Sydney Mint, Young Head, Jubilee, Veiled Head, the four designs of Queen Victoria.
• Sydney Mint 1855 - 1870 5 proof coins
• Young Head 1871 - 1887 8 proof coins
• Jubilee 1887 - 1893
• Veiled Head 1893 - 1901
The Half Sovereign series began in 1855 with the Sydney Mint design. It was changed in 1871 to the Young Head design, which lasted until 1887. The Jubilee design replaced the Young Head portrait in 1887 and continued until 1893. Queen Victoria's twilight years were reflected in the Veiled Head portrait which ran from 1893 to 1901.
The Sydney Mint is the least available in the proof half sovereign series, followed tightly by the Young Head portrait. The Jubilee and Veiled Head portraits are 'relatively readily available', the latter the most frequently sighted design type.
There are limited opportunities for acquiring a Young Head Proof Half Sovereign, of any year.
Proof coins are by definition, extremely rare and their scarcity is a natural draw card. In some respect, proof coin collectors are playing it smart because the inherent rarity of proof coinage provides a level of assurance that the market will never be inundated with examples, protecting their investment.
This Proof 1880 Half Sovereign is known by two examples. And that's exceedingly rare. But the sector to which it belongs is also exceedingly rare and is a further influence on its price potential. The notion that another proof example, with the same Young Head design and a different date, might pop up tomorrow is almost non-existent for the entire Young Head sector (1871 to 1887) is represented by about eight proof coins.
While the Young Head portrait appeared on Australia’s half sovereigns between 1871 and 1887 and both the Sydney Mint and the Melbourne Mint were churning out half sovereigns for circulation, proofs were not struck in every year.
Proof half sovereigns of the Sydney Mint have only been sighted in 1871 (unique), 1880 (this coin) and 1883. And from the Melbourne Mint, 1884 and 1886.
The rarity of Australia's proof sovereigns and half sovereigns is acknowledged worldwide and has instigated a strong reaction from buyers at several recent overseas auctions.
Australia has some of the rarest and most beautiful coins you could imagine, particularly in the proof gold sector. The coins, proof sovereigns and proof half sovereigns, have always been popular with local collectors, simply because of their inherent rarity.
Many of the coins were held by prominent overseas collectors and journeyed their way back to Australia in the mid 1970s and 1980s via A H Baldwin and Spink Auctions.
And they are heading back overseas for over the last two years international buyers have been steadily encroaching into our market, pushing prices and taking back some of Australia’s prized numismatic possessions.
In the latter part of 2021, overseas investors blitzed an auction in Zurich where Australian proof gold was offered paying top dollar to secure our proof gold coin rarities. The momentum continued at Heritage Auctions in April 2022 where two pairs of Australian proof sovereigns and half sovereigns, the first dated 1855 and the second, 1856, sold for record auction prices.
Prices for Australian proof sovereign and proof half sovereigns have, as a result, rocketed overseas. And it will have a flow-on effect into the local market.
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.
The coin on offer is one such presentation piece, a Proof 1880 Half Sovereign struck at the Sydney Mint.
That proof coins were struck in the nineteenth century may surprise some readers. But it has to be said that the striking of proof coins in Australia is not a modern day phenomenon. Nor a product of the decimal era. The nation’s mints were striking proofs of our pre-decimal coinage in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the intention was then, as it is today, to create limited mintage coins struck to the highest standards of quality.
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 pre-decimal 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?
• Proof gold coins were NOT struck every year.
• And of those dates that were struck as proofs, only one, or perhaps two up to a maximum of three made their way out into the collector market.
• Natural attrition has taken its toll on coins out of the original mintages with some of them filtering their way into circulation or being mishandled and thus having their quality marred. So suddenly one, two or three proofs becomes even less.
• Great coins tend to be held. The owner of the Madrid Collection held onto his gold proofs for more than twenty years. The Spalding family and collector Tom Hadley, of Quartermaster fame, held their proof coins for an even longer time-frame.
This Proof 1880 Half Sovereign is a golden opportunity and for just one buyer.