Proof half sovereigns have a wonderful connection to the past.
They are the story tellers defining an era or a year like no other coin. Proof half sovereigns can also denote an occasion. And they tend to have a connection to a prominent person or an influential collector.
This statement may well have been written for this Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign.
A new chapter in Australia's monetary history began in 1855 with the establishment of the Sydney Mint. It was Australia's first mint and the very first overseas branch of the Royal Mint London.
In terms of minting expertise and design skills, the British mint did all the heavy lifting to ensure that the Sydney Mint would open its doors in 1855.
Two years ahead of the colonial opening the Royal Mint London had finalised designs and created the dies. Minting protocols were followed and a minute number of presentation pieces were struck to proof quality testing the dies. This Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign was one such piece.
Only six Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereigns are known ... two of which are held in museums, the British Museum and the Museum of Victoria.
Four examples are held by collectors, two of which have accidentally circulated. A third proof half sovereign is held in the famous Quartermaster Collection. This coin, the fourth privately owned example is regarded as the finest.
Aside from its quality attributes this coin has a magnificent provenance. Originally held as part of the J. G. Murdoch Collection, sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge in 1903.
Then acquired by foremost U.S. collector Virgil Brand, the coin was later sold to aviation pioneer Captain Vivian Hewitt. The last name publicly attached to this coin is New York collector, John L. Ahbe.
Coinworks sold this Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign by private treaty to a Sydney collector in 1999.
Collecting Australian gold coins.
The magnetism of gold is as strong as it has ever been. Gold is still to this day viewed as a storage of wealth and gold is vigorously traded and possessed. Gold jewellery. Gold bullion. And of course. Gold coins.
Now, when it comes to collecting vintage gold coins, collectors have two distinct options. They can acquire coins that were struck for circulation: coins that were meant to be used. Or they can collect coins that were struck as presentation pieces to PROOF QUALITY.
Such as this Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign.
Each option, circulating coinage or proof coinage, presents the buyer with a vastly different sized pool of specimens from which to choose.
General date (non-key date), average circulating gold sovereigns, are available in the thousands if not the tens of thousands. Once the collector sets parameters on quality and dates, the pool of specimens narrows and it is true that acquiring a key date gold coin that was struck for circulation, particularly one in premium quality, can be a journey in time that involves many months, if not years.
The task of acquiring gold proofs of our nineteenth and twentieth century coinage is far more challenging. The pathway to proof coinage for buyers can involve many years, if not decades.
Rarity is the key word when discussing proof gold. And it is a statement of fact that proof gold, irrespective of the sector, is extremely rare and buying opportunities will always be thin on the ground.
And the reasons?
This Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign is a golden opportunity and for just one buyer.
Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign struck with a brilliant mirror finish featuring a grained edge. Designed by Leonard Charles Wyon featuring Queen Victoria with a wreath of banksia in her hair.
Proof 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign reverse designed by Leonard Charles Wyon and features the word ‘AUSTRALIA’ at centre, a crown above and a laurel wreath tied with a bow above the words ‘HALF SOVEREIGN’.
In 1851, New South Wales petitioned for a branch mint of the Royal Mint London. Royal consent was finally given in August 1853 to establish a mint in Sydney. Captain Edward Wolstenholme Ward, a sergeant, three corporals and twelve privates of the Royal Engineers were deposited on Circular Quay with the bales and boxes of Sydney's new mint, many months later. Ward and his men brought with them, along with the bits of machinery and prefabricated building, the dies of the first Sydney Mint Sovereigns, patterns of which had been struck at the Royal Mint in 1853. The mint was set up in a building of Sydney’s Rum Hospital receiving its first gold bullion on May 14, 1855 and striking its first sovereign on June 23, a bit over a month later. The Sydney Mint continued striking sovereigns for over seventy-one years.