The Royal Australian Mint opened on 22 February 1965, almost one year ahead of decimal currency changeover and issued its first circulating coinage for 'Changeover-Day' on 14 February 1966.
In 1966, the mint struck its first decimal proof set of six circulating decimal coins. Issued in a blue case, the mintage was 18,110, the set sold to collectors at the issue price of $12.50.
Apart from the years 1967 and 1968, the mint has issued Proof Sets annually, a program that continues to this day. Each new release is met with a great sense of anticipation and excitement.
And while there might be an assumption amongst today's collectors that the Melbourne Mint issued proof sets of our Commonwealth coinage on an annual basis. That could not be further from the truth.
The Melbourne Mint in William Street was opened in 1872 as a branch of the Royall Mint London to strike Australia's gold sovereigns and half sovereigns. The mint diversified its coining repertoire in 1916 when it was commissioned by Treasury to strike Australia's Commonwealth silver coinage.
A further diversification occurred in 1919, when the mint began striking the nation's copper penny and halfpenny.
The first Proof Set of Australia's circulating coinage was not issued until 1934. The Melbourne Mint was a servant of Treasury issuing circulating currency for the population. The notion of striking proof coins and selling them to collectors for a premium over face value was not high on their agenda.
The reality was the 1934 Proof Set only came about because of the involvement of New Zealand numismatist, Henry George Williams who guaranteed sales of the entire mintage of fifty sets.
There was a four year gap before the Melbourne Mint issued a further Proof Set of our circulating currency for collectors, 1938. Seventeen years elapsed before the next set in 1955.
The 1934 Proof Set was comprised of six coins, struck to proof quality, the florin, shilling, sixpence and threepence and the penny and halfpenny, each coin depicting the monarch George V on the obverse. Williams sold the six-coin proof set for 6/- 6d, almost double its face value.
Natural attrition has taken its toll on the original mintage. While at least ten sets have been offered at auction over the last fifty years, today's auction houses no longer offer complete sets, but sell them off as single coins.
Complete and original sets are now of the highest rarity.
We would expect to sight a complete 1934 Proof Set on the open market every six to seven years. As the number of complete sets have been drastically reduced, the waiting time might even stretch to a decade.
Of note, we last sold a 6-coin 1934 Proof Set in 2011! And this set has been held in the one collection since 1996.