Choice Change Challenge – An unusual Platypus for an unusual year

Here we have another entry from Choice Change Challenger Alex – he has done some digging and unearthed an interesting story behind a year that keeps showing up during The Challenge.

As Australia basks in the glory of only the third ever 5-0 Ashes cricket whitewash, it reminds us of the “King” of the Australian 20c series, the 2001 Donald Bradman issue – and, subsequently, our attempts to “Collect the Commemorative”…!

As you might understand, George and I tend to look at every coin we receive in our daily change. As such, we have noticed that as time goes by, a trend seems to be emerging – of all the 20c coins uncovered by our hunting, it appears that when we receive a 20c platypus coin … it is almost invariably dated 1981. Yes, a thirty-three year old, Platypus 20c coin! I’m sure it is not difficult to imagine our continued frustration at this as we attempt to hunt down those elusive Australian commemoratives. In this case, however, frustration has led us to uncover an interesting tale...

Three mints, an industrial strike, 3.5 claws... the story behind one of Australia’s largest mintage 20c dates is an intriguing one. During 1981, an extended period of Industrial Action at the Royal Australian Mint caused a cry for help to fulfil the year’s quota for new coinage. Thus, the Royal Canadian Mint and The Royal Mint were sought out for assistance across all denominations. In terms of 20c coins however, it was believed that only the Canadian and Canberra Mints struck anything dated 1981. Whilst this view was soon altered, it was actually the Canadian Mint strikes that provided one of the more intriguing and sought after varieties of the 20c series – the 3.5 Claw Platypus!

Twenty Cents 1981 Canadian Mint 3.5 claw Twenty Cents 1981 Canadian Mint 3.5 claw

Distinguishing the Canadian Mint-struck 1981 Platypus 20c coins from those struck elsewhere, it is on the Platypus’ left claw, directly beneath the ‘2’ in 20c that this variety can be recognised. Whilst Platypodes, both in the wild and numismatically, are known to have four claws, the Canadian minted platypus coins possess only three and a half claws! An easy variety to spot, once you know what to look for, this oddity provides a highlight for any 20c collector! Cataloguing today at $170 in Unc, this issue offers an interesting juxtaposition to a 20c date that George and I are finding everywhere!

But what about those coins purportedly struck at the Royal Mint? It would seem that genuine, confirmed numbers are difficult to track down. And, there are references that suggest that no 1981 20c coins were struck by the Royal Mint. However, just a few months before the end of 1982... The evidence was found. A very excited collector (no doubt!), walked into a Sydney Coin store with a 1981 20c coin, struck on a scalloped-edged Hong Kong $2 blank! Upon further investigation, it was unearthed that, at the time, The Royal Mint in Wales was striking the Hong Kong $2 coins and thus, by simple deduction, it became clear a third Mint churned out Australian 20c coins in 1981! Today, there are just 6 or 7 examples of this extreme rarity out in the marketplace. And, coincidentally, Downies Australian Coin Auctions has one example consigned in their February Sale! For more info, or to see this coin, click here.

Twenty Cents 1981 on a Hong Kong Two Dollars blank Twenty Cents 1981 on a Hong Kong Two Dollars blank

At The Block: What treasures will be found in Downies coin Auction 314?

The second sale in Downies Australian Coin Auctions’ 50th anniversary year is ramping up. Viewings commenced on Tuesday the 3rd of July and are currently underway, with Sale 314 itself running from July 9th to 11th. Interest is obviously high thanks to the ongoing anniversary celebrations, but there is another reason. In the first sale of the year, Sale 313, two extremely rare, if not unique, previously undiscovered  mules* were found – an numismatists around the globe wait with bated breath to see if a similar discovery will be made in Sale 314.

The first of the two mules in question was a halfpenny mule with a British obverse partnered with a New Zealand reverse, dated 1965 and graded brown EF, is pictured below:

Halfpenny 1965 muled with British Halfpenny obverse

The second, truly astonishing, mule was an Australian 50c piece with the appropriate 1977 Elizabeth II obverse, but the standard Stuart Devlin coat of arms reverse. Every 1977 50c piece was intended to bear a special commemorative design to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Queen and the coin in question simply should not exist – and there are no records in standard collecting guides of it doing so prior to Sale 313 this year.

Fifty Cents 1977 coat-of-arms reverse instead of the normal silver jubilee reverse (weight 15.41gms)

Esteemed numismatic writer Dr. Kerry Rodgers recently wrote an excellent article on the matter – published on Numismaster.com here.

As for Sale 314 – what will it bring? Could Australian numismatics be lucky enough to discover yet more heretofore unknown rarities? Let us know what you think in the comments.

*For those who are wondering, in numismatics a ‘mule’ is a coin “whose obverse die is not matched with its official or regular reverse die” (take from McDonald’s Coin guide).

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