Downies News

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.

1919-1921 Square Kookaburra Patterns

Hidden coin - banner sequence start

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.

Day 1 at the Melbourne 2017 FIAP International Stamp Exhibition

Day one of the 2017 International Stamp Exhibition proved to be one of the busiest mornings I’ve seen at a trade show in quite some time. From the moment, the doors opened hordes of enthusiasts flocked to the Australia Post pop up shop to secure their Day One souvenir products.

Once everyone began to settle into the show we found that quite a few attendees were very keen to have their collections appraised and some were quite surprised with just how much their little old bread tin filled with old coins was truly worth!

International Coin ExhibitionDownies Numismatist, Steve Kirby was run off his feet with a fantastic array of old and new coins being consigned for our upcoming July Auction.

Gilded 1932 Penny

The Gilded 1932 Penny which celebrates the 85th Anniversary of Downies Coins was another unexpected pleasant surprise for our customers who made a purchase today. The only way to secure one of these beautiful coins is by making a purchase at one of the upcoming trade shows. These coins will not be available anywhere else so make sure you drop in and say hello!


Contributed by Matthew Thompson (Downies Staff)

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!

Gold & Silver Proof

To know more or to place an order please CLICK HERE.

Perth ANDA Money Expo Appointments Available!

Presented by the Australasian Numismatics Dealers Association (ANDA), and sure to attract dealers, collectors and investors from right across Australia, the Perth Money Expo will be held at the Domain Stadium, Subiaco on February 11 & 12.

Highlighted by the presence of the Perth Mint, along with 15+ dealers, large crowds are expected to attend the Perth Money Expo this year. Downies will be at Western Australia’s premier numismatic festival, of course, with our Numismatist Steve Kirby.


Steve will be available at the Downies Stand from 10am to the end of each day.

Assisting with your personal coin and banknote needs, as well as helping with all rarities enquiries, Steve’s services also include:

  • Buying and selling coins, gold and silver bullion and other collectables
  • Free appraisals of your treasured collectables
  • Specialist advice on all aspects of your collection
  • Auction services – appraisals, consignments, and selling

Please call us on (03) 9686 8411 or email to arrange an appointment while he is visiting WA and the Money Expo – but hurry!

There are a limited number of appointments available.

We hope to see you at the Perth Money Expo!

Downies – inspiring collectors for 85 years

Founded by Phil Downie in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, Downies celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2017. Here are just a few of the key highlights on our long journey to become the undisputed leader in Australian coins and banknotes.

Young Phil in 1932

1932 – The beginning…

A young man with a big dream, 16-year-old Phil Downie established the Palmerston North Stamp Company in New Zealand. Within a short space of time, the business grew enormously, and was helping leading stamp collectors across the world achieve their goals.

1939 – Foundations for the future

After moving to Australia in 1938, Phil opened the Myer Philatelic Bureau in 1939. He and his wife Zita ran the bureau at the famed Myer store in Bourke Street, Melbourne. When Phil stepped up to serve the nation in the Australian Army during the Second World War, Zita did what many women of the era had to do – she stepped out of the shadows and ran the bureau single-handedly.

With a strong foundation having thus been established, Phil and Zita’s fledging philatelic business quickly grew to become an Australian industry leader. From stamps, the Downies business eventually expanded into all fields of collectables, including coins and banknotes.

Myer Philatelic Bureau October 1955
Philatelic Bureau October 1955

1963 – An auction venture
The 1960s was a time bristling with opportunities, and, in 1963, Phil took the bull by the horns and launched his auction business. It proved to be an unmitigated success. The first public sale of stamps and coins was held at Amethyst Hall in Melbourne, and attracted around fifty bidders. From these humble beginnings, Phil’s auction venture expanded rapidly.

Known today as Downies Australian Coin Auctions (ACA), Downies auction department attracts hundreds of participants to its regular public sales, with collectors attending in person, or bidding online or by post. Australia’s oldest numismatic auction house, Downies ACA will celebrate its 55th anniversary in 2018.

1977 – The next generation

Young Ken with Phil 1986 at ACA Sale #200
Young Ken with Phil 1986 at our ACA Sale No. 200

Phil’s son, Ken joined the company in 1977. Ken’s vision and passion for numismatics created a greater focus on coins and banknotes – both new and old – and the company moved from strength to strength.

