Hidden Messages, Secret Codes, German Spies … Or Just Resourceful Internees? Part 1

WWII was a well-documented and chaotic point in world history. Among the many stories to arise from that time, a perhaps lesser-known - but unique episode of European and Australian significance took place close to home, right here on Australian soil. In New South Wales – in the town of Hay, to be exact – the town’s Internment Camp Seven played host to civilian refugees. Over two installments, the following article contributed by Downies member of staff, Matthew Thompson, explores the numismatic mystery surrounding this significant page in our history books.

Part 1 - Ingenious Internal Currency

Many collectors are familiar with the tokens of “Camp Seven”.

Hay Interment Camp 7 Tokens Above: Complete set of Camp 7 Tokens: (left to right) 2/-, 1d, 1/- and 5/- (Obverse and Reverse).

However, prior to these Government-issued tokens, the Internees of Hay’s infamous Camp Seven were freely exchanging their own private and unique form of currency in the form of “Hay Internment Banknotes”.

A complete collection of Camp Seven Notes consists of three denominations: a blue Sixpence (A), a green Shilling (B), and finally, a red Two Shilling note. (C)

WWII Hay Internment Camp Sixpence Note A. Sixpence Note

WWII Hay Internment Camp One Shilling Note B. One Shilling Note

WWII Hay Internment Camp Two Shilling Note C. Two Shilling Note

Designed by George Telscher (an historic customer of Downies) to facilitate a more sophisticated method of trade within the confines of the Internment Camp, the banknotes of Hay are a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of internees with limited supplies and assistance.

These notes replaced the small chits, pictured below, of which fewer than twenty examples are currently held in private collections.

3d Camp Seven Chit 3d chit, signed by Richard Stahl (Bank Manager)

WWII 1d Hay Internment Camp Miltary Chit 1d chit

The Camp Seven Banknotes contain several features which have been the cause of much discussion.

WWII Hay Internment Camp Note Features Above: Several features of the notes have sparked discussion. (Figure 1.)

Firstly, layered carefully within the barbed wire running along the centre of the note, the words “HMT Dunera Liverpool to Hay” appear. The HMT (Hired Military Transport) Dunera was the ship on which 2,542 internees made the horrendous journey on from Liverpool, England. Approximately one fifth of the internees were dropped off in Melbourne with the remainder bound for New South Wales, where they would be divided into Camps 7 and 8.

'HMT Dunera' inscription, Hay Internment Camp Banknote “HMT Dunera” (Figure 1, B)

Liverpool to Hay WWII Internment Banknote “Liverpool to Hay” (B)

Next, there’s the barbed wire border on each note, which features the phrase “we are here because we are here” repeatedly.

 "We are here because” (A)

Camp 7 was filled primarily with members of the Jewish community, some of whom had managed to evade a grim fate in concentration camps. They were going about their daily lives before being shipped over to Australia, as it was suspected that they were potentially German Spies working for Hitler. As a member of a race being targeted by Hitler, being wrongfully accused of being a German Spy would have evoked a number of poignant responses, but this text seems to be a subtle and poetic nod to the nonsensical injustice that was taking place.

Intrigued? Matthew’s journey of discovery continues in part 2 of this series, out tomorrow – stay tuned!

Diana, Princess of Wales: a tribute

2017 $1 Diana Princess of Wales 20g Silver ProofShe was a philanthropist, a patron, and in many ways, a trailblazer. She was adored by many and admired across the globe. She also happened to be a Princess.

It’s almost impossible to encapsulate the legacy of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. As 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of her tragic death, Downies is proud to present a celebration of her extraordinary life: the 2017 $1 Diana Princess of Wales Silver Proof.

When a life is lived with such vibrancy, it’s difficult to capture in monochrome. This, ostensibly, is why the designers of this coin have opted for a full-colour depiction of the late Princess upon the reverse. Her expression is one of poise, with an almost Mona Lisa-esque hint of a smile. Her rich, emerald-hued gown, pearlescent drop earrings and sparkling crown complete the image with photorealistic detail.

The then Diana Spencer began her life in 1961. She was the third of four children to Lord and Lady Althorp, the Royal Family’s next-door-neighbours. Her subsequent adulthood and Royal Duties would see her become involved with scores of charities. She would quickly win the hearts of the general public, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. She would amaze commentators with her dedication to the causes to which she pledged her support. She refused to be just a name, and so somewhat ironically would earn a new one: the moniker of ‘England’s Rose’.

