1887 Proof Half Sovereign struck at the Melbourne Mint and the only known example

1887 Proof Half Sovereign struck at the Melbourne Mint and the only known example
1887 Proof Half Sovereign struck at the Melbourne Mint and the only known example
SOLD 9/2/2024
Superb FDC, brilliant and flawless
John G. Murdoch Collection Lot 625, sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge Auctioneers, 21 July 1903 • Spink Australia Auction November 1978 Lot 667 • Spink Australia Auction November 1981 Lot 1003 • Barrie Winsor sale by private treaty from the late Philip Spalding Collection.
This 1887 Proof Half Sovereign is the only known example of what is, a very important year in Australia's coining heritage. It is a 'Coin of Record' and was struck at the Melbourne Mint as a presentation piece to record a new design featuring Queen Victoria's Jubilee portrait. The coin's first public appearance was in 1903 when it sold at Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, London as part of the famous John G. Murdoch Collection. Over the last century, no other examples have been sighted. The coin's extreme rarity is typical of this sector of the market and the very reason why they are so popular with collectors. And investors. Their scarcity simply gives people the reason - and the confidence - to buy.
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There is a 'wish-list' of key indicators that collectors look for in numismatic investment, they being rarity, an important date, widespread appeal and supreme proof quality. And this 1887 Proof Half Sovereign has the lot!

An important date.

It is an acknowledged fact that collectors pursue the first year of a series over and above all other years out of an era. The first year is defining. The second is not.

And the year '1887' is the very first year of a new design. The 'Jubilee' portrait of Queen Victoria was introduced in 1887 to mark the monarch's Golden jubilee (1837 - 1887). The design lasted only six years and was replaced with the Veiled Head design, reflecting the monarch's mature years.

The coin is extremely rare.

This coin was first sighted in 1903 in the liquidation of the famous John G Murdoch Collection, Lot 625. No other example has ever been sighted.

Not only is the coin extremely rare, but this area of the market presents very few options for buyers.

While sovereigns were produced at the Melbourne Mint each year and in mammoth numbers, half sovereign production was sporadic, the Mint producing half sovereigns for circulation in only two years, 1887 and 1893. And the mintages were minuscule.

The buyer seeking a proof striking of the Melbourne Mint’s circulating Jubilee Half Sovereigns therefore has only two date options, 1887 or 1893.

Widespread appeal.

Proof coins are prestigious. They inspire respect and admiration. Ask collectors why they pursue proof coins over circulating currency and the prestige of owning a proof coin is most likely at the top of their list. It's the euphoria that comes with owning something that very few other people can ever possess.

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.

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.

The Sincona Auction held in Zurich, November 2021, was a watershed moment for collectors of Australian proof gold sovereigns and proof gold half sovereigns. Two veiled head proof sovereigns, 1898 and 1901, sold for an equivalent of $100,000 and $190,000, the latter a rarer Perth Mint striking. While some collectors shook their heads in disbelief, we were elated that the coins are now commanding the respect - and the prices - that they deserve.

The momentum continued at Heritage Auctions in April 2022 where an 1855 Proof Sovereign and 1856 Proof Sovereign sold for record auction prices. And again at Sincona in 2023.

Supreme proof quality.

In 1978 and again in 1981, Spink Auctions described this coin as brilliant and flawless. And so have we. This 1887 Proof Half Sovereign is a masterpiece of coining skills.


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 1887 Half Sovereign struck at the Melbourne 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 1887 Half Sovereign is a golden opportunity and for just one buyer. No other proof half sovereigns of this date have appeared over the last century.



PO Box 1060 Hawksburn Victoria Australia 3142

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