The finest known 1921 Square Penny.

The finest known 1921 Square Penny.
The finest known 1921 Square Penny.
Available now
Choice Uncirculated
Barrie Winsor 1995, Private Collection Victoria
Could this 1921, design type 12, Square Penny have been struck at the Royal Mint London? The quality of this piece suggests that it is indeed a possibility. We know that the Royal Mint prepared the dies and sent them to Melbourne in February 1921. And we also know they struck coins testing the dies. The quality of the surfaces and the depth of the strike of this Square Penny are so vastly different from those that we regularly see around that this explanation has to come into play. We do know the background of its recent owners. It was acquired from respected dealer Barrie Winsor in 1995 and held in a Sydney collection until 2016. An early retirement now sees the current vendor parting with this Square Penny gem.
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The rarity of the 1921 Square Penny

The 1921, design type 12, Square Penny (in any quality) is exceedingly rare for there are less than fifty (50) coins of this design available to collectors.

A comparison to our industry standard, the 1930 Penny, with fifteen hundred (1500) available affirms the Square Penny's relative rarity.

Now let's factor quality into the buying exercise because most Type 12 Square Pennies have flat and lifeless surfaces. And they tone badly with many of them having unsightly black marks in the fields, or streaky toning, making them aesthetically quite challenging.

Careless handling from the outset has limited the availability of superior examples in today's market

It has to be remembered that the Square Pennies were test pieces struck to gauge public opinion. Given to dignitaries to assess their reaction, there was no packaging and we know that not every dignitary was a collector and would have handled them with care and worn gloves. Some of the coins must have been tucked into a fob pocket for they have circulated. Others could have rattled around a top desk drawer. Or passed around to colleagues ... introducing multi possibilities of mishandling.

This coin is the absolute exception. A Square Penny with the type 12 design is seen on the market perhaps once or twice annually.

But this is not 'just any Square Penny'. It is the finest of its type and an exceptional opportunity for the buyer looking for an outstanding example of a 1921 Square Penny.

The rising value of the Square Penny

The Square Kookaburra coins were thrown into the spotlight in 1954 when Sir Marcus Clark K.B.E. sold his extensive and famous collection of Australian coin rarities. It is on record that his 1921 Square Penny and 1921 Square Halfpenny sold for £36. Even more interesting is that in the same auction an Extremely Fine Ferdinand VII Holey Dollar sold for just over twice that amount at £72 10/-.

The popularity of the kookaburras continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s with extensive reporting of their appearances occurring in the then industry magazine, 'The Australian Coin Review'.

Strong collector interest in the Square Kookaburra coins continues to this very day. That demand for the Square Kookaburra coins spans more than half a century is comforting for new buyers entering the market.

The history of the Square Penny

The Melbourne Mint commenced striking Australia's Commonwealth copper pennies in 1919.

No sooner had the mint started issuing the coins, than it was directed by Treasury to commence testing an entirely new penny concept, a square coin made from cupro-nickel.

The introduction of the Kookaburra Square Penny underpinned an attempt by the then Labor Government to stir up national sentiment post World War I. To evoke the great 'Aussie' spirit.

If you think about it. Putting the nation’s native bird - the kookaburra - onto a coin was a no-brainer to achieving that goal.

A drastically changed shape, a square. And a new metal, cupronickel was part of the total package to maximise impact on the population.

The proposal was contentious in that the monarch, King George V, was to be depicted on the obverse without a crown. Some say it was the rumblings of a Republican movement way ahead of its time.

Tests commenced at the Melbourne Mint in 1919 with the test pieces ultimately passed to dignitaries and Government officials to assess their reaction.

Sadly, in 1921 and after three years of testing, the scheme fell apart.

The response to Australia’s square coinage was poor with widespread public resistance to change and people generally rejecting the small size of the coins.

However, the final decision not to proceed seems to have been based mainly on another consideration – the large number of vending machines then in operation requiring a circular coin.

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