1984 – Downies in print

Money Cover May 1990
Money Cover May 1990

In 1984, Ken introduced the journal Spotlight on Numismatics. In 1990, this became Money, a magazine which is still in print today. For nearly four decades, Downies has provided a full mailorder service through a variety of general and specialist publications, bringing its clients a wide array of products. Today, customers are able to place their order by phone, fax, mail and email.

1991 – Retail – the personal touch

Our Southgate store in Melbourne

Downies launched retail outlets in Sydney and Melbourne in 1991 and 1994 respectively. This enabled the company to bring an extensive array of items to collectors, and helped to share Downies love of coins with the widest possible audience.

Downies ‘personal touch’ also extends to the major Money Expo coin & banknote shows held across Australia. Ken often attends, and continues to share his love of coins and banknotes with numismatic enthusiasts, both young and old.

1998 – Moving Online

Downies Website
Downies Website

In March 1998, Downies launched its website, Helping to pioneer online services for collectors, features a vast array of exciting numismatic and other material, including all the latest releases from Australia and around the globe.

RBA Cover
RBA Cover

2005 & 2015 – ‘The auction house of choice…’

A major highlight in the company’s long history, Downies Australian Coin Auctions was chosen to host the Auction of the Gold Coins of the Reserve Bank of Australia – arguably the most exciting, most prestigious sale in the history of Australian numismatics. Downies was selected in 2015 to disperse the Royal Australian Mint’s Master Collection – an assemblage of utterly unique ‘production standard master’ coins, used to ensure the highest quality in the creation of Australia’s coinage.

2012 & 2015 – Continuing to grow…

Downies continues to expand, and, in a bid to accommodate our ever-growing workforce, we established spacious new headquarters in Melbourne’s east in 2012. Likewise, the growing nature of our retail business meant that we needed to find new premises for our Melbourne store. The perfect setting, our Melbourne retail outlet moved to Southbank in 2015 – one of the city’s most important shopping precincts.


Today and tomorrow – a global powerhouse

Downies proud history continues, with a third generation of the family having now entered the business. Australia’s largest coin and collectables dealer, we are also the world’s largest distributor of numismatic products for the Royal Australian Mint and Perth Mint.

Downies is the official representative in Australia for many international mints, including Britain’s Royal Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Austrian Mint and the Mint of Japan.

We continue to work hard to cater for the needs of our customers. So whether you are buying a coin for a child’s birthday or sourcing an exclusive Australian rarity, we offer the same care and attention that Phil Downie did back when the company started in 1932.

Although we are proud to have achieved this major 85th anniversary milestone, we will never rest on our laurels. Indeed, Downies 85th anniversary celebrations will see us reaffirm our long-term commitment to providing the best range, service and value in the industry. We hope you will join us in the celebrations!


Day 7 - Narrabri to Tamworth

Just an update on the strut...Mike (from Kar 1996, which had been totalled the previous day) arrived a little after 10pm (direct from Dubbo Hospital after breaking his hand in the accident) with our new strut. It was after midnight last night when Dion from Kar 0157 and John from Kar 2009 finished working on our Kar. We can never express our gratitude enough for these guys.

Heading off this morning from Narrabri Heading off this morning from Narrabri

After a pretty good day rallying yesterday, the results posted showed we came 10th for the day and are at 14th overall. They also start a repechage competition from today that is for everyone who at this stage of the rally is not in the top 10. We are equal 6th in the repechage scoring system after the first day.

So this morning we were back on the road ready to rally. A Class 1 for 105km got us started. We think we ended up a minute slow on this one. This was closely followed by another Class 1 of 114km with much the same result.

Lunch today was in the town of Manilla and a solid afternoon of rallying followed. We began with a 96km Class 3 where we again think we were a minute slow and likewise for the 55km Class 4 to finish the day.

We drove through some beautiful countryside but unfortunately we don't really get to appreciate it or stop and take a photo or anything. We had a lot of shire roads today which meant a lot of oncoming traffic. Some of the locals come out to watch us all go past and wave at us, sometimes even stopping you to make a donation. Others just see us in a negative light and really don't want us to be there. There were a couple more Kars lost today either through accidents or mechanical issues and again we were grateful nobody was seriously hurt.

At Limbri approaching Tamworth At Limbri approaching Tamworth

The stages today were so different and had so many different issues to contend with - roadworks, graders, wandering livestock and so many grids and causeways - they all present different challenges.

