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10 Nov 2016

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The famous 1930 Australian Penny

Australian coin collectors have long had a fascination with a plain bronze penny. It was the one and only penny to feature on the cover of the Australian Coin Review magazine between 1964 and 1981.

For those who have recently taken up collecting Australian coins it is perhaps worth understanding a little about this rare coin.

The 1930 Penny was unknown in circulation until at least 1940. The date of discovery may have been two to three years later. Official reports from the Melbourne branch of the Royal Mint show no bronze pennies were struck for circulation in 1930, certainly not bearing the date.

It was the height of the Great Depression. Very few additional coppers were needed to supplement those already in circulation given the average weekly wage was about three pounds ($6.00).

But during the World War II word got out that pennies dated 1930 were in circulation. Australian collectors feverishly searched all available small change. Newspaper ads were placed offering 10 shillings for any example received. These ads ceased when they were held to be in breach of wartime regulations.

A considerable amount of Australian effort yielded about 50 coins but there was a suspicion that others were still out there. At the time, all the Melbourne Mint would acknowledge is that some 1930 pennies had been struck for museums.

Most expert coin collectors over the years believe that about 1500 dated 1930 Penny’s eventually escaped from the Melbourne Mint.

From 1920 to 1931 Australian mints used the two dies somewhat indiscriminately. Most known 1930 Pennies had been struck using a punch made from the Indian die. Until 1966 it was assumed all had been so struck (from the Indian die).

That year, one with a London obverse surfaced and was authenticated by the Royal Mint – as was a second one which was found in 1976.

For many years no one was able to offer any explanation as to why two different working dies were prepared to produce just a few specimens.

A review of the Melbourne Mint records in 1987 made clear the circumstances under which the 1930 Penny was struck. It occurred at a time the Melbourne Mint was considering producing its own working dies to obviate delays in delivery from the parent Royal Mint.

The lull in coinage production during the depression provided an ideal window in which to undertake the necessary experiments. The 1930 pennies were one result of these experiments. The date of striking was believed in August 1930, and another in August 1931.

The use of two different working obverse dies helps confound the question of just how many coins made it into circulation. Not only were the circumstances of the striking of the 1930 coin other than normal, but there just isn’t enough London coins out there to support the oft-made suggestion that the number released consisted of one or more bags of 1200 pennies – five pounds worth. The London die variety is a very rare coin in any grade.

Most of 1930 Pennies found over the years have had a considerable amount of circulation, and have been in a lower grade between very good and good fine –making any example of this Australian rarity a collectable example.

Drop in to our Southgate store to find out more.

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