As originally published in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine in May 2022.
What Went Wrong -error coins that escaped the Mint
What we have to show this month is a very unique character, the 2016 ‘Alien’ five cent (see Figure 1), and one could be hiding in your wallet or purse. We’ll just wait whilst you go take a look…….
In the image you see a coin that was part of the 2016 50th Anniversary of Decimal Currency series. These were the first Australian circulating coins to feature a commemorative obverse instead of the reverse. The obverse has a small Ian Rank-Broadley portrait of Queen Elizabeth II above the iconic 1938-1964 penny as designed by George Kruger-Gray. It shows die clash (see Figure 2) as two curved raised shapes extending from the top right and top left of the penny. They resemble nothing more than a pair of very out-of-this-world antenna. The antennae in question have given the face-like round penny design element a very alien appearance and the prices these coins fetch compared to their face value is astronomical!
What is die clash? Die clash happens when the obverse and reverse dies come together without a coin blank in between. They strike each other with such force that sometimes the partial impression of one die is left in incuse form on the other. All subsequent coins struck by the die pair are a new variety as they show the die clash as additional and unintended design features. Usually when clash is present on a coin it is worth noting when describing it fully, but doesn’t necessarily add any significant value to the piece.
Our coin however, has the distinctive raised curved features, that without too much imagination give it an other-worldly appearance and the obvious reason for the ‘Alien’ nickname of this variety. Where exactly did these die-clashed “antennae” come from? They are in fact the impression of the space between the echidna’s face/beak and paws from the clashed reverse die.
We’ve only ever handled three of these special “Alien” die clash coins and very few have been found by coin noodlers. Their nickname and scarcity have given them cult status in the decimal collecting community and perhaps they should be called the “Alien Overlord” variety to truly convey their importance! Be they “Aliens” or “Alien Overlords” there’s no denying collectors want them with the last three recorded sales of the type in the $400 to $600 range. To paraphrase fictional newsreader Kent Brockman, the authors welcome our new alien overlords!
Mark Nemtsas and Kathryn Harris own and run ‘The Purple Penny’ coin shop in Adelaide and are passionate about error coins.