1920 Proof Sixpence struck as a Coin of Record at the Melbourne Mint

1920 Proof Sixpence struck as a Coin of Record at the Melbourne Mint
1920 Proof Sixpence struck as a Coin of Record at the Melbourne Mint
SOLD 20/6/2024
Spink Auctions March 1988 Lot 1166 • Strand Coins sale by private treaty to Coinworks January 2006 • Madrid Collection of Australian Rare Coins
We are not sure which excites us most. The date '1920'. The coin's unique rarity status. Or the asking price of $20,000. This 1920 Proof Sixpence was struck as a Coin of Record at the Melbourne Mint and is the only known example. Struck with a high wire rim with a brilliant reverse, the coin shows heavy striations reflecting careful preparation of the dies. The year 1920 hosts the rarest coins in the Australian numismatic industry; a stunning line-up that includes Australia’s rarest florin, the 1920 Pattern Star Florin, one of Australia’s most valuable shillings, the 1920 Pattern Star Shilling, Australia’s most valuable sovereign, the 1920 Sydney Mint Sovereign and the most valuable kookaburra coin, the 1920 Square Halfpenny ... and that's just for starters. History is preserved in this 1920 Proof Sixpence for today’s collectors. And for future generations.
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This 1920 Proof Sixpence was not struck for collectors as part of any mass-marketing sales campaign. The coin was struck for the mint's archives and the privileged few. Because it was a specially arranged striking of presentation pieces, only a handful were struck. Technically, we refer to it as a 'Coin of Record'.

The term, COIN OF RECORD, is to a large extent self-explanatory. It is a coin that has been minted to put on record a date. Or to record a design.

What is not self-explanatory is that Coins of Record were struck to PROOF quality as presentation pieces. And were struck in the most minute numbers satisfying the requirements of the mint rather than the wants of collectors.

Forget the notion of striking ten thousand proofs as collectors are accustomed to today. Let's talk about striking a total of ten coins ... or in the case of this coin a lot less!

For today’s collectors the Coins of Record offer a wonderful link to the past and are extremely rare, two reasons that make them so popular.

There was no commercial angle in the production of Coins of Record. The mints were not out to make money from the exercise. Quite the reverse, striking a proof coin in our pre-decimal era was a very labour intensive (and hence costly) exercise that would have dented the mints annual budget quite considerably. The prime reason why so few coins were struck.

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.

So, what happened to these Coins of Record? Where did they go? And if they were struck by the mints for their own use, how did they get into collector's hands?

In the main, Coins of Record ended up in the mint’s own archives, preserving its history for future generations. Any coins that were surplus to requirements may also have been sent to a museum or public institution.

Coins of Record were also put on display at public Exhibitions. The two known examples of the Proof 1866 Sovereign and Proof 1866 Half Sovereign were especially struck to exhibit as ‘products of New South Wales’ as part of the Colonial Mints display at the International Colonial Exhibition of 1866 and the International Exposition in Paris, 1867. They were discovered in London in the early 1970s.

It is noted that many of the overseas mints have over time sold off Coins of Record that they considered excess to their requirements allowing them to come into collector's hands. The Royal Mint South Africa sold off several Australian gold proofs in the 1990s.

It is also noted that influential collectors, and those that moved in the same circles as the Deputy Master, did occasionally receive a proof coin. Most likely in exchange for a coin of the same face value, so that the mint's 'books' would be balanced.



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PO Box 1060 Hawksburn Victoria Australia 3142

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