Tagged with 'numismatics'

1919-1921 Square Kookaburra Patterns

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.

Downies Auction 320 Prices Realised 321 Consignments

A grand event for Australian numismatics, Downies Australian Coin Auctions Sale 320 was an outstanding success!

Comprising more than 3,500 lots, our last auction for 2015 was highlighted by a number of exquisite English Hammered pieces, which as expected sold well above estimate. We saw nearly a million dollars’ worth of material go under the hammer with 87% of lots sold – once again emphasising our industry leading clearance rates. Prices realised are now available online.

Highlights included:

Lot 2683 - Charles I (1625-1649) Pound, Oxford Mint Lot 2666 - Charles I Oxford Pound Est. $7,500 - Sold $16,000

Lot 2669 Lot 2669 - Newark Besieged Shilling Est. $1,500 - Sold $2,600

Lot 2687 - Newark Besieged (1645-May 1646) Ninepence 1646 (S3144; N2641) Lot 2670 - Newark Besieged Ninepence Est. $2,000 - Sold $3,200

Lot 2689 - English Civil War, Pontefract Besieged (June 1648-March 1648/9) Round Shilling 1648 Lot 2672 - Pontefract Besieged Round Shilling Est. $5,000 - Sold $8,000

Lot 2690 - English Civil War, Pontefract Besieged (June 1648-March 1648/9) Octagonal Shilling 1648 Lot 2673 -Pontefract Besieged Octagonal Shilling Est. $5,000 - Sold $8,500

Preparations for our next auction are already well underway. To be held at Box Hill Town Hall in Melbourne on the 3rd and 4th of May 2016, consignments for Sale 321 are now being accepted. Please contact us today to arrange an appointment at our Melbourne head office, at either of our retail stores, or in your home or office. Consignments close early March.

Royal Australian Mint Master Collection Coins of Interest

While the Royal Australian Mint's Master Collection - being auctioned on May 26 at Box Hill Town Hall as part of Downies Australian Coin Auctions Sale 319 - is in and of itself a special event, on account of every item in the auction being a special production unit coin and not included in the official mintage, we've picked out a small selection of items that we feel are extra special and deserve a bit of added attention.


Lot 995 - 2009 $5 Silver Gold Plated Proof International Polar Year FDC
Particularly significant on account of being a gold plated version commissioned by the Royal Society of Victoria, only 500 coins were struck within the official mintage, with the above example being outside that mintage figure. Estimated at $300.


Lot 1046 - 1993 $10 Silver Proof Bird Series UNEP Cockatoo FDC
This coin has rarely been seen and was struck as part of the United Nations Environment Programme. Little is known about this release but it should be noted that on this production unit the strike is noticeably weaker than the standard and piedfort versions, and as a result appears to be missing feathers. Estimated at $250.


Lot 492 - 2004 $1 Eureka Stockade Al-Br Unc
Struck for the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade and in the highest rarity BU quality, this coin is especially significant for having no mintmark. The regular mintage of coins were produced for the ANDA show mobile press and as such carry a counterstamp. We expect a lot of interest in this coin. Estimated at $1,000.


Lot 1141 - 2012 $3000 Gold Proof Like Lucky Dragon 1 Kilo FDC
With a worldwide mintage of just 99 coins, this 74.77mm 1 Kilogram Gold Coin (in exquisite FDC quality) is undoubtedly the headlining piece of the Master Collection and sure to pique the attention of every collector, regardless of their ability to bid within the $60,000 estimate.

Australia has already dropped the 1c and 2c coins; should we go one step further and ditch the 5c too?


The article was prepared by Archie S., who joined our team recently during his Year 10 work experience. We think he did a great job – how about you?

In a previous post we discussed the doing away of the penny by the Canadian treasury due to increased production costs and it seems that Australia’s own five cent coin is facing the spotlight for the same reason. Today, the five cent coin makes up $198 million worth of Australia’s hard currency, but is this humble coin still a valuable part of Australian currency or has it overstayed its welcome?

One of the main reasons for the debate is the market price of copper and nickel. Fluctuations in the two raw materials that are used in making the five cent piece can drive the cost higher than the actual face value of the coin! In some ways, these low denomination coins are also becoming irrelevant in our day to day lives; with scarcely any items in retail stores priced at five cents - and most vending machines and parking meters no longer accept the coin!

People find the masses of small change in their wallets annoying and unnecessary, even more so as more and more transactions these days are performed electronically. Similarly, back in 2006, New Zealand dropped the five cent coin from their currency, whilst also reducing the physical size of all of their coins thus fixing that excessive change issue. Many people now believe Australia should follow suit, including Deakin University marketing professor David Bednall, who says that the nation could easily adapt to living without the five cent coin.

Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Shorten is hesitant about the decision however, as he realises how this change would affect charities - the main recipients of 5 and 10 cents coins as donations. Organisations such as ygap - organisers of the charity http://www.fivecent.com.au/ - base entire donation drives around the 5c piece. The change would also potentially affect the retail world, changing the way we round numbers in prices, most likely to the system in New Zealand (1,2,3,4 –round down &  5,6,7,8,9- round up). Store owners fear a consumer backlash over perceived price increases.

Finally, the smallest coin in our pockets has also found its usefulness around the house. If it is discontinued, how else will we open the backs of our fiddly electronics or scratch our lotto tickets?

The last time Australia dropped a denomination was the 1 and 2 cent counts in 1992. Is it time we take the next step and drop the five cent coin too?

Featured Coin Producer: Coin Invest Trust, Innovative Numismatic Developer

Modern collecting is often marked by a fervent desire for collectors to acquire the new and innovative. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but these unique modern issues are highly sought after - as long as they are also high quality. For many years now, Downies has partnered with, and been sole official Australian distributor for, one of the most innovative coin producers in the world - Coin Invest Trust (CIT).

2013 500 Togrog Mongolian Nature – Crying Wolf 1/2oz Silver BU 2013 500 Togrog Mongolian Nature – Crying Wolf 1/2oz Silver BU - Click image for more information

Established in 1970, CIT is a European firm that has been producing coins since 1982. Over the years CIT have won a number of high-profile awards for their ground-breaking releases, including the Coin Of The Year award for their 'Gulo Gulo' Wolverine coin, part of the Wildlife Protection Silver Series. They are known for a range of ground-breaking numismatic issues, including the Pearl Silver Proof Series, the Tiffany Glass $10 Series, and the Meteorite Silver Proof series, to name just a few.

The original Tiffany Glass offer made way back in 2004! The original Tiffany Glass offer made way back in 2004!

As an indication of the popularity of some of their coins, the first of CITs Tiffany Glass $10 Series was sold by Downies for $139.95 in May, 2004. It is now selling at up to $4,000 on the open market! It's no mere fluke, either, as each of the coins in that series (and many others) have sold out almost instantly each year since!

 Andorra 2013 5 Diners Swallowtail Butterfly 3D Colour Silver Proof - click image for more information Andorra 2013 5 Diners Swallowtail Butterfly 3D Colour Silver Proof - click image for more information

A big part of what makes releases by CIT so globally popular is that not only are they extremely innovative (3D coins with Butterfly wings, anybody?), but they are also crafted to the highest standards. CIT don't just create new coins - they craft innovative, high-quality collector pieces that push the boundaries of modern numismatics. Downies is happy to partner with them and share their story with our collectors.

The Choice Change Challenge January update: the perils and pleasures of international travel

When we last left the Choice Change Challenge, both Alex and George were off to flying starts, with each leading in different categories. Alex had the lead in 20c and $1 commemoratives, and George led the way with $2 and 50c commemoratives. Since then, there have been two major shake ups, the first being a temporary (but major) handicap. It’s a doozy:

Alex has left the country!

George is still here in Australia, but Alex has been off for a month on a part holiday/part business trip to Europe. While Alex is collecting British and Euro commemoratives, George has found it a surprisingly challenging few weeks. Alex will return in about a week and we’ll get to see how long it takes for him to catch up!

The second shock twist is a new entrant! Hearing all the fun George and Alex were having, Jezebel here in the office decided to join in! She started over a month later, but has shot to the lead with $1 Commemoratives.

Here are the current standings:

Competitor 20c Series 50c Series $1 Series $2 Series
Alex 3 8 11 1
George 2 12 11 1
Jezebel 3 7 15 0

Our contestants have strict rules for this challenge (only commemoratives acquired through normal transactions can be included in the tally – no asking to rifle through shop tills!), but there are extra things you can do to get your collection up to speed! A reader of ours, Christen, handles a large amount of change across the counter every day and has found some crackers (and paid for them fair and square, obviously!).

1999 $1 Last Anzacs S Mintmark Al-Br

1999-$1-Last-Anzacs-S-Mintmark-Al-Br Honouring Australia’s Anzac heroes, the one-year-only 1999 $1 Last Anzacs Al-Br type was not issued for circulation and should never be found in change. Remarkably, Christen did indeed find one of the mere 53,286 Last Anzacs S Mintmark coins struck by the Royal Australian Mint in 1999.

1992 $1 Barcelona Olympics Al-Br

1992-$1-Barcelona-Olympics-Al-BrStruck in tiny numbers, with the mintage concluding at just 43,496, this one-year-only numismatic tribute to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 was not issued for circulation and, like the Anzacs $1 coin above, should never have been secured from change.

