'Coins of Record'. Australian Proof Coins struck with minuscule mintages at the Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth Mint. 


Australian Pre-decimal Coins that were struck as proofs - but not destined for collectors - are technically referred to as Coins 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 always 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 one thousand proofs, as collectors are accustomed to today. Let's talk about striking ten coins ... or maybe 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. 

Shown above, the Sydney Mint’s Proof 1893 Sovereign, the Melbourne Mint’s Proof 1921 Penny, and the Perth Mint’s Proof 1953 Penny. All are Coins of Record.

In 1893, the Melbourne Mint struck more than one million sovereigns featuring the new Veiled Head design of Queen Victoria. Two proof sovereigns were struck with a plain edge as Coins of Record, one of which is held in the Museum of Victoria, the other is held by a private collector.

In 1921 the Melbourne Mint struck more than seven million pennies for Treasury as circulating currency. To record the task the mint struck a handful of Proof 1921 Pennies as Coins of Record. Only one example out of the original mintage is known, owned by a private collector.

In 1953 the Perth Mint produced more than six million pennies for Treasury. Records indicate that twenty Proof 1953 Pennies were struck, the majority of which was sent to museums and institutions around the globe.  

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.

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.

The Australian mints at Sydney, Melbourne and Perth were branches of the Royal Mint in London. To keep the mints in the Royal Mint circuit up to date it became common for the Australian mints to exchange Coins of Record with their London counterparts. 

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. The Royal Mint South Africa sold off several Australian gold proofs in the 1990s.

One of Australia’s most famous Coins of Record is the Proof 1930 Penny. Only six examples of the Proof 1930 Penny were struck, one of which was retained by the mint with one each being sent to the British Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia, where they both still reside.

How three examples out of the mintage of six ended up in collector’s hands is still unclear.

What is obvious when you look back through historical records is that influential collectors, those that were particularly close to a senior member of the mint’s personnel, had limited access to Coins of Record that resulted in them being included in their own personal collection.

We have just updated our tables with new information on the Melbourne Mint George V silver proofs. If you thought the George V copper proofs struck in Melbourne were rare, just wait to you check out the mintages on the mint's silver proofs.

The tables indicate those coins that Coinworks have sold. And those coins that we have sighted on the open market, excluding Coinworks sales. Sighted examples also exclude those coins held in institutions and museums. An asterisk indicates the coins were never issued.

table 1: melbourne mint copper coins of record 1919 - 1936
table 2: Melbourne Mint silver coins of record 1917-1936

This is Melbourne Mint proof coining at its very best. This Proof 1927 Shilling was struck as a Coin of Record at the Melbourne Mint . One of two known, this stunning Proof 1927 Shilling is available now.

This is Perth Mint proof coining at its best. Offered at Noble's Auction in 2013, this brilliant proof sold for $34,000 against a pre-sale estimate of  $20,000.

Respected author, Greg McDonald, provides us with an insight as to why Coins of Record are so limited in numbers when he shared with us a definition put out by the Royal Mint London of a proof coin. 

“Struck on a slow-moving coining press using carefully polished dies which are frequently cleaned during use. The materials from which the coins are made are specially processed and the coin blanks are carefully selected and polished before use. Blanks and minted coins are individually handled to prevent accidental damage.

The essential characteristics of proof coins are highly polished fields, fully reproduced designs free from any flaw, and square edges. Milling where present should be regular and free from any defect.

Because of the very high standard set in manufacture, such coins are slow to make and relatively expensive to produce.”

Coinworks interpretation of a proof coin is as follows.

When a mint struck a proof coin, its intention was to create a single masterpiece. Coining perfection. 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 canvas’.


Extremely rare and magnificent quality, the Proof 1888 Sovereign struck at the Melbourne Mint is one of three known.

The Royal Australian Mint and the Perth Mint are today prolific producers of proof coins, satisfying the needs of collectors with an annual proof coining program, a purely commercial exercise that contributes to the mints ‘bottom-line’.

It raises the question as to whether the Australia’s Mint’s, Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth, ever conducted a commercial proof coining program prior to the opening in 1966 of the Royal Australian Mint, Canberra.

THE SYDNEY MINT 1855 - 1926

The Sydney Mint opened in 1855 and was closed in 1926.

Throughout its entire minting history, the Sydney Mint did not strike proofs on a commercial basis for collectors. Any Sydney Mint proof coins seen in the marketplace today are Coins of Record and were struck to satisfy the needs of the mint rather than satisfy any collector interests. And they are extremely rare with mintage figures counted in single digits. 

An example of a Sydney Mint Coin of Record is the Proof 1871 Sovereign. Sold by Coinworks in 2015, it was the very first proof sovereign struck in Australia and featured a new obverse design of Queen Victoria and a new reverse design of St George and the Dragon. The coin is unique in private hands.

Proof 1871 Sovereign struck at the Sydney Mint and the very first proof coin struck in Australia. The only example held in private hands.


The Melbourne Mint, in William Street, was opened in 1872 as a branch of the Royal Mint London. The mint struck gold sovereigns and half sovereigns in the year that it opened until 1931, when Australia struck its very last sovereign. 

The Melbourne Mint struck Coins of Record of its sovereigns and half sovereigns. They are extremely rare. Proof Sovereigns and Proof Half Sovereigns were never struck on a commercial basis. 

