Proof 1928 Penny, Melbourne Mint

Proof 1928 Penny, Melbourne Mint
Proof 1928 Penny, Melbourne Mint
Sold May 2020
FDC with highly reflective, almost glass-like fields
Australian Coin Auctions March 2001, The Madrid Collection of Austraian Rare Coins
Prices of Australian pre-decimal proofs rocketed between 2001 and 2002 when a collection of elite Proof Melbourne coppers came up at auction. This Proof 1928 Penny was a part of the collection. The coins had never been sighted before, the vendor indicating that he had bought them from renowned collector Roy Farman in the 1950s. Farman, in turn, had held them from the day they were struck. We attended the auction and the competition for acquisition was as strong as we have ever seen. A case in point, this Proof 1928 Penny, sold for $19,000 on a pre-auction estimate of $10,000 and it is noted that the auction estimate reflected price guides at the time. And the reason for the heady prices?
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The rarity of the Proof 1928 Penny

This Proof 1928 Penny is technically referred to as a Coin of Record. As the name suggests, it was struck to put on record the date '1928' and as a Coin of Record it was struck to proof quality. The strike satisfied the needs of the mint rather than the wants of collectors.

Coins of Record out of this era are amazingly scarce. Up until its offering in 2001 only two other proof pennies dated 1928 had been sighted.

The exceptional quality of the Proof 1928 Penny

The auction of these elite copper proofs between 2000 and 2002 instigated a new term into the industry’s numismatic dictionary. The term was "super" proof.

The industry contends that the exceptional quality of this Proof 1928 Penny, and the other proofs offered at the auction, was a consequence of Farman’s close relationship with Albert Le Souef.  

Le Souef was, like Farman, a passionate collector and occupied a position of influence in the Melbourne Mint that would eventually see him become Deputy Mint Master between 1921 and 1926. He maintained his influence in numismatic circles well into the 1930s.

In this era there was nothing untoward, or unethical, with ensuring that a collector friend received the very best proof collector striking.

It was a simple matter of selecting the smoothest copper blanks. And polishing the dies to ensure a crisp and highly detailed striking.

A brilliant state of preservation

This coin has had only three owners over nearly a century. That is almost as rare as the coin itself.

Its state of preservation reflects the minimal number of owners. It also indicates that all along the way this coin has always been cherished.


The purpose of proof coining

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.”

In the striking of a proof coin, the mint’s intention was to create a single masterpiece, coining perfection. Perfection in the dies. Wire brushed so that they are razor sharp. 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’.

A proof coin is meant to be impactful, have the ‘wow’ factor and exhibit qualities that are clearly visible to the naked eye. A proof coin was never intended to be used in every-day use, tucked away in a purse. Or popped into a pocket.

Proof coins were struck to be preserved in government archives as a record of Australia’s coining history, time-capsuled for future generations. Proof coins were also used to showcase a mint’s coining skills, to display at major worldwide Exhibitions or sent to other mint’s and public institutions. A simple case of competitive one-up-man ship. (The British Museum was a major recipient of Australia’s proof coinage. So too the Royal Mint London.)

Proof coins were struck at the discretion of the Mint Master so there was no hard-fast rule about the regularity of the issues. Or the mintages. The striking of proofs was very often influenced by the collecting zeal of the Mint Master. And his involvement with the collector market. The more passionate the collecting habits of the Mint Master, the greater the chance of proofs being struck.


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