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Half Sovereign

1855 - 66

Sydney Mint

Type II

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 Type II, or wreathed bust Sydney Mint Half Sovereign was struck from 1857 though some examples are known to be dated 1855 - these were likely struck in 1857. 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 varieties and overdates the key date of the series is undoubtedly the 1855 if this is to be considered a business strikewhich is known by just 3 examples. Aside from this the 1860 is also scarce with about 200 to 250 examples known.

Mintage figures for the series are unreliable with the Royal mint Sydney reporting figures clearly inconsistent with survival rates with some years reporting no coins being struck when they're certainly known to exist. The Sydney mint also took a lot of initiative in methods of prolonging the working lives of diessuch as re-punching lettering resulting in a number of misspelling errors, overdating and re-using dies from previous years.

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).

Sydney Mint Museum, 2017Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre, 2008Watt, C., Ward E. W. and Lane, H., 1863The tails side of the coinA coin struck for normal circulationThe number of coins struck of a particular designationA cylindrical punch with an inverse impression of a coin design used to strike coinsA coin with the date superimposed over a previous date caused by reusing dies from previous yearsA coin with a slightly different design from the standard issueThe dates which are most difficult to acquire in a seriesA coin with a production mistake, which if detected during the minting process would have been withdrawn
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.