1920 Proof Penny reverse. Superb detail.
1920 Proof Penny obverse.
The rarity of the 1920 Proof Penny.
At the time of its offering in 2000 and, up until this day, this 1920 Proof Penny (dot below scroll) is the only known example privately held.
The exceptional quality.
The industry contends that the exceptional quality of the 1920 Proof Penny, and the other proofs offered at the auction, was a consequence of Farman’s close relationship with Albert Le Souef. Le Souef was, like Farman, a passionate collector and occupied a position of influence in the Melbourne Mint that would eventually see him become Deputy Mint Master between 1921 and 1926. In this era there was nothing untoward, or unethical, with ensuring that a collector friend received the very best proof collector striking. It was a simple matter of selecting the smoothest copper blanks. And polishing the dies to ensure a crisp and highly detailed striking.
A brilliant state of preservation.
This coin has had only three owners over the last one hundred years. That’s as rare as the coin itself.
Its state of preservation reflects the minimal number of owners and that all along the way this coin has been cherished.
The purpose of proof coining.
In the striking of a proof coin, the mint’s intention was to create a single masterpiece, coining perfection.
Perfection in the dies. Wire brushed so that they are razor sharp. Perfection in the design, highly detailed, expertly crafted. Perfection in the fields, achieved by hand selecting unblemished blanks, polished to create a mirror shine. Perfection in the edges to encase the design … exactly what a ‘picture frame does to a canvass’.
A proof is an artistic interpretation of a coin that was intended for circulation. A proof coin is meant to be impactful, have the ‘wow’ factor and exhibit qualities that are clearly visible to the naked eye.
A proof coin was never intended to be used in every-day use, tucked away in a purse. Or popped into a pocket.
Proof coins were struck to be preserved in government archives as a record of Australia’s coining history, time-capsuled for future generations.
Proof coins were also used to showcase a mint’s coining skills, to display at major worldwide Exhibitions or sent to other mint’s and public institutions. A simple case of competitive one-up-man ship. (The British Museum was a major recipient of Australia’s proof coinage. So too the Royal Mint London.)
Proof coins were struck at the discretion of the mint master so there was no hard-fast rule about the regularity of the issues. Or the mintages.
The striking of proofs was very often influenced by the collecting zeal of the Mint Master. And his involvement with the collector market. The more passionate the collecting habits of the Mint Master, the greater the chance of proofs being struck.