Some coins are rare, some are beautiful and some are historic. Some coins, such as the 1919-1921 Square Kookaburra Patterns, unite all three qualities. Genuine artefacts of one of the most fascinating chapters in the story of Australian numismatics, these important post-WWI Pattern issues today rank among Australia’s highest profile rarities.
At the behest of the Commonwealth Government, the Melbourne Mint struck approximately 200 prototype kookaburra pennies and halfpennies over the course of 1919, 1920 and 1921. Whilst this project sprang from an initiative to find a lighter, more durable alternative to the bulky copper penny and halfpenny types inherited from Great Britain, the creation of the Kookaburra Square Patterns was also an expression of Australia’s developing national identity in the post WWI-era.
Representing a potentially radical change to Australia’s circulating currency of the time, the 1919-21 Kookaburra Patterns were all square, and virtually all struck from cupro-nickel. Ahead of their time, the choice of this alloy pre-empted the use of cupro-nickel in Australian circulating currency by nearly 50 years. Australia’s first coins crafted from cupro-nickel would not be issued until the introduction of decimal currency in 1966.
Of the total mintage of 200 Pattern coins, most were distributed to Government officials, dignitaries and VIPs for assessment. With a distinctive shape, and decidedly lighter than the incumbent coins – the Square Pennies, for example, weighed between 3.79g and 4.03g compared to the 9.45g copper penny – the concept seems to have been met with some approval. Indeed, it was announced in a range of newspapers in April 1920 that the launch of the new coinage was imminent.
Unfortunately, the man behind the scheme, Treasurer William Watt, became entangled in a dispute with the notoriously difficult Billy Hughes, Nationalist Party leader and the then Prime Minister. Along with concerns about the use of the new coins in vending machines, it was the resignation of the Commonwealth Treasurer that ensured the demise of the Square Pattern project.
The planned Square Kookaburra coinage was consigned to the pages of history – only for the rare Patterns to rise like a phoenix from the ashes to rank among the most valuable and heavily pursued pieces in the history of Australian coinage.
If you are interested in securing one of the immensely rare 1919-1921 Kookaburra Square Patterns – or any other Australian rarity – then feel free to contact us.