January 2014 Archives

The Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

This week we were extremely privileged to be invited to have a private viewing of the numismatic collection at the Art Gallery of South Australia (see the image above for the front facade of the gallery). This collection is the major numismatic collection in South Australia and one of the major public collections in the country. It holds more than 30,000 items with the first item collected in the 1860's. Since that time the collection has expanded greatly almost entirely due to bequests from a generous South Australian Public. It is very rare that more than a few pieces from the collection are ever on public display so the opportunity to view some of it in the back room operations of the Art Gallery was too good to refuse.

The viewing was hosted by Peter Lane, a well known numismatist and honorary numismatist of the Art Gallery. He's spent several years cataloging and documenting the collection with a book about some of the more interesting provenances of items in the collection currently in the pipeline. With the kind cooperation of Art Gallery Staff he was able to have few people view the collection under strict supervision. We would have loved to publish some pictures of the stupendous coins we saw but sadly this was not allowed. Oh, we took the pictures, and they are drool-worthy, but we are not allowed to publish them. So, as a small measure of compensation here's a small display of coins we found while we were wandering about waiting for our appointment time to arrive. These included Greek Tetradrachm, a Roman Denarius and coins of the Royal Mint.

The only coins on display in the Art Gallery

After wandering the gallery for a while we met with our host and were taken into the back offices to sign into security and be issued with visitor badges. We were then taken to the sub-basement via lift and were told that at that stage we were about 20 meters below North Terrace (which is one of the main streets in the Adelaide CBD). We were led to a little table with some chairs in the gallery library and the viewing began.

Peter had selected several trays of coins containing various items that he believed would interest us. This included British material, various world coins, Australian proclamation and colonial coins, and an array of large Australian medals and medallions. Highlights of these trays were the dish sized Swedish plate money, the array of extremely high grade and extremely scarce Australian prize medals, and the entire tray of beautifully toned and struck 1000 year old German bracteate coins. The Australian prize medals were truly spectacular, often comprising nearly 200 grams of struck metal and surely the pinnacle of the engravers art. And the grades of these medals were surely that which any exonumia collector could only dream of. We also got to see several dozen British coins dating from the 11th century through to the 20th. It's nice to see a complete pristine 1902 matte proof set but to learn that the Gallery had bought it from the Royal Mint at face value plus postage was mind boggling. The 1930 proof penny belonging to the gallery, we learned, was also purchased from the Melbourne Mint for one penny plus postage. If only we could turn back time!

Before we move onto the next (and perhaps more mouth watering) part of the viewing we thought it was worth looking at some numismatic related material we found while looking around the general viewing area of the Gallery. Edgar Bertram Mackennal was the designer of the portrait of King George V on Australian pre-decimal coins from 1911 to 1936 and the obverse designer of the 1927 Canberra Parliament florin. He was also a sculptor and some of his pieces in bronze were on display. "Madonna" c. 1905 Paris (below), "Truth" 1894 London -a naked figured symbolising the unclothed truth and Circe, a figure from Greek Mythology. The majestic statue of King Edward VII standing proud near the Art Gallery entrance on North Terrace is also by Mackennal.

William Leslie Bowles, who is well known to coin collectors as the reverse designer of the 1951 Federation and 1954 Royal Visit commemorative florins was also a sculptor. Incidently he was Mackennal's assistant while they both spent time in London and if you're visiting the Australian War Memorial in Canberra Bowles worked on dioramas of the first World War on display there. He had a piece in the general area of the Gallery, this one depicting the iconic Australian infantryman, "The Digger".

