The Keydate Australian 1930 Penny

June 7, 2011

Ask anyone at all and they'll probably be able to tell you that there is a key coin in the pre-decimal Australian penny series that is highly sought and has a hefty price tag. If they are really smart they'll be able to tell you what year that is. There is much hype surrounding the circulation 1930 penny and it's existence, as officially at least, it was a coin that was not supposed to be minted. Because of this it is quite often hyped as the Holy Grail, the King of Rarities or the King of Australian Coins.

Australian numismatic folklore suggests that during the depression in late 1929 a decision was made not to strike any pennies for 1930 despite the fact that 2 dies had already been made. One supposed version of events that lead to the the minting of 1930 pennies was that a press was setup in 1930 so that the coining process could be demonstrated to visitors to the Melbourne Mint. Visitors to the mint could swap an everyday penny from their pocket for a freshly struck lustrous 1930 penny. Another tale from the the numismatic crypt says that 1930 pennies were supposedly minted in 1931 when there was an order from treasury to strike pennies. But, a date had not been specified. As 2 1930 dies had already been prepared these were used for (part of) this order. A final theory was that some coins were struck during the testing of these dies and it was those coins that were used to fill this treasury order. Legend has it that somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 1930 dated coins were released into circulation. It is estimated that between 1,500-3,000 circulation examples remain today.

During the Great Depression many families could barely make ends meet and any spare pennies brought food to the table and put clothes on their backs. It's for this reason most known examples of the 1930 penny are well worn indeed. Realisation of the scarcity of the 1930 penny came in the 1940's when coin collectors noticed a common hole in their penny sets, the 1930 penny. It was at this time when dealers began offering up to 10 shillings (120 times face value) for an example and the public began scanning their coins for that elusive date. This began both their legendary status in Australian coin collecting and it's at this time that they began to command a premium price.

2011 Australian Coins and Banknotes (18th edition by Greg McDonald) catalogues a fine example at $28,000 and an extremely fine coin at $140,000. Generally if you are after one of these coins there are usually a few available in the marketplace at any one time. It is estimated that 70% of all the examples available today are in gFine of lesser condition. A fine example is currently on offer from Downies for $27,500. A review of the prices of lower grade examples shows a poor investment return over the last 10 years. For example a gF 1930 penny sold for $26,000 in the Colonial Coins auction in 2003. An extremely fine graded coin, the finest known circulation example was passed in at $450,000 at the recent IAG auction.

The obverse features King George V sculpted by Sir E. B. Mackennal and there are 2 known varieties of this obverse. The most common was struck with the Indian die and 2-3 examples have be seen struck with the London die (these were authenticated by the Royal Australian Mint and the Royal Mint). The Indian die is most commonly identified as having 178 rim beads and the upstroke of the N of OMN aligning with an outer rim bead.

The reverse features the words "Commonwealth of Australia One Penny" and the date. All 1930 pennies were struck with the London reverse which has 174 rim beads (or denticles).

Proof examples were recorded by the Melbourne Mint with 6 known examples (struck with the Indian die) that were created as museum pieces. Three of these are in private hands, the remaining three are in the public collections of the Museum of Victoria, the National Gallery of South Australia and the British Museum in London.

Authentification of a 1930 penny can be difficult with many forgeries, counterfeits, cast copies and altered date coins out there. Most commonly today, cheap Chinese copies are available and altered dates use alternate dated coins and the digit changed to an "0" which are easily determined as fakes. These coins are keenly sought to fill a hole in many collections and sometimes are used to deliberately deceive naive or inexperienced collectors. The quality of these fakes can often be startlingly good and we're aware of more than one experienced coin dealer who has bought one in error.

Posted by harrisk at June 7, 2011 3:51 PM
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