The Veiled Head era of Queen Victoria embraces nine years, 1893 to 1901 inclusive.
Three Australian mints were operating during this period, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, the latter opening its doors in 1899.
The Sydney Mint was a very poor contributor to our proof gold coining history, striking proofs in only the first year of the Veiled head era, 1893. No other proofs were struck at the Sydney Mint between 1894 and 1901.
As the Perth Mint only came on board in 1899, which was the latter part of the Veiled Head era, their contribution to this sector of the market was always going to be slim. The Perth Mint struck one – and one only - proof half sovereign in the year of its opening (this unique and very important piece was sold by Coinworks in 2017 for $500,000). The Perth Mint struck proof half sovereigns in 1901, and again only one example is held in private hands.
For collectors, the Melbourne Mint Veiled Head era of proof gold is said to be “the most readily available”, largely due to the influence of British Collector, John G Murdoch, who is noted as providing his own gold blanks to facilitate the striking of proofs.
The phrase “readily available” is somewhat misleading. While we would certainly apply it to coins such as the 1930 Penny, our experiences regarding the availability of Veiled Head Proof Half Sovereigns tells a vastly different story.
The coins are incredibly difficult to procure, very rarely offered.
We have tallied a total of sixteen Veiled Head Melbourne Mint Proof Half Sovereigns that have appeared on the market or that we are aware of.
That figure becomes fifteen once you start to introduce quality into the purchase equation for the 1895 Proof Half Sovereign is noted as having nicks in the obverse fields.
Fifteen is a minuscule number given that we are not talking 15 of each year but 15 coins that cover the entire spectrum of Queen Victoria’s nine-year reign, 1893 – 1901.
And how many Australian coin collectors are out there? We estimate 1,000,000-plus.