Willaim Leslie Bowles "The digger"

Let's go back to our invited perusal of numismatic rarities in the bowels of the Art Gallery. We were able to view (but not touch) many historic coins and exonumia that hold a high place in Australia's history. Gold was aplenty with an original 1852 Adelaide ingot alongside an electrotype of the same coin. We saw numerous 1852 Adelaide pounds (including uniface strikes and lead trial pieces), two pounds and five pounds, It was interesting to note the difference in finish between the circulation strikes in the 1850's compared with the re-strikes made in the 1920's. Clearly the dies were polished before the restrikes were made. In fact, we got to see the actual Adelaide Assay Office dies themselves. These included the pound, two pound, and 5 pound dies. There were two pound dies, the cracked die and the uncracked die. Those who know their history will know that the first Adelaide Pound die cracked early before being replaced and coins showing the die crack are scarce indeed. Being able to see the actual cracked die itself was a great thrill.

We also saw one of the six known proof 1930 pennies. Three are currently in public institutions and 3 in private hands. At one stage the Gallery owned two proof 1930 pennies but one was sold to well known collector Syd Hagley and that same coin was sold in the last few years by a high end Melbourne coin dealer. Another item of significant Australian numismatic interest we saw were several re-strikes of the Taylor gold patterns. Designed by the "Kangaroo Office" and originally struck in the 1850's and 1860's the Gallery's collection appeared to hold multiple re-strikes of each denomination in gold.

British guineas, sovereigns, half sovereigns were also in abundance. In fact, as you'd imagine (with South Australian being a British colony) the United Kingdom was well represented. We saw hammered pennies from the 11th and 12th centuries, groats and shillings from the middle of the millennium, and a lovely selection of English Commonwealth material from the time of Oliver Cromwell. Each monarch from that time forward was well represented with lustrous Queen Victoria coins aplenty, maundy coins, farthings, half pennies and pennies. One member of our viewing group was delighted to see an 1825 British halfpenny in the collection, a coin he has been looking to acquire for many years and has eluded him. While he obviously cannot own the coin we saw, it was some small satisfaction to him to know that the elusive creature does indeed exist!

After about two hours we had to (somewhat regretfully) draw the viewing to a close. We only got to view what was a very small selection of the collection. But what we saw was an amazing selection of numismatic history. To us, the value of what we saw was secondary to the history that each piece in the collection represented. Hammered coinage of Britain and Germany represented the dark ages, an uncirculated Cromwell crown recalled a time of extreme political upheaval, and coinage and dies from the colonial times of Australia gave us a real connection to events that helped to shape Australia. The opportunity to view the collection was certainly a highlight of our venture into the hobby of numismatics and if anyone is ever given the opportunity to do the same then they should take every measure to ensure they do. It would be amazing to see some of these coins on general display in the Art Gallery but we suspect they are of limited appeal to the general public and won't be visible any time soon. Our thanks must go to Peter Lane, the Art Gallery of South Australia for their time and efforts and the Numismatic Society of South Australia.

The first ANDA coin and banknote show for 2014 will be held in Perth on the 1st and 2nd of March at a different venue to usual the Belmont Racecourse. The new location boasts proximity to the Belmont Park Railway Station, air conditioning and free parking! It may prove to be a difficult and raw experience for some affected by the collapse of the Rare Coin Company. It may provide an avenue for some bargains over in the west.

The Perth Mint will be attending with a show special 2oz 2014 Silver Proof Year of the Horse coloured coin limited to just 1,000 mintage. The coin show special price will be $169.

Collectors will surely appreciate the attendance of the Royal Australian Mint with their portable coin press striking a P counterstamp onto the "A Voyage to Terra Australis" mintmark dollar for 2014.

Australian 1992 Mob of Roos Dollar

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Circulation 1992 Mob of Roos One Dollar -we've made this one up, does it exist?

There's a big question over whether this coin exists or not -the Stuart Devlin designed 5 kangaroos standard reverse design on the Australian one dollar coin dated 1992 and released into circulation. The Royal Australian Mint certainly think they minted some and released them into circulation but collectors who search bulk coins and browse their change think differently. No one has ever found one...not one.

The Royal Australian Mint website which lists Australian Dollar designs and mintages shows .008 million coins entering circulation, that's 8,000 that have never been seen or found. Surely it's a mistake or these would have showed up somewhere.

