Downies – inspiring collectors for 85 years

Jan 18, 2017 Leave Comment

Founded by Phil Downie in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, Downies celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2017. Here are just a few of the key highlights on our long journey to become the undisputed leader in Australian coins and banknotes.


Young Phil in 1932

1932 – The beginning…

A young man with a big dream, 16-year-old Phil Downie established the Palmerston North Stamp Company in New Zealand. Within a short space of time, the business grew enormously, and was helping leading stamp collectors across the world achieve their goals.

1939 – Foundations for the future

After moving to Australia in 1938, Phil opened the Myer Philatelic Bureau in 1939. He and his wife Zita ran the bureau at the famed Myer store in Bourke Street, Melbourne. When Phil stepped up to serve the nation in the Australian Army during the Second World War, Zita did what many women of the era had to do – she stepped out of the shadows and ran the bureau single-handedly.

With a strong foundation having thus been established, Phil and Zita’s fledging philatelic business quickly grew to become an Australian industry leader. From stamps, the Downies business eventually expanded into all fields of collectables, including coins and banknotes.

Myer Philatelic Bureau October 1955

Philatelic Bureau October 1955

1963 – An auction venture
The 1960s was a time bristling with opportunities, and, in 1963, Phil took the bull by the horns and launched his auction business. It proved to be an unmitigated success. The first public sale of stamps and coins was held at Amethyst Hall in Melbourne, and attracted around fifty bidders. From these humble beginnings, Phil’s auction venture expanded rapidly.

Known today as Downies Australian Coin Auctions (ACA), Downies auction department attracts hundreds of participants to its regular public sales, with collectors attending in person, or bidding online or by post. Australia’s oldest numismatic auction house, Downies ACA will celebrate its 55th anniversary in 2018.

1977 – The next generation

Young Ken with Phil 1986 at ACA Sale #200

Young Ken with Phil 1986 at our ACA Sale No. 200

Phil’s son, Ken joined the company in 1977. Ken’s vision and passion for numismatics created a greater focus on coins and banknotes – both new and old – and the company moved from strength to strength.

1984 – Downies in print

Money Cover May 1990
Money Cover May 1990

In 1984, Ken introduced the journal Spotlight on Numismatics. In 1990, this became Money, a magazine which is still in print today. For nearly four decades, Downies has provided a full mailorder service through a variety of general and specialist publications, bringing its clients a wide array of products. Today, customers are able to place their order by phone, fax, mail and email.

1991 – Retail – the personal touch

Our Southgate store in Melbourne

Downies launched retail outlets in Sydney and Melbourne in 1991 and 1994 respectively. This enabled the company to bring an extensive array of items to collectors, and helped to share Downies love of coins with the widest possible audience.

Downies ‘personal touch’ also extends to the major Money Expo coin & banknote shows held across Australia. Ken often attends, and continues to share his love of coins and banknotes with numismatic enthusiasts, both young and old.

1998 – Moving Online

Downies Website
Downies Website

In March 1998, Downies launched its website, Helping to pioneer online services for collectors, features a vast array of exciting numismatic and other material, including all the latest releases from Australia and around the globe.

RBA Cover

RBA Cover

2005 & 2015 – ‘The auction house of choice…’

A major highlight in the company’s long history, Downies Australian Coin Auctions was chosen to host the Auction of the Gold Coins of the Reserve Bank of Australia – arguably the most exciting, most prestigious sale in the history of Australian numismatics. Downies was selected in 2015 to disperse the Royal Australian Mint’s Master Collection – an assemblage of utterly unique ‘production standard master’ coins, used to ensure the highest quality in the creation of Australia’s coinage.

2012 & 2015 – Continuing to grow…

Downies continues to expand, and, in a bid to accommodate our ever-growing workforce, we established spacious new headquarters in Melbourne’s east in 2012. Likewise, the growing nature of our retail business meant that we needed to find new premises for our Melbourne store. The perfect setting, our Melbourne retail outlet moved to Southbank in 2015 – one of the city’s most important shopping precincts.


Today and tomorrow – a global powerhouse

Downies proud history continues, with a third generation of the family having now entered the business. Australia’s largest coin and collectables dealer, we are also the world’s largest distributor of numismatic products for the Royal Australian Mint and Perth Mint.

Downies is the official representative in Australia for many international mints, including Britain’s Royal Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Austrian Mint and the Mint of Japan.

We continue to work hard to cater for the needs of our customers. So whether you are buying a coin for a child’s birthday or sourcing an exclusive Australian rarity, we offer the same care and attention that Phil Downie did back when the company started in 1932.

Although we are proud to have achieved this major 85th anniversary milestone, we will never rest on our laurels. Indeed, Downies 85th anniversary celebrations will see us reaffirm our long-term commitment to providing the best range, service and value in the industry. We hope you will join us in the celebrations!


19 thoughts on “Downies – inspiring collectors for 85 years”

  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed the newsletters and information about coins and notes. Congratulationson this wonderful milestone.

  2. Sincere congratulations for your 85th anniversary. I have enjoyed adding to my collection over the years and I have found Downies and staff to be very helpful and friendly. Best wishes for the future.

  3. Congratulations to “Downies”
    Phil together with Ray Jewell, Ron Stewart and Hans Prange used to come to the Black Rose restaurant after their numismatic meetings/auction for supper. We became good friends with Ray and Ron until their parting. Still a customer up-to-date!

  4. Congratulations to the Downies family and staff on the occasion of the 85th Anniversary of the Company. You’re always my first stop if I’m looking for something and I love the “Money” editions. It’s great to see the generations coming through and keeping progress going on one hand and traditional good service on the other.

  5. Congratulations on reaching your 85th Anniversary. Hope there is many more to come.
    All my auction bids are now made by post, without previewing first. That shows how much trust I have with Downies,
    A Big Thank You

  6. I found it very intertesting and its nice to read about people you follow there dreams and how the following generations carry on that person dreams

  7. My interest in numismatics has been since
    world war 11 when my father returned from
    the war and had collected coins and paper money from varies countries
    Today I mostly collect mainly Australian
    dollars & medallions.

  8. I’m very proud that I have shared part of Downies wonderful 85 year history by purchasing from them for a number of years now. Thank you for the fantastic service. With Pride Rob Orr

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