2007 $1 Ashes Al-Br

2007-$1-Ashes-Al-Br-Marking the 125th anniversary of the Battle for the Ashes between Australia and England, the 2007 $1 Ashes Al-Br was not issued for circulation and has a tiny mintage of a mere 49,438.

1998 $1 Florey C Mintmark Al-Br

1998-$1-Florey-C-Mintmark-Al-BrPart of the Royal Australian Mint’s long-running, ever-popular Mintmark $1 Series, the 1998 $1 Florey C Mintmark Al-Br had a mintage of 77,035. Not issued for general circulation, this coin should never be found in change!

2008 $1 Coat of Arms S Privymark Al-Br

2008-$1-Coat-of-Arms-S-Privymark-Al-Br-Celebrating the centenary of Australia’s Coat of Arms, approved by King Edward VII in 1908, the Royal Australian Mint’s 2008 $1 S Privymark Al-Br had a tiny mintage of just 48,365, and was not issued for circulation.

An important thing to note is that Christen’s coins are some exceedingly rare finds, none of which were ever intended for circulation and in reality you should never expect to find these in change.


Alex has also found some interesting commemorative and standard types while overseas, including the above penny that when combined with the other British definitives for the year forms the "shield." It shows that this stuff is out there – if you happen to be in Britain that is! The only way to guarantee you get the whole set of British coins in pristine Uncirculated or Proof quality is to buy the Great Britain 2013 Mint Set or Great Britain 2013 Premium Proof Set – you can get both from Downies.com.

More updates to come – in the meantime, tell us about your own collecting in the comments below:

The choice change challenge: Aussie coins in change


From time immemorial, mankind has asked important questions, questions that speak to the heart of what it means to be alive, to be human and to be a collector.

  • How hard is collecting from change, really?
  • What can I find?
  • Will they be worth any money?
  • How can I compete with my work colleagues and lord it over them when I win and blame chance when I don’t?

These important questions and more are being answered by Alex and George here in the office. On the 21st of November, 2012, they took up this challenge: collect a full set of circulating Australian decimal commemorative coins, just from the change they get from everyday transactions. Inspired by Alex finding a 1988 50c First Fleet commemorative in Uncirculated condition (catalogue value is $25!) in his change, Alex and George decided to make the process a competition.

The goals of the competition are threefold. First, it’s a race between two friends for bragging rights. Second, as both Alex and George have been in the coin industry for a long time, they wanted to research exactly how long it would take to assemble a complete collection. Third, the process should be entertaining and informative for readers of the blog! We’ll be checking in with them over the coming months to see how they go and keeping you up-to-date on their progress.

Both are off to a great start, with some highlights of their endeavours below:

Competitor 20c Series 50c Series $1 Series $2 Series
Alex 3 7 11 0
George 1 8 10 1

George's major highlight has been his discovery of the extremely low-mintage NSW and NT 2001 Federation 50c coins (mintages of 3.042m and 2m respectively), with Alex rightly pleased with unearthing a better-than-usually-seen quality example of the 1997 Smithy $1.


As you can see, collecting from circulation can be rapidly rewarding, and an interesting collection doesn’t have to take long or cost the earth to acquire.

A good step to take to complete (or start) your collection is secure an Official Mint or Proof Set, for absolutely pristine examples of decimal currency (if you are interested, check out the 2013 Australian Mint Set here and the 2013 Australian Proof Set here). Not only is it a great idea to complete your collection this way, but having the absolutely perfect example of each coin allows you to compare the coins you find against the perfect standard and can help you get a feel for grades and how coins wear down in circulation.

So, how about you – do you collect from circulation? If so, what is your favourite find? Leave your comments below and we’ll hear more about Alex and George soon.

The END is nigh! Armageddon commemorated with coins

With a whiff of sulphur hanging in the air, mingling with the tortured screams of non-believers, the lines have been drawn on the final battlefield for the fight between good and evil – Armageddon!

The end of the world is currently firmly in the public consciousness, thanks to the link between the date December 21st, 2012 and the end of the Mesoamerican/Mayan long count calendar. A somewhat recent concern, many believe the ending of this calendar marks some sort of apocalyptic event. This view is not shared by scholars studying Mesoamerican culture, who argue that the Mayans expected the cycle to start again, much like the ending of a year in our standard calendar just means we need to buy a replacement for the fridge.

The end of the world has long been a subject of fascination throughout human history, with some going so far as to ascribe a location to the event. A place that has been the particular focus of much Western prophesying and speculation about the end of the world – dating back to the Book of Revelation – is over 10,000km away on the other side of the earth from Central America. Tel Meggido – the Hebrew name for the place commonly referred to as Armageddon and the location of the final battle according to the Bible – is of great cultural and archaeological significance.

