Acquired in 1995 by a Melbourne collector, this coin has been stored by Coinworks, in a bank vault since the day it was bought and is superb for quality. The surfaces are mirror-like, a trait that is seldom if ever seen.
No one could have envisaged in 1919 when the Australian Labor Government directed the mint master of the Melbourne Mint to strike the Square Penny that the coin would one day become a world class rarity.
The Square Pennies were test pieces.
Tests commenced at the Melbourne Mint in 1919 and continued until 1921 with the test pieces ultimately passed to dignitaries and Government officials to assess their reaction. History indicates that over the three-year period 200 pieces, of various designs, were produced.
They were not struck to the exacting standards of proof coining. Given to dignitaries to assess their reaction, there was no protective packaging and we know that not every dignitary was a collector and would have handled them with care.
This 1920 Square Penny has been well struck, the edges are uniform and the design highly detailed. Visually impactful, the coin has superb proof-like surfaces, most unusual for a coin struck from cupro-nickel.
The response to Australia’s square coinage was poor. There was widespread public resistance to change, while the elderly rejected the small size of the coins.
However, the final decision not to proceed seems to have been based mainly on another consideration – the large number of vending machines then in operation requiring a circular coin.
The impetus for change was further eroded when William Watt, the most influential advocate of the nickel kookaburras, suddenly resigned his position as Treasurer before the necessary regulations were in place.
The kookaburra coins never went into production and Australia lost a great opportunity to go its own way.
But with only the 200 prototypes to show as evidence of the Government’s grand scheme, Australian coinage gained another wonderful collector piece. And a prized coin rarity.