The Diamond & Pearl 1930 Penny

1930 Penny, with a full central diamond and eight pearls. One of the absolute finest.
1930 Penny, with a full central diamond and eight pearls. One of the absolute finest.
Extremely Fine
Private Collection Melbourne
One attribute identifies this 1930 Penny as being a member of a very elite clique. The seventh and eighth pearl in the crown is clearly visible. Of the one thousand-plus 1930 Pennies in existence today, there are only FOUR that have a clear seventh and eighth pearl. And this 1930 Penny, graded at Extremely Fine, is one of the four. Waiting lists are the norm for a 1930 Penny at this quality level.
Sold March 2020
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1930 Penny aEF Diamond & Pearl BAND 2

With most 1930 Pennies you will see the description. Part or full central diamond. Five or six pearls.

Notice ... hardly anyone mentions the very elusive seventh and eighth pearl.

And yet, the 1930 Penny was struck with a full central diamond and eight pearls perched above the lower band of the crown.

The reasons for the absence of the seventh and eighth pearls are twofold.

1.    The seventh and eighth pearls are one of the high points of the design and therefore the first area to sustain wear during circulation.
2.    The 1930 Penny circulated at least ten years before its existence was discovered.

The obverse of this 1930 Penny has:

  • A full central diamond that leaps out and knocks you in the eye.
  • Eight clear pearls in the crown. The seventh and eight pearls to the left of the central diamond on the King’s Crown is one of the first areas to wear during circulation.
  • An intact oval to the left of the central diamond.
  • Undamaged edges.
  • Undamaged fields that are glossy and smooth with even chocolate brown toning.
  • Minimal wear to the eyebrow and upper ear of the portrait of George V.
  • An intact lower band on the Crown.

The reverse of this 1930 Penny is equally impressive with:

  • Well-defined upper and lower scrolls and crisp well defined inner beading.
  • Unblemished edges and amazingly smooth fields.

And while all the information detailed in the bullet points may seem very technical … it is the complete and strong central diamond, the complete lower band and the seventh and eighth pearls that places this coin in a league of its own.

And justifies the supreme quality level of Extremely Fine.

The pie chart below, and in particular the area shown in grey, clearly shows the extreme scarcity of a 1930 Penny at this quality level.

1930 Pie Chart 5 July 2017

The history of the 1930 Penny.

The 1930 Penny is a part of Australian folklore. The coin is a national icon and its star status has made it one of Australia’s most valuable coins.

What’s most interesting is that the 1930 Penny stumbled into fame. It was the coin that was never meant to be struck.

Officially the 1930 Penny was never struck and a review of minting records at the Melbourne Mint confirms that no pennies were struck for circulation in that year. (The mint does however have a record of the six Proof 1930 Pennies that were struck as museum pieces.)

Many theories have been put forward as to the accidental minting of the 1930 Penny. One theory suggests that a few circulating strikes may have been minted at the same time as the Proof version, set aside and inadvertently issued years later by mistake.

The more popular explanation is also the more romantic. 

Mint policy dictated that the dies were prepared in readiness for the striking of a penny in 1930. The Depression and the lack of economic growth meant that, apart from striking a small number of halfpennies and gold sovereigns, the Melbourne Mint became a tourist attraction. It is thought that a mint guide minted small batches of 1930 pennies for tourists as souvenirs of their visit.

The suspected mintage is about 1500 coins.

Before the arrival of decimal currency in 1966, no Australian could look at a penny without glancing at the date, just in case it was the elusive ‘1930’. A product of the Depression, it was everyone’s chance to make big money fast.

The accidental minting of the 1930 Penny was not discovered until the 1940s. Dealers responded to the discovery by offering to pay up to 10/- for an example. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the 1930 Penny became a national symbol. Newspapers were instrumental in creating that image, television played a lesser role.

Lists of Australian coins and their market prices and headlines such as “Have you cashed in on Australia’s coin craze yet?” and “A Penny could be worth £500” appeared in the 60s in the daily newspapers. The nation’s rare coin market reacted in a frenzy as thousands cashed in on the opportunity to make big money.

In 1964, the Sydney Sunday Telegraph published a guide to the latest prices on Australian coins. It was the first time that such a list had been published and, while most pennies were fetching a small premium over face value, the 1930 Penny was listed at £50 in Fine condition (today that same coin would be worth more than $25,000). 

By 1965, a Fine 1930 Penny had more than doubled in price to £120. By decimal changeover, the price had moved to £255 ($510) and the 1930 Penny had captured the imagination of collectors and non-collectors alike.

The craze was fuelled on the one hand by the lure of quick money and on the other by the pressure of the collector market for supplies. Decimal currency changeover posed an imminent and very real danger to coin collectors - the melting down of undiscovered rare pieces. Collectors keen to complete sets of all coins minted in Australia rushed to acquire the elusive pieces at rapidly escalating prices.

There are no pennies being checked in schoolyards anymore, but for many collectors the journey to acquire our most famous penny still goes on.

The 1930 Penny is still to this day the glamour coin of the numismatics industry and is unrivalled for popularity, enjoying a constant stream of demand unmatched by any other numismatic rarity. 

There is no doubt it is an industry phenomenon, for in a market that is quality focused it is interesting to note that the 1930 Penny is keenly sought irrespective of its grading - and growth over the mid to long term has been significant across all levels of quality.

The 1930 Penny was selling for £50 in the late 1950s. A decade later by decimal changeover, the coin was fetching £255 ($510). By 1988, the year Australia celebrated its Bicentenary, the 1930 Penny had reached $6000. The turn of the century saw 1930 Penny prices move to $13,000.

And with a 100th anniversary over a decade away, the push to acquire Australia’s favourite Penny is really on.

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