Red SheetSubscribeWhat is my coin worth?About Back to Half Sovereign

Half Sovereign

1853 - 66

Sydney Mint

The discovery of gold in the colony New South Wales in 1851 prompted a surge of immigration among prospector seeking wealth in the new colony. While the lands were resource rich, the colony lacked the facilities to monetise the gold and the process in sending the gold to London for monetisation was slow and expensive. To help resolve this, the Royal mint sought to open a branch in Sydney so that the gold would not need to be shipped to London to be coined. The Sydney mint opened in 1855 in the rear of the Rum Hospital, situated on Macquarie Street in the Sydney CBD(Sydney Mint Museum, 2017).

The first business strike half sovereigns struck at the Sydney Mint were dated 1855 and 1856. Rather than using copper to harden the metal as the Royal Mint did, the Sydney Mint used silver(Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre, 2008). The reverse design featured a banksia wreath tied into a bow, below and surrounding the word AUSTRALIA; these are positioned below a crown with the legend SYDNEY MINT and HALF SOVEREIGN encircling the entire design. This was the only time a colony would ever deviate from the imperial design though it was short-lived with the Sydney Mint reverting to the imperial shield design in 1871.

Excluding varietiesand overdates the key date of the series is undoubtably the 1855. Both the Type I and Type II 1855 dated half sovereigns are extremely rare with the former being survived by approximately 55 to 60 examples and the latter with just 3. The 1860 is also rare with about 200 to 250 surviving examples.

The Sydney mint series is marked by low survival rates, likely due to the gold-silver alloy giving them a higher intrinsic value than their face value making it profitable to melt them down for their metal content. This gold-silver alloy continued for the entire series despite official protests to the Colonial Treasurer by Sydney based chemist Charles Watt with the Mint Master arguing that the extra value from the silver content was a decided advantage(Watt, C., Ward E. W. and Lane, H., 1863).

The Royal Mint produced 4 patterns dated 1853 which feature a slightly different reverse design, only one pair of sovereign and half sovereign exist in private hands.

Sydney Mint Museum, 2017Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre, 2008The number of coins struck of a particular designationThe tails side of the coinThe value denominated on a coinWatt, C., Ward E. W. and Lane, H., 1863A coin type which differs in design slightly from the general issueA coin with the date superimposed over a previous date having been struck from a reworked dieThe dates which are most difficult to acquire in a series
Type I1853 - 56Type II1855 - 66
  MintageVG8F12VF20XF40AU50AU55AU58MS62MS63MS64Sydney Filleted Bust1855 21,000          Sydney Filleted Bust1856 478,000          Sydney Filleted Bust1856 Alternate Reverse478,000*          Sydney Filleted Bust1856/5 OverdateIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1855 537,000          Sydney Wreathed Bust1857 Incl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1857/5 OverdateIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1858 483,000          Sydney Wreathed Bust1858 SOVRRIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1858 REG as RFGIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1859 341,000          Sydney Wreathed Bust1859/8 OverdateIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1860 156,000          Sydney Wreathed Bust1861 186,000          Sydney Wreathed Bust1861/60 OverdateIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1861 Alternate ReverseIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1862 558,500          Sydney Wreathed Bust1863 Incl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1864 282,000          Sydney Wreathed Bust1864 Roman 1 in dateIncl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1865 Incl. in above          Sydney Wreathed Bust1866 216,000            MintagePR60PR61PR62PR63PR64PR65Sydney Filleted Bust1853 4 known      Sydney Wreathed Bust1855 Proof3 Known      Sydney Wreathed Bust1856 Proof or Pattern2 Known      Sydney Wreathed Bust1857 Plain Edge Proof4 Known      Sydney Wreathed Bust1866 Proof2      Values are in AUD and are retail price estimations based on past sales of coins certified by PCGS or NGC and as such values only related to such graded coins. Uncertified coins or coins graded by other services would likely be worth significantly less. For wholesale pricing please refer to the Red Sheet. While all attempts to ensure accurate pricing, data entry errors can occur and as such no warranty is expressed or implied as to the accuracy of any information published on this website. It is important to verify all published sales to ensure the accuracy of the pricing when making any purchase decision. Any personal information provided to us is protected by the Privacy Act 1988.