When Britain declared war against Germany in August 1914 Australia, as a dominion of the British Empire, was automatically also at war.
Australia quickly pledged its support for Britain with the soon-to-be elected Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, declaring,
“Australians will stand beside our own
to help and defend her to our last man
and our last shilling”.
As it so happened, those 'last Australian shillings’ that Fisher was spending were not struck locally in Australia but were minted in London, at the Royal Mint.
Though Federation occurred in 1901, the Melbourne Mint and the Sydney Mint lacked the required facilities to strike Australia’s newly founded Commonwealth coinage. From 1910, the Royal Mint London was contracted to strike our currency.
Conscription and munitions work diminished the Royal Mint’s manpower, so assistance was sought from the privately owned Heaton Mint in Birmingham, to ensure Australia’s currency requirements could be met.
The Heaton Mint struck Australia's Florins in 1914 and 1915 and Shillings in 1915 each coin with the distinctive ‘H’ above the date declaring its ties to the mint in Birmingham. In such a highly-charged wartime environment with little regard for the finer things in life, it was nonsensical to contemplate that proofs might have been struck.
That is, until sixty years later when a small cache of flawless mint-state presentation pieces were discovered by Heaton Mint staff in their vaults, their hibernation in a strictly static, controlled environment fostering a beautiful olive steel/grey patina. In perfect environmental conditions, they were preserved in all their just-minted glory.
The Birmingham Mint Museum disseminated the examples found in the hoard over the period 1981 to 1984, through Spink & Sons London.
• Four examples of the 1914H Florin are known. Three examples were released into the Australian market on separate occasions in 1982, 1984 and 1985 through public auctions held by Spink and Son Australia. A fourth example (the coin under offer) was sold privately by Spink and Son London.
• Two examples of the 1915H Shilling and two examples of the 1915H Florin are known. The coins we are selling were first offered at auction in Australia in 1984 and regarded as the finest of their type.
Proof 1914 Florin, Heaton Mint, FDC
Highly reflective brilliant surfaces. Sharply struck with brilliant iridescent surfaces. Striation marks reflect heavy die preparation.
Proof 1915 Shilling, Heaton Mint, FDC
With full brilliance and an absolute gem and the finest of the two known.
Proof 1915 Florin, Heaton Mint, FDC
With full brilliance and an absolute gem, the finest of the two known.