And so tonight in Tamworth. Some awards were given out tonight. The most notable was the Kraziest Krew which went to Kar 27. These are the boys of Teletubbies fame from the first day. They have had a different theme of costume every day of the rally and kept us entertained with their antics!

The rallytives at dinner tonight raised over $2,000 for one of the drivers to shave off his beard so he could afford to come to next year's rally! So they shaved off one side of his beard and the opposite side of his head! Their logic is that if he finishes the rally tomorrow, they will complete the job...I do hope for his sake he finishes!

The beard/hair cut! The beard/hair cut!

Watch a video of the shave for charity here

So tomorrow is our final day. We have no scores for today as they like to keep them secret until the final dinner tomorrow night. So off to Taree in the morning...goodnight!

Day 5 - Rest Day and Day 6 - Dubbo to Narrabri

Day 5

Before I get on to the days rallying, I should explain why there was no blog post for yesterday - it was our rest day! We usually have a rest day mid rally to allow people to have a break and attend to things like getting their Kars fixed and doing their laundry and well...just having a break! Of course we had pre-ordered two tyres (from two different places) so they had to be picked up and also needed to try to find a rim to replace the one destroyed the previous day. So, we picked up the tyres, found a replacement rim, washed the Kar, unpacked all our stuff from the gear truck, repacked, made up 100 gift bags for the children at the school we would be visiting in Baradine...and that was just the morning! We all gathered for wonderful lunch hosted by Kar 2 at their workplace.

On return to our motel, we reloaded what we didn't need on to the gear truck and filled the Kar ready for an early start. Traditionally our rest day finishes with a fancy dress dinner which this year had the theme "hats and wigs". There were certainly some sights to behold! The auctioneer had also travelled to Dubbo to auction off some more items to raise even more money for the Kidney Kids - a total of $15,000 was raised from the auction which was a great result. There was also a raffle conducted by our Ambo, Phil Hoey which raised even more money, but the raffle prize was 3 x $4,000 to go towards the winners fundraising for next year. Phil works really hard all year raising funds for Kidney Health and donates that money back via the winners of his raffle. He was also presented with a special 'Operation Angel' Award from Kidney Health Australia for his dedication to the cause for over 20 years. Congratulations Phil!

Day 6

We had an earlier than usual start today with 4 stages ahead of us. The first was a Class 2 (ave 80kmh) of 111km. Once again, lots of grids, humps and gutters. The funniest site of the day was a cow by the side of the road on our side of the fence...I picked up the radio to announce that there was a cow on the road but just as I started to speak, the cow jumped back over the fence into the paddock! I never knew they could jump so high!

I thought Ken was driving a little more cautiously than normal and we came in 3 minutes late. But as it turned out, everyone must have been the same as we ended up being 1 minute early. (We only lost 1 point instead of the 3 we had expected). A short transport took us to the second stage - a massive 132km Class 1. Some very rough causeways on this one but we managed to come through one minute early. We then drove into Baradine where the Central School put on a wonderful lunch for us and we gave out some goodies to the 100 kids that attend there.

Then to Stage 3 - a 96km Class 2 through the Pilliga - more of the same with some creeks thrown in for good measure. Once again, we estimated a 3 minute late penalty, but ended up being 1 minute early again!

Some Kars weren't lucky today... Some Kars weren't lucky today...

A very short transport took us to our final stage for the day. Because of some grading work that was being done on the planned route, it was shortened to a Class 3, 50km stage through the Pilliga scrub. About 5km from the end, we hit a hole and we hit it hard. We could smell rubber but a quick check of the tyres seemed fine, so we soldiered on and managed to finish the stage 1 minute early (we thought) but turned out to be even. When we arrived at control, they could smell the rubber too, but we thought it best to try to get into Narrabri. On arrival at Admin, we realised the front wheel was at a funny angle.  A couple of our fellow rallytives had a look at the Kar and told us the bad news...we had bent one of the front struts so it now resembled a banana and hence the tyre rubbing against it was the rubber we could smell. A quick ring around Narrabri to get the part proved unsuccessful, but once again a fellow rallytive from Kar .05 contacted a mate who was driving up from Dubbo this evening to pick up the part we needed. So as I write this, the damaged strut has been removed and the Kar is sitting up on a jack waiting for the part to arrive in the next 10 minutes or so. Once again, our friend from Kar 0517 is here to help, this time, late at night to help put the new strut in so we can continue rallying tomorrow. Seriously, these people are absolute legends!

IMG_4102 Bent front strut!

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