|Perth Mint. On the West Coast of Australia, the Perth Mint was set up. This is the only one of the original mints still in operation. The Perth mint used the letter p in production. The discovery of gold was first officially recorded in Western Australia in 1884, and in the fiercely independent style typical of many West Australians over the years, WA’s first Governor soon pushed for the establishment of a Mint in Perth.|
|Sydney Mint the Sydney Mint is now a museum but used the letter S as a mint mark. The discovery of gold at Bathurst saw the Sydney Mint open on May 14th, 1855. As the first official Mint established on Australian soil, the Sydney Mint holds a place of prime importance in Australian numismatics.|
|Melbourne Mint All about the Melbourne Mint and the Ballarat Goldfields. Although a Mint did not operate in Victoria until 1872, the Legislative Council of Victoria vigorously lobbied with Sydney & Adelaide for the right to operate one as early as the 1850s. As time passed, the increasing amounts of gold being dug out of the rich goldfields of Western Victoria somewhat forced the issue, and the Melbourne Mint opened on June 12th, 1872.|
The First Gold Australian Coin to appear was the Adelaide Pound which was minted directly from nuggets and gold dust from Bendigo and Barrarat. (An Adelaide Iingot was actually prior but was not in fact a coin) These are exceptionally rare coins and only a few exist.
The main reason for minting Gold Sovereigns in Australia was economic – it was more cost effective to make sovereigns at the Royal Mint Branch near the source of the gold than to ship gold to England and then mint coins and ship them back again to Australia.
Coins were minted in:
- Sydney with a mintmark S
- Melbourne with a mintmark M
- Perth with a mintmark P
Unusually, no denomination was printed or engraved on the coins. The Sovereign had a value of £1 sterling (the equivalent at the time of the value of the gold in the coin). Each coin weighed 0.2354 troy oz just under ¼ of an ounce.
This made it really popular in commerce in all countries where the British traded.
However, in the 1920s, the price of gold rose to well over 20 shillings and people began hoarding or melting down sovereigns for their gold content. The mint stopped producing gold Sovereigns in 1931 and by 1933 production of sovereigns worldwide ceased.
They are still used as instantly recognizable portable funds and many armed forces carry then as a means of escaping in foreign territory. This was commonplace during World War II.
Australian Sovereigns are some of the rarest Sovereigns obtainable.
The earliest Sovereign was the Young Head Victoria – the reverse design of which was taken directly from the English Shilling (a common currency at that time in Australia) and with a slightly different Young Head of Queen Victoria.
This is known as the Type 1 Australian Sovereign. This was minted at the Sydney Mint in 1855 and 1856 and had a mintmark S below the wreath on the reverse. It had a silver content of 8.33 %.
The type 2 Sovereign had definitely a more Australian feel about it. It had an Acacia Wreath on the reverse and was used all over the world including in India, S. America, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) Canada and London.
Some type 2 Sovereigns have an unusual golden look to them as the silver content was replaced with copper. Many of the type 2 Sovereigns had a shield reverse instead of the George & Dragon that was used in England as this was more hard wearing. These were often exported to Ceylon and India.
Most Young head designs were minted with the George & Dragon reverse however and these are more commonly found.
The Shield Reverse Young Head Sovereigns were minted concurrently with the St George Reverse Sovereigns by both the Sydney and Melbourne Mints.
Slaying a dragon was not acceptable in India so the sovereigns were minted with a shield on the reverse.
Mintage figure are difficult to ascertain as many sovereigns were re-struck or melted down when they became worn
No Sovereigns were minted in 1876.
- Australian Jubilee Sovereigns are fairly common and most dates are easy to find in circulated condition. In Uncirculated condition however many of these are quite rare.
- Veiled Head Sovereigns were used until Queen Victorias death in 1901 Perth Mint marked 1899 are the rarest sovereigns in this design and are a good investment in the higher grades.
- King Edward VII Sovereigns are easily obtained in Uncirculated condition and reasonably affordable.
- King George Vth Sovereigns are readily obtainable even in Uncirculated condition but some mintmarks are difficult or even impossible to obtain (the 1920 Sydney Mint example is very rare)
Australian Sovereigns have in the past been a great investment – especially as a more complete collection. The usual qualities of a collectable coin should be observed – rare coins should only increase in value. Sovereigns only fetch really high or record prices in the very best condition available.
Grading coins is truly essential with any sovereigns other than bullion coins.
A collector’s market is only marginally influenced by current gold prices – many Gold Sovereigns are worth far more than gold price already!