Royal Australian Mint

Choice Change Challenge - Henry Parkes in our pocket!

Here we have another entry from Choice Change Challenger Alex!

The Choice Change Challenge... hmmm.... when the Online Team here at Downies asked George and I how the challenge was coming along, and whether we had any exciting new finds to share, we were distressed to respond in the negative. Aside from a 2000 50c issued for the Queen's Royal Visit – incidentally, a coin bearing the only decimal obverse portrait of Her Majesty designed by an Australian, and a one-year-only portrait to boot! – picked up at the coffee shop, there isn't much to share. It continues to be a tough undertaking, collecting the commemorative from change.

1996 $1 Sir Henry Parkes M Mintmark UNC 1996 $1 Sir Henry Parkes M Mintmark UNC

And then, one of our Team Members realised that last week was Sir Henry Parkes' 199th Birthday! Henry Parkes is a man often called the Father of Federation, a man with the distinct honour of having a town named for him (in NSW), a man that appears on one of Australia's only two commemorative banknotes (the 2001 Federation $5 note), and finally, a man that the Royal Australian Mint saw fit to honour with a commemorative coin in 1996. A coin that, besides RAM's issuance of collector strikes in silver and as part of that year's Mintmark series, was also issued for circulation.

Prior to the beginning of our challenge, George and I discussed the coins that we expected to be tough. And, the 1996 Henry Parkes Dollar was amongst those discussed. It's a coin that is now almost 20 years old and from our own casual observations did not often turn up in change. We expected it to take some time to uncover – a bit like my nemesis, the 2001 Bradman 20c. Yet, lo and behold, it was not long into the challenge that we each boasted a Henry Parkes Dollar in our collections!

2001 Henry Parkes Federation $5 2001 Federation $5 note

What's more, flying in the face of our preconceptions, we started seeing the 1996 coin everywhere! So much so that we were each able to not just add the coin to our collections but also to upgrade from lowly circulated examples to bright shiny almost-Uncirculated examples – all from daily change! Nowadays, this far in to the challenge, we continue to be frustrated by the unexpected over-abundance of Henry Parkes in our pockets. Adding to that frustration, as the Father of Federation, one might hope that his paternal good luck would rub off onto the 2001 Federation 50c and 20c series. Unfortunately, these coins are the lowest mintage commemoratives ever issued for circulation in Australia, and continue to frustrate us due to the dearth of examples – ESPECIALLY the 20c issues.

Still, it is ultimately the frustration of finding plenty of 1996 Henry Parkes $1 coins that leads to the jubilation when and if we uncover one of those scarce 2001 coins. And so, it is with that optimistic final thought that I would like to wish the Father of Federation a very happy 199th birthday!

Happy Birthday Sir Henry!

PS. Despite our frustrations at finding too many 1996 $1 coins, and not enough Federation 50c or 20c coins, it’s difficult to remain cranky at a man who sported such a glorious beard, as did Sir Henry Parkes....

The Australian $1 Celebrates its 30th Anniversary!

1984 $1 First Dollar ProofExactly 30 years ago today, the Reserve Bank of Australia introduced the $1 coin into circulation, on May 14th, 1984. It replaced the $1 banknote that had circulated since the inception of Decimal Currency in 1966. Stuart Devlin’s now famous Mob of Roos featured on that initial circulating $1 coin and has been a favourite amongst collector and non-collector alike ever since.

According to the Royal Australian Mint, plans to replace the $1 note had been contemplated since the 1970s, due to the need for higher face value coins that could be used in coin operated machines, and to replace the short service life of the $1 note.

During its life there have been around 100 commemoratives issued by the Royal Australian Mint using the $1 denomination and its standard circulating specification - understandably making it one of the most popular coins amongst collectors today.

Some of the highlights of the series are:

Also worth mentioning, aside from the official commemorative releases, is the unofficial 2000 Mule Error - an error which was created when incorrect obverse and reverse dies were mistakenly matched. For those interested in reading more about this fascinating error, we featured it in a previous article here.

