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1896-M Proof Half Sovereign

Old Head


In 1872, the newly established Melbourne Mint joined the Sydney Mint in striking full and half sovereigns, but it was not until 1899 that the Perth branch of the Royal Mint was opened to accommodate for gold deposits found in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie (The Perth Mint, 2016) just as the Melbourne Mint had been established to accommodate Victoria's ample gold resources. The Perth Mint had a strong advocate in Sir John Forrest, the first Premier of Western Australia (The Perth Mint, 2016). The Perth Mint struck gold sovereigns from its opening in 1899, and half sovereigns from 1900, until 1931 when Britain ceased using the gold standard (The Perth Mint, 2016). During this time the mint struck approximately 106 million sovereigns and 735,000 half-sovereigns; it would then go on to mint bullion bars and decimal coinage (The Perth Mint, 2016). On 1 July 1970, legal control of the mint transferred from Britain to the Western Australian Government (The Perth Mint, 2016). Since 1987, following the Gold Corporation by a State Act , the Perth Mint has struck gold, silver and platinum legal tender, and is renowned for the purity of its metals, traditional workmanship and iconic series (The Perth Mint, 2016). It continues to operate today at its original Hay Street premises, designed by George Temple Poole, which had a new adjacent building constructed in 2003, along with a refinery near the Perth airport which was opened in April 1990 (The Perth Mint, 2016).

The Melbourne Mint continued to strike half sovereigns until 1915, and full sovereigns until 1931, then silver and copper coinage until its closure in 1968 (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009). The Sydney Mint closed in 1926 having produced gold, silver and copper coins throughout its time (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009). The Half Sovereign Old Head, or Veiled Head, was the fourth half sovereign series to be struck at an Australian mint, with business and proof strikes struck at both Sydney and Melbourne from 1893-1901. In 1900, the Old Head series became the first half sovereign series to be struck at the Perth Mint.

The obverse , designed by Sir Thomas Brock, depicts a portrait of an older Queen Victoria veiled, crowned and facing left. Sir Thomas Brock's initials, T.B. , are positioned below the portrait's left shoulder. The legend reads VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF IND IMP.The reverse , designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, shows St. George, helmed and caped, riding a long-tailed horse and slaying a dragon. The ground bears a broken lance on the left, as well as the mintmark ('M' for Melbourne, 'S' for Sydney, 'P' for Perth) in the centre. The date is positioned below.

Reverse: Sydney Mint 'S' mintmark in the centre of the ground, below the horse's hooves and above the date.

Reverse: Melbourne Mint 'M' mintmark in the centre of the ground, below the horse's hooves and above the date.

Reverse: Perth Mint 'P' mintmark in the centre of the ground, below the horse's hooves and above the date.

The Old Head offers only one challenge to date set collectors, the 1893 Melbourne, the rarest circulation half sovereign with only five known examples, two of which are in the Royal Australian Mint Museum. Other than that, the series is readily available in all grades up to AU with some examples in mint state or better turning up from time to time. A lot of the dates, particularly in AU, have reduced in value considerably since the Reserve Bank of Australia sale (Downies, 2005), which saw an oversupply of such dates reach the market. However, very few higher grade 1899 and 1900 Melbourne Mint half sovereigns were offered yet their prices were brought down by most catalogues indicating they may be somewhat undervalued.

a facility that produces coinsA coin struck from specially prepared dies to strike a superior quality coin not intended for circulationThe heads side of the coinThe inscription around the inner edge of the coinThe tails side of the coinA marking, usually a letter or dot that signifies which mint struck a particular coin(The Perth Mint, 2016)(The Perth Mint, 2016)(The Perth Mint, 2016)(The Perth Mint, 2016)(Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009)(Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009)(Downies, 2005)

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.