SCARCE & RARE AUSSIE COINS TO HUNT
Many Aussies have heard of the rarity of the well-known 1930 Australian Penny, and its investment value depending upon its condition and provenance. It is believed that only about 1,500 such 1930 Australian pennies were put into circulation during the Great Depression. In 2021, a 1930 Penny sold for nearly $200,000.
There are several other Australian coins that are rarer, and not well-known. I am sure that many such rare Australian coins are still out there, some buried in the ground, near to cities and large towns, after being lost up to a century ago.
In recent years there have been many sales of such rare/scarce Australian pre-decimal coins fetching up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per coin.
Other scarce/rare Australian coins include:
1923 Half Penny – only about 15,000 of these coins were made at the Melbourne Mint. One sold in 2022 for about $85,000.
Other years when the Australian Half Penny were in very low mintage include the extremely rare 1916 “Mule”-type (only 5 known specimens), and 1931 (only 350,000 made).
After World War 1, from 1919 to 1921, seventeen (17) different Types of square-shaped “Kookaburra”-design Pennies & Halfpennies were made. A total of only about 200 of these coins were minted. Most of these “Prototype” coins were distributed to government officials, dignitaries, and VIP’s (not released into general circulation). Most of these coins contained mostly Nickel (some were mostly silver), and most weighed between about 3.8 and 4.7 grams. Most had sides about 18mm long (some had 14mm long sides), and featured a picture of a kookaburra on one side, with the coin date on the opposite side. Some of these coins have been valued at up to a few hundred thousand dollars. A 1919 square silver Penny sold in 2021 for approx. $295,000.
No Australian threepences were minted in 1913, 1929 to 1933 inclusive, 1937, 1945, 1946, and 1965.
In 1942 only 528,000 threepences were made at the Melbourne Mint. That year in 1942, many Millions of threepences were also made in the USA (at two other Mints in San Francisco and Denver).
In 1915 and 1923 only approximately 800,000 threepences were made in each of those two years.
The 1922/21 over-date threepence is extremely rare (only about 900 minted), and the 1934/33 over-date threepence is also considered quite rare.
No Australian sixpences were minted in 1913, 1915, 1929 to 1933 inclusive, 1937, 1947 and 1949.
In 1935 only approximately 392,000 sixpences were made. Other low mintage years of the sixpence include 1911, 1918M, 1924 and 1934.
In some years (i.e. 1910, 1919, 1923, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1937, 1945, 1947, 1949 and 1951) no Australian Shillings were made.
The 1933 Shilling was of extremely low mintage - with only about 220 coins minted.
Other very low-mintage years of Shillings include - 1921 (522 made), 1924 (673), 1928 (664), 1934 (480), 1935 (500) and 1940 (760 made).
In some years (i.e. 1920, 1929, 1930, 1937, 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1955) no Australian Florins were made.
The 1934-35 Melbourne Centenary Florin was of very low mintage - with only about 54,000 coins circulated (based on 75,000 coins being minted, and then 21,000 of those coins were melted down). A specimen sold in 2015 for about $17,500.
Other low-mintage years of Florins include:
1911 (about 1 Million made), 1912 (about 1 Million), 1914H (about 500,000), 1915L (about 500,000), 1932 (only about 188,000), 1933 (about 488,000) and 1939 (about 630,000).
Like all other pre-decimal Australian coinage, the Florin coin (which was worth Two Shillings, and commonly referred to as “Two Bob”) was based on the silver standard. The 28.5mm, 11.3gram coins were minted in sterling silver (92.5% silver, 7.5% copper) from 1910 until 1945. In 1946 the Florin coins were debased to a lower silver content, consisting of 50% silver, 40% copper, 5% nickel, and 5% zinc.
Australian Crown coins were only made in 2 years during the Great Depression - in 1937 (only about 1 Million Crown coins were made) and in 1938 (only about 101,000 were made). These Crown coins (which were worth 5 Shillings in their day almost a century ago) are large (38.5mm in diameter) and weigh about 28 grams each, with a composition of 92.5% silver content. A 1938 Crown in excellent condition, of ‘Uncirculated Grade”, can fetch up to about $1,000.