The introduction of the new $1 coin wasn’t the only interesting or important thing to happen in 1984. Some other events of note that occurred that year:

  • 1 February – Medicare comes into effect in Australia.
  • 2 February – Melbourne newspaper The Age publishes phone taps incriminating an unknown judge.
  • 6 February – A bomb blast wrecks the home of Judge Richard Gee in the Sydney suburb of Belrose
  • 30 March – Tennis player and 2011 US Open Grand Slam winner, Samantha Stosur is born
  • April - A 115g jar of Vegemite is the first product in Australia to be electronically scanned at a checkout
  • 19 April – Advance Australia Fair is proclaimed as Australia's national anthem, and green and gold as the national colours.
  • 14 May, Gary Abblet Jr, a modern day AFL football marvel, is born
  • 21 August – The Federal budget is televised for the first time.
  • 25 November – Ashes Winning Cricketer Peter Siddle is born
  • July 28–August 12 - Los Angeles hosts the Games of the XXIII Olympiad.
  • The $100 Paper Banknote is issued, becoming Australia’s highest Decimal circulating denomination.

But for many, it’s the introduction of the Mob of Roos $1 coin that marked the commencement of a new era in numismatics. To celebrate, the Royal Australian Mint released a spectacular 30th anniversary high relief silver proof coin, which has delighted thousands of collectors in Australia, and around the world!
2014 $1 30th Anniversary High Relief 1oz Silver Proof
Downies is fortunate enough to have a number of this spectacular coin in stock, so if you are interested in marking this special anniversary, click here to learn more!

Treasures in your change: 5c and 10c - What to look for

5c and 10c ChangeThe following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy…

As you may have seen in my previous blogs (here and here), there are quite a lot of rare, unusual circulating coins that are hotly pursued by collectors. This had a lot of people asking (along with myself), what else should we be looking for in our change? What might some of these circulating oddities be worth?

These questions have inspired a new series of blog posts from me, and, as I continue to search through my change, I will keep you up-to-date about what I'm looking for – and, in turn, what you should keep an eye out for! The coins that will feature in these posts are all found in circulation in Australia, meaning that you, the reader, have just as much chance of finding them as I have! My chances are slightly less now of course, as there are more people out there looking!

I thought I would start from the bottom and work my way up, starting with 5c and 10c. When it comes to Australian circulating coins, it appears that the 5c and 10c coins are the most consistent in terms of quality and lack of errors. This would have partly to do with the fact that there are no commemorative coins issued for either of these two types. The only varieties known are created as a result of die variations.

5c and 10cChronologically, the very first coin that collectors look for would be the 1972 5c piece. There are two possible reasons to keep a look out for this particular year. Firstly, only 8.3 million 5c coins were minted in 1972, well below the number normally minted (ranging from 25.2 million in 1978 to a whopping 305.5 million in 2006). Upon closer inspection of this particular date, it seems that two separate dies were used in the minting. When compared side by side, one coin appears to have a ‘low’ echidna, with the design close to the bottom of the coin, with the other distinguished by a ‘high’ echidna, with a larger space below the design. The ‘low’ echidna appears to be the scarcer of the two types, and is the one to look out for as it will have a slightly higher value than its ‘high’ brother.

For those of you who don’t want to be measuring echidnas, this brings us to a different variation to look out for. One that may be slightly easier to spot (albeit with a magnifying glass) involves Stuart Devlin, the man behind the designs on the majority of Australia’s traditional circulating coinage. More specifically, his initials feature on the very bottom of the 5c reverse design, of which there are three different types – large, small and tiny! While people may not see this as a major collectable, large SD initials on a 1991 dated coin can fetch up to $40 when found – which is a great return on a 5c investment!

Stuart Devlin small and large initialsTwo other key dates to keep an eye out for are 1985 and 1986. Any of our eagle eyed followers would be jumping out of their seats right now yelling “that’s not possible!”, and they would be right. No 5c coins were minted for general circulation in either of these years, and if you find one, it would have come from the 1985 or 1986 Mint Sets from the RAM. Neither date should ever be found in change.

Now we move onto the 10c piece which, unfortunately, does not have much to look out for. Low mintages are our best bet here. The 1985 10c coin, with a mintage of 2 million, and the 2011 10c issue, with a mintage of 1.7 million, are the two gems. Besides those, there are, of course, the mint set only dates of 1986, 1987, 1995, and 1996.

So get out there and start checking your change, but more importantly, check back here soon for my next post in this series, which will focus on the 20c piece!

Mule Madness!

The following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy…

If you read my previous blog post – on the incuse Millennium 50c I found in my change – you would be aware that I have only worked at Downies for a short period of time. Before this, I had only a slight interest in coins, but not much more than occasionally noticing an interesting one in my change, and setting it aside.