The Melbourne Mint underwent a change in 1916 when it was commissioned by Treasury to strike Australia’s Commonwealth silver coinage, the florin, shilling, sixpence, and threepence. Three years later, in 1919, a further change occurred when the Melbourne Mint began striking Australia’s Commonwealth copper coins, the penny and halfpenny.

The Melbourne Mint struck Coins of Record of its silver and copper coins, and again they are extremely rare.  

The Melbourne Mint did test the waters of commercial proof coin production for collectors, but infrequently. And with fear and trepidation about the risk of financial losses. To guarantee success, the Melbourne Mint took pledged orders from the private sector before they would even commit to the striking. Dealers were effectively asked to financially underwrite the mint’s foray into proof coining. Between 1916 and 1953 there were only eight occasions when the Melbourne Mint produced coins commercially. And they are: 1916, 1927, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1953.

The sporadic nature of these issues became a major source of frustration for collectors and dealers keen to have access to proofs on an annual basis.

The Melbourne Mint did eventually introduce an annual proof coining program for collectors. It was authorized by the Australian Government and introduced in 1955, in conjunction with the Perth Mint. The program ceased in 1963 just prior to decimal currency change over.


Proof 1923 Penny struck at the Melbourne Mint. At its first and only auction appearance in 1998, the coin sold for five times its estimate. The only known example available to collectors.

more information - melbourne mint commercial proof coins for collectors 1916-1953
more information - melbourne mint collector proofs 1955-1963


The discovery of vast gold fields in Coolgardie in 1892 and Kalgoorlie in 1893 triggered a Gold Rush in Western Australia and prompted the British Government to authorise the opening of the Perth Mint.  It was the third branch of the Royal Mint London opened in Australia following the establishment of the Sydney Mint in 1855 and the Melbourne Mint in 1872. 

The Perth Mint was established in 1899 and remained a gold producing mint from the year of its opening until 1931 when Australia struck its last sovereign. The mint did strike Coins of Record of its sovereigns and half sovereigns and they are excruciatingly rare. None were struck commercially for collectors.

Coins such as, the Proof 1901 Half Sovereign. Only two Proof 1901 Half Sovereigns were struck by the Perth Mint, one of which was sent to the British Museum. The two proofs are Coins of Record in the truest sense. As Queen Victoria died in January 1901, no circulating half sovereigns were minted in that year, the proof half sovereigns the only evidence that the dies were ever prepared.

From 1931 to 1940, the coining presses at the Perth Mint ground to a halt. Then early in November 1940, the Australian Government commissioned the Perth Mint to undertake the coining of Australia’s bronze pennies and halfpennies. The Melbourne Mint had been called upon to do munitions work during World War II and assistance was sought from the Perth Mint to meet Australia’s currency requirements.

The Perth Mint continued to strike copper coins until 1964, when two years later Australia converted to decimal currency.

Between 1940 and 1954, proofs were only struck by the Perth Mint as Coins of Record. Proofs were not struck for collectors. The Perth Mint Coins of Record are extremely rare, with the number of examples held in private hands in single digits. An example of a Perth Mint Coin of Record out of this era is the Proof 1941 Penny. Coinworks sold the Syd Hagley example in 2013 and it is one of three known.

In 1955 the Australian Government legislated for the introduction of an annual proof coining program for collectors. The Perth Mint was authorised by Treasury to strike proofs of those coins they were striking for circulation and sell them to the public as part of a commercial exercise. Mintages of each release were around the 1000 mark. The program ended however in 1963.


Proof 1948 Penny struck at the Perth Mint. Records indicate that sixteen proofs were struck, some of which were archived with many sent to overseas museums and minting institutions.

more information - perth mint coins of record 1940 - 1954
more information - perth mint collector proofs 1955 to 1963


What is a ‘PROOF’ coin? And how does it differ from a circulating coin?

Coins are struck in two different styles and for two distinctly different purposes. And they have been for centuries in mints right around the globe.

Coins are struck so that they can be used in every-day transactions. We call it circulating currency - coins that circulate.

Circulating coins are mass-produced in what can only be described as a factory environment and distributed through the banks at their face value.

Coins can also be struck to PROOF quality.

A PROOF coin is a specially made coin distinguished by sharpness of detail and usually with a brilliant mirror-like surface. A PROOF coin is never intended to be used. It is a collector’s item.

Proof coins are struck in highly controlled environments. The production is a painstakingly slow process. Coin blanks are hand-selected and they are polished to achieve a smooth mirror shine. The dies are also specially prepared to ensure the design is perfectly executed and crisp. Because the process is arduous, proof coins are always struck in limited numbers.

The confusing part for the novice is that proof coins look, essentially, the same as a coin struck for circulation. They share the same design. But there is a vast difference in the way in which they are produced. And the final product.

If you are in any doubt about whether your coin is a 'proof' coin, take it to your local coin shop where it can be sighted by a professional.

Why the vast price disparity between a proof coin and a circulating example?

The huge disparity in values between a proof coin and a circulating example simply relates to the numbers struck. And their availability to today’s collector market. How easy is it for a collector to lay their hands on an example.

Consider that the Melbourne Mint struck 7 million 1921 Pennies for circulation. And only one example of a Proof 1921 Penny is known in private hands.

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