The rarity of the Proof 1952 Penny was confirmed in 1995 in an article published by John Sharples, the then Curator of Australia’s Numismatic Archives.
He found evidence that fifteen proof pennies were struck at the Perth Mint in 1952.
Now let's put that figure fifteen into perspective for, unlike today's decimal market, these proofs were NOT struck for collectors.
The majority of the mintage was sent to public institutions such as the Royal Mint London, the British Museum, the Royal Mint Melbourne, Japan Mint, National Gallery SA, Art Gallery WA and the Australian War Memorial.
That the bulk of the mintage was gifted to institutions is the very reason why they are so rare in today's collector market. We might sight a Proof 1952 Penny on the market every two to three years.
History of the Perth Mint
To facilitate the rapid conversion of gold into sovereigns and half sovereigns, the British Government authorised the establishment of the Sydney Mint in 1855 followed by the Melbourne Mint in 1872.
A gold rush, triggered in Western Australia following the discovery of vast gold fields in Coolgardie in 1892 and Kalgoorlie in 1893, convinced the British Government to authorise the opening of a mint in Perth.
The Perth Mint opened in 1899 and remained a gold producing mint from the year of its opening until 1931 when Australia struck its last sovereign and the coining presses at the Mint ground to a halt. The Perth Mint endured a nine-year period of nil coin production.
That the Melbourne Mint was striking Australia’s Commonwealth coins and that Australia was in the midst of a depression simply meant that the minting facilities at Perth were excess to requirements.
The onset of war created a window of opportunity and in 1940 the Perth Mint took up the reins for striking Australia’s circulating copper coins for the Commonwealth Government.
The Perth Mint continued to strike copper coins until 1964, when two years later Australia converted to decimal currency.
In accordance with minting traditions the Perth Mint struck proof record pieces of those coins being struck for circulation. Some of the pieces were archived. Some were gifted to prominent Australian and overseas institutions fulfilling the ideology of proofs being struck as display pieces. The Royal Mint London, the British Museum, Royal Mint Melbourne, Japan Mint, National Gallery SA, Art Gallery WA and the Australian War Memorial were just some of the institutions to receive Perth proofs.
There was no hint of commercialism in the production of these pieces. Posterity, the preservation of Australia’s coining heritage … that and a passion for numismatics were the driving forces behind their striking. The collector market was denied access to the coins.