In my opinion (after nearly 50 years of collecting Australian pre-decimal coins), I reckon that the 1938 Australian Crown is an under-rated coin, and it should be worth more than it generally sells for – particularly given its age, general scarcity, size and silver content. I have several in my collection – which are my favourite Aussie pre-decimal coins.
MODERN, scarce Australian decimal coins to hunt include the Year 2000 $1 “Mule Error” coin, and also the Year 1992 $1 “Five Roo’s” coin – which the Royal Australian Mint claim that only 8,000 were made, however negligible have been seen in circulation (In 2012, such a 1992 $1 coin sold at auction for about $1,000).
Another rare, modern Aussie coin - that was issued under mysterious circumstances, the 1977 fifty cent coin with the coat of arms "reverse" - was minted in extremely low numbers. The exact mintage is not known, but “fewer than ten” is the often reported number. One of these coins sold at auction in 2009 for $8,600.
Here is a link to the NUMISTIP website - which is easy/handy to use for obtaining more information about a coin, including it's likely value.
MINELAB COIN & RELIC DETECTORS
Minelab recently released a new, lightweight, VLF-technology detector designed for hunting coins & relics. It is named the ‘X-TERRA PRO’ and it costs only $499. This detector features ‘PRO-SWITCH’ (Switchable Frequency Technology) - so that you can set it to operate on either of four single frequencies of 5kHz, 8kHz, 10kHz or 15kHz.
It has 6 pre-programmed Search Modes for three different terrains of Park, Field & Beach, with 30 segmented notches of discrimination capability (1 notch represents a range of 4 Target ID numbers). This detector also features an LED flashlight for night-use, and handle-vibration capability. It is rated as fully waterproof to 5m depth, and has a quick-collapsible length of only 63cm (2-foot) long for ease of storage & transportation. It also has an armrest that is adjustable for the length of your forearm.
I recently had the opportunity to use the new Minelab X-TERRA PRO for my first time, on an old school oval in Brisbane (with the very kind permission of the school Principal). Within half-an-hour of turning this detector on (and setting it on Parks 1 search mode + 5kHz frequency + Sensitivity 22 + Recovery Speed 3 + Auto Tracking Ground Balance) - I found my first coin. It was a tiny, old Australian threepence (92.5% silver content) dated 1910. YUP - an Aussie silver coin that is 113 years old (Australia commenced it's own currency in 1910, about 9 years after Federation).
WOW ! I am impressed by the performance of the new Minelab X-TERRA PRO detector, for a cost of only $499. Over the next few hours I proceeded to detect another 8 coins, including a modern English Twenty Pence coin dated 2016, and several $1 & $2 coins.
The complete range of Equinox-compatible coils of various sizes (made by both Minelab, and Coiltek) also fit the Minelab X-TERRA PRO detector. This detector includes the Minelab V12X coil (a 12”x9” elliptical Double-D coil – also fitted with a protective skid-plate), and a magnetic, USB charging cable (for the internal Lithium-Ion battery).
Increasing in both cost and additional capabilities, other Minelab detectors available for coin & relic hunting (apart from the Vanquish series, ranging in cost from $399 to $599), include the Equinox range – namely the older Equinox 600 ($999) and older Equinox 800 ($1,089), the new Equinox 700 ($1,079), and new Equinox 900 with 2 coils ($1,549), as well as the new MANTICORE (cost $2,499).
CAUTION - Coin Cleaning - VERY IMPORTANT
Every time I detect & unearth a dirty coin (or an old Token - Australian tokens will be the subject of a future BLOG article), I immediately (for a few seconds at least) wonder what type of coin it is ? and what year is minted upon one of its sides ?
I immediately put pure, drinking-quality water on the dirty coin to wash off any grit and dirt (a small, squeeze-squirt type bottle of water can be handy for that task).