Well the odd one has. Back in February 2012 in Downies Australian Coin Auctions number 310 lot number 2493 was described as one dollar 1992 with mob of roos reverse struck on a partially prepared proof blank, as struck and extremely rare estimate $750 and sold for $1,000 ($1190 inc buyers premium). Collectors can recall a few others appearing for sale every now and then but these can be counted on one hand. This suggests they were struck as "mint sport" and not part of the elusive 8,000 circulation coins that have been misplaced!

Collectors have put their heads together and come up with a rather plausible explanation for the 8,000 coins that appear in the 1991-1992 Royal Australian Mint Annual Report. In 1992 one of the collector coin sets that was issued was the Australian One Dollar Five Coin Set. This set included restrikes of past dollars including mob of roos dollars dated 1984 and 1985 and the commemorative dollar for 1992 which was the Barcelona Olympic coin. Maybe an error in the RAM financial report declaring their production statistics was made and these coins have been misidentified in the report.

It may also be important to note that in 1988-1989 $36 million of $1 were repurchased back by the Royal Australian Mint from the Reserve Bank. Whether or not these were kept and reissued later or melted down is unclear. This may account for the 8,000 coins issued into circulation and explain that they are not dated 1992.

Just to add here the one dollar coin included in the 1992 Mint Set and 1992 Proof set was the commemorative coin celebrating the Barcelona Olympic Games and this design was not released into circulation. It could also be struck on the gallery press at the Mint in Canberra or at the Royal Easter Show which may account for why the odd one has been found in circulation as it's been spent. It has the commemorative reverse and not the standard mob of roos design.

Confused yet? Well the reality is if you're searching circulation coins for a 1992 Mob of Roos to add to your collection you'll be looking for some time, as far actual real collector statistics go, they simply cannot be found.

2013 Coloured Polar Animals Series Dollars

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During 2013, the Royal Australian Mint released the Polar Animals series which comprised six pad-printed colour coins - the Rockhopper Penguin, the Polar Bear, the Walrus, the Humpback Whale, the Weddell Seal and last but not least, the Atlantic Puffin.

Each of these Polar Animals, whilst living within the same geo-location, are extremely diverse from one another - from requiring particular habitats, through to food sourcing, through to mating rituals.

But sadly, they all share common phenomena - the loss of their habitats and food sources, with changes for the worse to their mating rituals - all attributed to human intervention and global warming. Some of these animals have now been placed on the "threatened list", with others on the "endangered list" - human intervention "for the good" is now necessary to save these species.

Amazing work by a number of zoo's and animal sanctuaries around the world are providing alternative habitats, with some amazing "borne in captivity" stories. And let's not forget the brilliant work performed by the numerous global not-for-profit organizations - lobbying governments for climate change and encouraging the establishment of marine environments.

Showcasing these animals in the Polar Animals series is sure to re-ignite public interest in saving these amazing animals and that one day, they'll all be taken off the "threatened" and "endangered" lists.

All 6 coins in this series feature a pad printed coloured reverse animal and a frosted uncirculated finish. Each is 25 millimetre in diameter struck on a 9 gram aluminium bronze planchet and are Australian legal tender for 1 dollar. All bear the Ian Rank-Broadley of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and have interrupted edge milling. For mintages of each see the 2013 1 dollar coin mintages table.

Limited Edition 2013 Black Caviar PNC

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Limited Edition Black Caviar PNC

Black Caviar's racing success has given rise to many collector items celebrating her achievements. Not content with the aluminium bronze dollar PNC Australia Post has issued a special limited edition with the Australian fine silver proof coin designed by Tony Dean.

The 2013 1oz fine silver proof Black Caviar dollar dons this special PNC below the 2012 Royal Mint Cook Islands dollar commemorating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee featuring a racehorse at Royal Ascot -it was Black Caviar who won the race during that year. The PNC is a large size with decorative foiling and a commemorative postmark in a special leather-look wallet. The stamps were produced at the May 2013 World Stamp Expo in Melbourne and cancelled on 1 November.