Inspired by public perception of the late Princess, the reverse design of this splendid tribute features the rose as a motif. It forms a border across the lower edge of the imposing 40mm flan, and is intertwined with a ‘D’ at top left. A rare coin for a rare example of humanity, the mintage is a deliberate – but meagre – 1,961.

While it’s impossible to encapsulate fully in any work of art, we feel that this tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales goes some way to celebrate her beauty – both inside and out. We hope you agree.

For a closer look at this Royal Commemorative – and others – head to

1966 Wavy Baseline 20c

Struck at the Royal Mint in London just over five decades ago, as Great Britain assisted Australia in the lead-up to decimalisation, the 1966 ‘Wavy Baseline’ 20c is one of the rarest decimal coins issued into circulation in Australia. Defined by – as the name suggests – a distinct undulation in the baseline of the ‘2’ in the denomination (refer the right image below), this key type is among the most famous of Australian decimal Varieties.

1966 Wavy Baseline vs Standard Coin

1966 Standard 20c vs 1966 'Wavy Baseline' 20c

The most momentous landmark in the history of Australian currency, the changeover to decimal currency was an enormous logistical task. Quite literally, millions and millions of new coins were required for distribution on ‘C-Day’ – ‘Currency Day’, February 14, 1966 – to replace the coins that had served the nation so well since 1910.

Such was the magnitude of the task, the Perth Mint and the Melbourne Mint were joined by Australia’s then new Royal Australian Mint – created specifically to facilitate the production of the nation’s new decimal currency. To guarantee that enough coins were ready to go, the Royal Mint in London was also recruited to help.

Britain had played a key role in Australian currency production before, of course, striking all Australian coins from 1910 to 1915, as well as many of the coins for the George VI 1951 issue. Never before had the Royal Mint been required to strike such a huge amount of coins for circulation in Australia as it was asked to do in 1966.

Whilst the Perth Mint and Melbourne Mint struck copper 1c and 2c coins, the Royal Mint in London was recruited to help the RAM strike the cupro-nickel 5c, 10c and 20c coins. Thirty million examples of each denomination were struck in London, and among the thirty million 20c coins would ultimately be found the 1966 ‘Wavy Baseline’ 20c type.

Probably caused by a simple and slight variation in the production of some of the dies, the 1966 ‘Wavy Baseline’ 20c is distinguished by the obvious upward curve on the top of the baseline in the ‘2’. Not only very distinctive, the 1966 ‘Wavy Baseline’ 20c is extremely scarce. Although it is unknown exactly how many coins from the mintage are of this unique Australian Variety, there is no question that the 1966 ‘Wavy Baseline’ 20c is very scarce, regardless of the grade. A highly sought after Australian decimal variety, this coin fetches prices in excess of $4,000 on the rare occasions it is offered in Uncirculated condition.

If you are interested in securing this important Australian coin type – or, indeed, any other decimal Variety or rarity – then by all means contact Downies.

History of Sydney Harbour Bridge in numbers!

final2_SHB1,400 – the number of men it took to construct the Bridge

8 – the numbers of years it took to build the Bridge

122,000 – the cubic metres of rock excavated for the foundations

6,000,000 & 53,000 – hand-driven rivets and tonnes of steel used in construction respectively

272,000 – the litres of paint required for the initial three coats!

96 – the number of locomotives positioned in various ways to test the load capacity of the Bridge before declared safe

£6.25m – the cost of the construction. The equivalent of A$492,250,000 today, it took 56 years for this amount to be paid off!

1,149m – the length of the Bridge, making it the sixth longest long-span bridge in the world

134m – the height of the Bridge from the top of the arch to the water level, making it the tallest long-span bridge in the world

48.8m – the width of the Bridge – the widest steel span arch bridge until 2012

11,000 & 160,000 – the approximate average daily traffic in 1932 and 2017

85 – the number of years since officially opened on March 19, 1932

Today, the Bridge stands as one of Australia’s foremost landmarks – an instantly recognised symbol of our nation. To mark the 85th anniversary of this iconic structure on March 19, new Gold & Silver Proofs have been issued!

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