Sometimes I use a very soft bristle toothbrush & clean, pure water to slowly/very gently remove dirt, particularly over the spot where the year is featured on the coin.
If the dirt is more stubborn, and say partly obscuring the year on the coin, I use water-dampened cotton earbuds, or soft-wood toothpicks, to very gently remove some dirt hiding the numbers of the year. Failing that, I will soak a coin in a glass of pure, drinking-quality water overnight, or for a few days if needed, to let any stubborn dirt dissolve away from the coin (by way of leaning the coin upright/near vertical against the inside of the glass).
Try to avoid rubbing the coin, especially if it has sand and gravel upon it - as this may scratch or mark the coin.
Most times, particularly with small coins like threepences & sixpences, I use my mobile phone camera to zoom in and verify the date prior to wetting it.
I always prefer to do a minimal amount of coin cleaning in order to:
1. Verify the coin date; and
2. Then, prior to any further gentle cleaning of a coin - I do subsequent research (via the internet) of the total coin mintage for that year - to establish whether the coin may be a very low (scarce), or extremely low (rare) mintage, and hence may be of significant monetary value to a collector, depending upon the condition & grading of the coin.
Expert coin collectors DO NOT LIKE scarce/rare date coins being cleaned by the use of chemicals (e.g. DO NOT soak in, or clean, using chemicals such as coke, vinegar, acids, lemon juice, metal polishes, Brasso, Silvo, toothpaste, etc) and by way of rubbing/polishing (including the use of abrasive cleaning/scouring pads, steel wool, or tools).
I prefer not to use Ultrasonic cleaning machines on my pre-decimal coins - since they can damage coins if used incorrectly. For example, using the incorrect frequency (i.e. too low) and/or running the ultrasonic cleaning process for too long can cause pitting on a coin.
Unfortunately, many people including some experienced detectorists, are not aware that cleaning a scarce/rare coin to a highly-polished/shiny finish can significantly reduce its value to a collector.
You should not do/use anything that will shine up your coins, as this will remove the natural lustre or toning off the coin. This will also decrease the value of the coin.
Over time, coins go through a natural process called ‘toning’. This is when oxygen or sulphur react with the metal but, it’s important to remember, the surface under the toning still contains the reflective quality known as ‘mint lustre’. Expert collectors prefer coins that still retain a natural patina from decades of oxidation.
The least amount of wear on a coin, including its circumferential rims, also increases its value to a collector.
If you do find a scarce or rare coin, then if you are intending to keep it indefinitely, it is also very important (in order to retain its potential market value) to consider how to store it long term so that it does not deteriorate with time. It is best to store valuable coins in a safe place where there is very little variation in temperature and humidity over time.
I use a clean, soft, white-coloured, pure cotton cloth to gently wipe my prized coins free of any dust or oils (e.g. from handling by fingers or hands).
I then use plastic tweezers to insert the coin into a special, air-tight/waterproof, clear, hard plastic, coin capsule/display case - for optimal long term storage and viewing.
Some Coin Hunting Considerations:
1. What is the likely total number of such scarce/rare Aussie pre-decimal coins most likely to have been lost ?
Possibly hundreds or thousands of coins ?
2. Where would such scarce/rare Aussie pre-decimal coins be most likely to have been lost ?
Near cities ? and large towns ?
At historical sites ? e.g. on the grounds of heritage-listed, residential estate properties ?
At old showgrounds ? and stadiums ? nearby old cricket & football ovals ?
In old parks ? nearby old/large trees ?
Given population distributions in Australia over the past century - is it more likely than not, that most of the scarce/rare Aussie pre-decimal coins lost are in the eastern States of Australia ?
3. Given the excellent coin-targeting & discrimination capabilities of modern Minelab VLF-technology detectors (unlike pulse-induction detectors) - Would the average metal detectorist in Australia, based in/near a city, be more likely to find such a scarce/rare Aussie pre-decimal coin ? and/or valuable jewellery ? - compared to the chances of finding gold nugget/s of equivalent value ?