Half sovereigns were struck at the Sydney, Melbourne and Perth mints from 1911 to 1920. Despite the relatively high proportion of surviving coins in AU or better, in recent times they have become difficult to acquire in true
The date is positioned below and the designer's initials, B.P. , appear on the far right below the ground.
Although over one million half sovereigns were struck at Australian mints during the reign of George V, few were used in circulation due to the introduction of
PCGS have certified fourteen coins from the George V series into MS66 and one MS66 (PCGS Population Report, 2016) which command very strong premiums over pieces in lower grades, often up to double MS65 values. Many coins, especially those from the Perth and Melbourne mints , are often very softly struck and are difficult to obtain above MS64.
The obverse of the coin is very hard-wearing, with the highest point being the end of George V's moustache which typically wears off below the AU grading. The reverse wears much more easily, but due to the frequency of weakly struck examples and the superior obverse, AU pieces are often mistaken as being mint state.
A typical mint state half sovereign of George V makes MS62 to MS64 for the later dates, though may drop down to MS63 occasionally. Coins graded below this have almost always been circulated but due to their hard-wearing nature still make the mint state grades. Most dates are quite common below mint state but still in demand due to the scarcity of mint state examples and because they are generally quite pleasing to the eye, even in AU.
The 1918 Perth Mint half sovereign is the scarcest George V issue and one of the scarcest Australian mint half sovereigns. Royal Mint reports for the Perth Mint in 1918 state that no half sovereigns were struck in 1918; however, it does note that £7,327 of gold bullion was issued that year. It is possible that this refers to the 1918 mintage. This would indicate that 14,654 half sovereigns were issued, which would be consistent with the approximate survival rates of the era.
Perth Mint reports from subsequent years state that 56,786 and 53,208 half sovereigns were struck in 1919 and 1920 respectively. Many references imply that these were struck using 1918 dies, but dies were certainly prepared bearing the dates 1919 and 1920. A total mintage figure of 109,994 would be inconsistent with typical survival rates given that an estimated 250 to 300 1918 Perth Mint pieces remain.
The Royal Mint report does however note that the gold bullion produced in 1918 was exported - this would seem to support the theory that the gold bullion produced in 1918 were in fact half sovereigns as all 1918 Perth Mint examples originated from India. This is further verified by the complete absence of 1918 half sovereigns in the Reserve Bank of Australia holdings (Downies, 2005) , which was built up from 1929 to 1971, indicating that the half sovereigns were not circulated in Australia. It is most likely that the half sovereigns produced in 1919 and 1920 were in fact dated 1915.
The 1918 Perth is typically quite poorly struck up, limiting the grading to the MS64 level; it usually exhibits a central strike weakness similar to the 1915 Perth Mint issues.