$1 Mule Obverse

I never really bothered looking up information, such as mintage figures, or design details. However, as I mentioned in my last blog, I started flipping through the pages of my Maccas guide just after I started working here, and discovered that there was a lot more to our everyday money than a few random coins with different designs.

One of the more appealing circulating coins I mentioned in my previous blog is the 2000 $1/10c Mule. What exactly is this coin, I hear you ask? Well, for those that don’t know, a ‘mule’ is a coin struck with obverse and reverse dies that were not meant to be paired together. In this case, the coin was created using the reverse die of a 2000 $1 coin and the obverse die of a 2000 10c piece. This results in a double ring on the obverse side, as seen in the picture below.

2000 One Dollar/Ten Cent Mule Error Extremely FineNow, unfortunately, I didn’t find this coin in my change. This is one of two examples we have in stock here at Downies. The chances of finding one in change are remote indeed. Maccas listed the mintage at 400 until 2010, when it was changed to “unknown”. Many people have attempted to estimate the mintage, with figures ranging from 400 to 6,000 thrown about, but it seems unlikely that we will ever be sure about the actual number struck. There is no doubt, however, that this coin is extremely rare!

In my opinion, one of the more appealing things about this coin is the fact that it is a circulating coin. This means that, somewhere around Australia, right now, there’s someone with a 2000 $1/10c Mule in their pocket, unaware of its value. These rare coins will continue to circulate, and it therefore remains a possibility that you or I will discover one in our change one day. It is this tantalising prospect that keeps me checking my change every day!

Are any of our readers on the lookout for this particular coin? Or better yet, has anyone been lucky enough to find one in their change?

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).

Skip the queues this festive season – Downies delivers great gifts!

With time running out to get the perfect gifts for your loved ones – and shops only getting more hectic as the season enters fever pitch – Downies has you covered. You can shop for the perfect gift for collectors young and old, easily and securely from the comfort of your own home.

2013 RAM Mint Set

If you are stuck for an idea, why not consider something special, like the Royal Australian Mint’s 2013 Mint Set, featuring Australia’s very first full-colour 20c coin! Along with this super set, Downies is currently including a booklet comprising reprints of six classic illustrations of the humble platypus. With a retail price of A$14.95, the booklet is yours FREE with your order of the 2013 Mint Set.

2013 RAM Proof Set

If you are looking for something extra special, consider the Royal Australian Mint’s 2013 Proof Set, featuring Australia’s very first selectively gold-plated 20c coin! Sure to make an extremely well-received gift, if you order the 2013 Proof set today, you will also receive a copy of Platypus booklet FREE.

Double Downies deal – get even more if you order both sets today!

Downies is offering EVEN MORE if you take action now and purchase both sets together; not only will you get TWO copies of the Platypus artwork booklet (worth $29.90 combined), you will also receive a FREE 1937-56 Zoological 6-stamp Set (value $5.95). That’s a total bonus value greater than the cost of the Mint set by itself, yours free! Supplies are extremely limited, so click here to secure the deal before we run out!

Downies delivers again!

I know that’s a lot to take in, but wait – it gets even better!

To make shopping for presents even easier this year, Downies is offering half-price shipping throughout Australia on ALL ORDERS placed from now until the 31st of December! With shipping just $4.00 for orders under $100 and $6 for orders over $100 – and FREE for orders over $500 – you now have every reason to avoid the queues and visit downies.com!

Unique Tribute to our Fallen: Remembrance Day $2 Commemorative Coin with Colour Poppy Imprint

To honour Australia’s fallen and their families, the Royal Australian Mint has issued the first colour coin struck for circulation in Australia.

The coin features a colour poppy on the reverse, the accepted symbol of Remembrance Day and so used for the poppies that were the first plant to grow on the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. This haunting image was so powerfully captured by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in his poem In Flanders Fields, that it became the symbol of the blood shed by soldiers who have died in battle and is recognised around the world.

This coin is an historic tribute to those men and women who fell defending this country and its allies. It is also a poignant reminder of the role that Australia’s Armed Forces continue to play and is a fitting Remembrance Day commemoration.

Your chance to be involved in a significant part of Australia’s history … Twice.

2012 $2 Remembrance Day ‘C’ Mintmark Unc

This release has deep significance for all those who remember Australia’s fallen service men and women, or who have a connection to those who served. Not only does it have a strong historical significance, but this release also has deep numismatic importance.