This specially numbered PNC is limited to just 100 issued and were only available to those who were persistent on the phone to Australia Post from midday on November 17th 2013, with a limit of just one per customer. At a cost of $250 these PNCs just 3 months later are now selling for more than double.

2014 Mintmark Dollar A Voyage to Terra Australis

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A Voyage to Terra Australis 1814-2014 Dollar Coin Design(image courtesy www.ramint.gov.au)

Do you know how Australia got it's name? Does it have a meaning? Lets take you back to the 1500's when it had been established that yes, the world is round but surely there must be a huge land mass, somewhere down south, that "balances" the globe? It was referred to as "Terra Australis Incognitia" - translated from Latin meaning "unknown southern land" (Terra = land; Australis = south; Incognitia/Incognitio = unknown). And so the myth of Terra Australis Incongitia, with the quest to find it, was borne.

Many adventurers did find Terra Australis Incongitia, but the thinking was that the landmass found was many individual islands. The first naming occurred in 1606 when the Dutch sailor Willem Janszoon provided the first solid proof of existence by crashing into the western coast, naming it "Nieu Zeeland" after his home province. Then Abel Tasman had a go in 1640 and thought that "New Holland" sounded better. In 1770 James Cook decided that the eastern "island" should be called "New South Wales".

It was the British explorer Matthew Flinders who realized that "New Holland" and "New South Wales" was in fact one landmass during the first epic circumnavigation, with one of the tasks to produce accurate maps. And it was in the publication of his journal, "A voyage to Terra Australis" where the term "Terra Australis" first appeared and scribed onto his maps. Although he declared in the introduction to his book that " ... it would have been to convert it to Australia; as being more agreeable to the ear ..."

In 1817, the New South Wales Governor Macquarie used "Australia" in his official correspondence shortly after receiving a copy of Matthew Flinders book. By the start of the 1830's "Australia" was being widely used. As we're fast approaching Australia Day on 26th January, commemorating the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788, perhaps we could give thanks to Matthew Flinders that our great land isn't called "New Holland".

Lets give some thought to Matthew Flinders 3 year circumnavigation -6th December 1801 to 9th June 1803. Could you imagine doing such a journey with partial and inaccurate maps, no depth sounder, no radar, no communications, scarcity of water and food, battling dysentery and scurvy, whilst also collecting specimens of plant and animal life and knowing that his ship, The Investigator, was in poor shape with rotting wood and extensive leaks? A remarkable feat indeed.

And one worthy of commemorating with the release of a commemorative one dollar coin in 2014, 200 years since the publication of Matthew Flinders' historic journal. This coin is the mintmark coin for 2014 which means it will be released throughout the year with various privymarks and counterstamps and the C mintmark -time will tell what and where! The design by Royal Australian Mint designers (no one specifically) is struck in aluminium bronze and also in fine silver proof. All are 25 millimetres in diameter and the al br coins weigh 9 grams and have interrupted edge milling just like a dollar coin found in circulation except that these coins are not produced to circulate, they are purely collector coins. They all feature the standard obverse effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley.

The visitor coin presses at The Royal Australian Mint in Deakin, Canberra is the first place collectors were able strike the first coin, A Voyage to Terra Australis with a C mintmark and in the leadup to the New Years Day one avid collector (and his family) queued for 5 days for the privilege to strike the first coin of 2014 at the Mint. Congratulations to Sydney teenager, 14 year old Harley Russo. He's making a habit of this, queuing for his second year to strike the first coin, each time camping more nights in eagerness to be the first. And to show that investing in coins really does pay - Harley was offered $2,000 shortly after receiving his 2014 framed coin and certificate. He wisely turned it down. Each of the first 100 visitors of the New year to the Mint receive a special certificate.