1852 Cracked Die Adelaide Pound

1852 Adelaide Pound Cracked Die about EF obv Large August 2018
1852 Adelaide Pound Cracked Die about EF Large rev August 2018
1852 Cracked Die Adelaide Pound
1852 Cracked Die Adelaide Pound
Good Very Fine / About Extremely Fine
Private Collection Melbourne
The 1852 Cracked Die Adelaide Pound is Australia’s very first gold coin and is an iconic Australian numismatic rarity. The Cracked Die is as famous as it is rare with less than 40 examples known. So celebrated and so rare that procuring a Cracked Die below $100,000 is nigh on a fluke, a chance occurrence. Once sold we sense that this coin will almost be impossible to replace.
Sold August 2018
1852 Adelaide Pound Cracked Die about EF Large rev August 2018
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The 1852 Cracked Die Adelaide Pound is an iconic Australian numismatic rarity. As is the 1930 Penny, the 1813 Holey Dollar, the 1813 Dump and the Square Penny.

Now compare the availability of the Cracked Die (with less than 40 known examples) to the '30 Penny and Square Penny, the Holey Dollar and the Dump and you have a genuine feel of the profound rarity of the Cracked Die.

And the extreme value this coin presents at $85,000.

The 1852 Cracked Die Adelaide Pound holds a very special place in Australia's history as the nation's first gold coin struck from 22 carat gold brought from the Victorian goldfields. The coin was minted at the Government Assay Office in Adelaide.

History records that the striking of the Adelaide Pound at the Assay Office was plagued with problems.

Excessive pressure exerted during the minting process cracked the first reverse die.

The crack that developed in the first die during the striking of Australia’s first gold coin was quite obviously a major source of aggravation.

Perhaps it had been anticipated because die sinker and engraver Joshua Payne, working in the Adelaide Assay Office, confirmed in an interview that he had indeed prepared two reverse dies with different designs. Just in case.

The first die featured a beaded inner circle. The second die featured a crenelated inner circle.

What is known is that the striking had just begun with only 40 coins struck when the die started to disintegrate. It was replaced with a second reverse die that went on to strike a further 24,600+ coins.

The disintegration of the first die and its replacement with a second was a great moment in “numismatic time” for it created one of Australia’s great coin rarities. The 1852 Cracked Die Adelaide Pound.

Adelaide Pound Type 1 TECH July 2018

The first reverse die featured a beaded inner circle.

Adelaide Pound Type 2 TECH July 2018

The second reverse die featured a crenelated inner circle.

1852 Adelaide Pound Cracked Die

 A crack developed in the ‘DWT’ section of the legend during the striking of the first 40 coins, creating the famous 'Cracked Die' Adelaide Pound.

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1852 Adelaide Pound, second die with crenelated inner circle

Extremely Fine


The collector that is keen to acquire an example of the nation's very first gold coin, the 1852 Adelaide Pound, has two options.

The first is the ‘Cracked Die’ Adelaide Pound featuring the tell-tale crack in the 'DWT' section of the legend. As less than 40 coins are known, the Cracked Die comes with a hefty price tag. In excess of $100,000 for most examples.

The very reason why the majority of collectors opt for the second option of acquiring an Adelaide Pound struck with the second reverse die featuring the crenelated inner circle.

Still a very rare coin with perhaps 250 examples known but presented in a far more affordable price range, upwards of $20,000 for a nice example.

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The history of the Adelaide Pound

The history of the Adelaide Pound.

When the Victorian gold fields opened up in 1851, over 8000 South Australians headed east, taking with them not only manpower but also cash resources. About two thirds of the available coin exited the state.

As the two main pillars of national activity, labour and capital literally walked out, prices plummeted, property plunged, mining scrip nosedived, and Adelaide took on the air of a ghost town with row after row of tenantless houses.

The general pessimism lessened in January 1852, when about £50,000 of gold arrived in the colony and calls were made for the establishment of a mint and the issuing of gold coins.

This was in direct violation of the Royal Prerogative. The colony had no authority to issue coins. Despite the controversy, the Governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Fox Young introduced the Bullion Act into Parliament on the 28 January 1852.

It was one of the quickest proceedings on record, with the entire proceedings taking less than two hours to pass.

The Bullion Act allowed the receiving, assaying and stamping of gold into ingots.

The ingots were never intended to form a currency but could be used by the banks to increase their note circulation, based on the amount of assayed gold deposited.

The Act compelled the banks to increase their note circulation to meet all assayed gold deposited, effectively depriving them of control over their currency issues.

The notes were payable in Sterling or coin, which put huge pressure on the banks to import sovereigns to support their note issues.

The first Assay Office opened on 10 February 1852. Its activities were supported by a state government initiative to provide armed escorts to bring back the gold from the Victorian diggings.

By the time the first escort arrived, a second assay office had been established, and Joshua Payne was appointed die-sinker and engraver.

By the end of August 1852, over £1 million worth of gold had been received at the assay offices.

But the banks were still under enormous pressure, being forced to import sovereigns to meet the extent of their note circulation. 

On 23rd November 1852 the government responded to agitation from both the banks and the public for the minting of gold coins and passed the second part of the Bullion Act.

Within a week 600 gold coins (known today as the 1852 Adelaide Pound) had been delivered to the South Australian Banking Company, 100 of which were sent to London.

The Bullion Act had a lifetime of only twelve months. By the time the legislative amendments were passed to enact the production of gold coins, the Act had less than three months to run. Consequently, only a small number of Adelaide Pounds were struck (24,768) and very few circulated.

When it was discovered that the intrinsic value of the gold contained in each piece exceeded its nominal value, the clear majority were promptly exported to London and melted down.

That goes a long way towards explaining why so few Adelaide Pounds survive today (approximately 250) and why the highest-quality examples command such high prices.  

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