Israel 2012 2NIS Armageddon 28.8g Silver Proof

Dating back to 7000 BCE, Tel Meggido has been the site of thirty different cities! A “tel” (or “tell” in English) is a settlement mound – a site where multiple settlements have built upon those existing previously through history; they are often places of great archaeological importance.  Occupying a position of strategic importance for numerous kingdoms, especially Assyria and Egypt, during the Canaanite and Israelite periods, Tel Meggido has already been pivotal in a number of great conflicts and trade routes through the ages.

In approximately the 15th Century BCE, the “Battle of Meggido” took place between Egyptian forces, led by Pharoah Thutmose III, and Canaanite states. This battle was important for a number of reasons; victory at this battle marked the start of the Egyptian Empires’ largest period of expansion, for example, and it was arguably the first reliably recorded battle in history. More recently, in 1918 during the First World War, Tel Meggido was the site of a battle between the Allied Egyptian Expeditionary Force and the Ottoman Yildirim Army Group, with the Allies gaining significant ground. Tel Meggido has also been the site of great cities at various times through the ages; for more information, see the Wikipedia entry on Tel Meggido.

Due to this fascinating and significant history, UNESCO decreed Tel Meggido a World Heritage Site in 2005. The Bank of Israel has chosen Tel Meggido as the subject of its fourth coin in the ‘UNESCO World Heritage Sites’ series and it has been struck by The Holy Land Mint.

Israel 2012 10NIS Armageddon 1/2oz Gold Proof

The legal tender coin is issued in both silver and gold, with the silver available in 1 and 2 New Shekel denominations, and the gold available in a 10 New Shekel variety. Extraordinarily exclusive given the global significance of the theme, only 1,800 of the silver 1 New Shekel have been made, with mintages for the silver 2 New Shekel and the gold 10 New Shekel a mere 2,800 and a miniscule 555 respectively. The obverse of the coin features an 8th century BCE seal found during an archaeological dig. The reverse features a jug, and the surprisingly advanced aqueduct system discovered at this most remarkable location.

Whether or not you believe the world will end in a month’s time or not, Tel Meggido remains a site of immense archaeological and cultural significance. It is a fitting world heritage location and subject for tribute in coin form. If you are interested in acquiring these special coins commemorating such a remarkable location, visit Downies.com. You might want to get your orders in by December 21st, just in case…

Israel 2012 10NIS Armageddon 1/2oz Gold Proof

Israel 2012 2NIS Armageddon 28.8g Silver Proof

Poppy palaver: The coin that came in from the cold

Donning cloaks and drawing daggers, the Royal Canadian Mint issued the first colour coin for circulation, the Canadian 2004 Coloured Poppy 25c. Given that Australia has just had its first circulating colour coin issue the 2012 $2 Remembrance Day commemorative – which also features a poppy and has been garnering a lot of attention – what better time to explore the inadvertently clandestine past of Canada’s infamous ‘Spy Coin’?

Issued in 2004, the Canadian quarter featured a brand new technology for circulating coins; colour! This unique concept so startled some travelling American army intelligence contractors that in 2007 they not-so-intelligently feared the coins were some sort of advanced espionage tool powered by nanotechnology. For those of us not embroiled in the world of tiny gadgets and secret agents, nanotechnology is any technology that manipulates matter on an atomic or molecular scale, usually meaning the manufacture of very tiny devices or structures. The contractors feared that the coins had some kind of tracking or listening device embedded in them, with some going so far as to claim that some of the dastardly coins had been planted on them! The confusion caused somewhat of an international incident and a flurry of concerned emails on both sides.

Cook Islands 2012 $10 Nano Earth - The World In Your Hand Silver Proof

Eventually the mess was sorted out and American spies accepted that the coins were nothing more than an innovative tribute for Remembrance Day, honouring fallen soldiers, much like Australia’s recent $2 featuring a colour poppy. What may startle some spies today is the existence of a coin that really does feature nanotechnology! The 2012 $10 Nano Earth Silver Proof has a tiny yet extremely detailed map of the world embedded in it.


It’s so tiny, in fact, that you need a microscope to fully appreciate it in all its detail! The legal tender coin also features a full colour picture of the earth and is struck from 50g of sterling silver. Given the remarkable nature of the coin and a mintage almost smaller than the map itself – at only 1000 struck worldwide – this coin is sure to make a perfect conversation piece over a martini (shaken, not stirred, of course)! If you are interested in securing your own cutting-edge ‘spy’ coin, there are a limited supply at Downies.com – and don’t forget to pick up a microscope while you’re at it!

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