The Royal Australian Mint has released three versions of the coin, each slightly different but ground-breaking. The non-colour commemorative release is, along-side its coloured counterpart, the first commemorative $2 ever to be issued into circulation.

The colour version of the circulation release is significant in two ways; it’s the first colour coin to ever be struck for circulation in Australia, and it has an unusual release channel. This version of the coin will be available at RSLs around the country in exchange for a donation, starting Remembrance Day.

2012 $2 Remembrance Day ‘C’ Mintmark Unc

The third type is a full colour, uncirculated commemorative coin with a unique ‘C’ mintmark, and is available now, here. Not only is this coin struck using the RAM’s state-of-the-art full-colour minting process, but it is presented in an official Mint display pack. It has already proven to be extremely popular among collectors for its numismatic and historic significance and is sure to be a valued collector’s item for years to come.

This is a coin that holds a deep and special significance for all Australians. So whether you buy the specially packaged commemorative edition of the coin, donate to your local RSL or find one of the circulating coins in your change, be sure to take a moment to admire this piece of Australian and numismatic history, and remember the fallen.

Visit your local RSL on Remembrance Day this November 11th, or head to Downies.com to secure your piece of Australian history.

Australia Remembers...

Marking the 70th Anniversary of the first wartime attack on Australian Soil, February 19 1942 saw 242 Japanese Planes launch the first of their 64 attacks on Darwin. An initial siege that lasted a mere 40 minutes, devastatingly stole the lives of more than 243 people – February 19 2012 marks beginning of the war on Australia.

Forced to leave the side of our Mother Country, 41 years after federation, Australia strengthened its alliance with the United States to combat what has now been described as Australia’s Pearl Harbour. With much focus protecting the northern border of Australia, on May 31 1942, three Japanese midget submarines, five large mother submarines and two sea planes attempted to invade Sydney Harbour. An attack that was of limited success with only one of the submarines firing its torpedoes, missing the intended target and instead hitting the depot ship, HMAS Kuttabul – fear began to penetrate the once believed invincible Australian culture.

Issued to mark the 70th Anniversary of the start of these attacks, the Royal Australian Mint has issued three unique Australian legal tender releases commemorating those who lost their lives protecting our borders.

Never to be issued into circulation, to secure the 2012 50c and 20c Shores Under Siege trio – head on over to Downies.com today!

Blood, Sweat and Tears...

An epic battle that witnessed not only a record-making final as the longest ever Grand Slam title match, 2012 also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Australian Open.

With temperatures reaching well over 30 degrees, Novak Djokovic defeated Rafeal Nadal in an incredible 5-set match lasting a grueling 5 hours and 53 minutes! Drawing a crowd of 15,000 people, Djokovic became only the fifth man to win three consecutive majors since the Open Era began in 1968.

2012 $1 100th Australian Open Men’s Trophy Al-Br Unc

Issued in celebration of this century old event, the Royal Australian Mint announced their newest commemorative – the 2012 $1 100th Australian Open Men’s Coin Toss Al/Br. Specifically released to be used for the coin-toss in this history-making battle, each Al-Br coin issue is crafted to Uncirculated quality. Issued as official Australian legal tender, the reverse of this iconic coin features curved stripes that mirror the rubber strip on a tennis ball together with the winning Men’s trophy.

Housed within a triangular shaped coin holder, this honorary issue is sure to ace its way to a slamming sell-out! Head on over to Downies.com to secure yours today!

2012 Lunar Dragons Coloured

With every commemorative for 2012’s Year of the Dragon receiving an abundance of interest throughout the global market, the Royal Australian Mint has just announced the addition of two releases that no one anticipated to be issued into their product portfolio – comes a 1oz Silver Proof and a 1/10oz Gold Proof.

Celebrating the world’s favourite lunar sign, each pad printed coin depicts the RAM’s signature dragon upon a vivid coloured background. Struck to the highest of Proof quality from .999 fine silver, the 40.00mm Silver Proof is restricted to a global mintage of just 18,000 coins. A highly exclusive, matching, 17.53mm Gold issue, crafted also to Proof quality from .9999 fine gold – this exquisite coin is limited to a mintage of just 8,000 coins.

Issued as official Australian Legal tender, and struck specifically for an international corporate order – only a minuscule number of each the 1oz Silver Proof and 1/10oz Gold Proof will be available on the market – immediate action is needed to secure what is sure to be one of the most popular RAM releases yet!

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