When the Kookaburra Square Penny was created, Australians were recovering from the war and determined to lessen the ties with Great Britain.
The mood even filtered through to our coinage! The Government planned to introduce a square penny with our native bird on the reverse. And the monarch minus his crown on the obverse! Provocative and contentious but uniquely Australian.
Australia entered a modern age post World War I. For many Australians, it was a time for breaking out socially, of questioning and changing old values and behaviour and enjoying the good life. It was a time of great change. People forgot the old and embraced the new in an attempt to leave the hardship and struggles of the war behind them.
New technology was being created, like toasters and cars, things that today we take for granted. The fashion world was exploding, great changes were embraced in styles of dress. Australians were identifying with their own culture, keen to lessen the emotional and cultural ties with Great Britain.
Creating a new, totally Australian coinage was a part of the deal which is why the Government floated the idea of the Kookaburra Penny envisaging a coin that would be unique to Australia.
The Government's plan was to discard the British-styled penny and halfpenny and to create a coin with a typically Australian design featuring the nation's native bird, the kookaburra. To maximise impact, a new shape was planned with the move from circular to square. And bronze was to be discarded and a new metal taken up, that of cupro-nickel.
Tests began at the Melbourne Mint in 1919 and continued for three years, ending in 1921.
Today there are approximately 200 kookaburra coins held by private collectors, making it on a par for rarity with the 1813 Holey Dollar, the nation's first silver coin. And the 1852 Adelaide Pound, the nation's first gold coin.
The best thing for collectors is that the 200 kookaburra pennies do not bear the same design. The Melbourne Mint tested thirteen different styles introducing enormous interest, personal choice and procurement challenges into the series, for some designs are far rarer than others.
The 1919 Kookaburra Penny type 5 with a unique bird design. Highly detailed motif offset by reflective mirror fields.
The 1919 Kookaburra Penny type 5 with a highly detailed portrait of George V (minus the crown), offset by reflective mirror fields.