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