1998 commemorated 200 years since the voyage of George Bass and Matthew Flinders which proved that Tasmania was an island. This voyage in 1798 in the sailing boat the “Norfolk”, Bass and Flinders circumnavigated the island of Van Diemen’s Land (which became Tasmania in 1856) establishing that it was in fact separated from the main part of Australia by a strait of water. Flinders recommended to the Governor of the colony of New South Wales in 1800 that the strait be named after George Bass as “Bass’s Strait” which it was duly named and later known more simply as Bass Strait.
The 1998 50 cent is the normal 50 cent size and shape, dodecagonal (12 sided) 31.51mm copper (75%) nickel (25%) weighing in at 15.55 grams with a plain edge. The reverse design consists of portraits of Bass and Flinders, a map and a depiction of the route they took around Tasmania. It was designed by Royal Australian Mint designer Vladimir Gottwald. The standard obverse features the Raphael Maklouf portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
22,426,000 of these coins were issued into circulation. It was included in the Mint set for 1998 of which 74,108 were issued and the proof set with a mintage of 32,225. The commemorative issue was also included in the baby mint set (31,810 produced) and baby proof sets (5,269 produced) for 1998.
It was also released in specimen quality in a PNC jointly with Australia Post of which there was a mintage of 85,004. 3,000 of these were released at the Sydney ANDA show Oct 30, 31 and Nov 1 (1,000 each day) with a differing postmark.