1920 Square Penny Type 7

1920 Square Penny Type 7
1920 Square Penny Type 7
Choice Uncirculated. Proof-like surfaces. Uniform edges.
Private Collection Melbourne
EXTREMELY RARE. YET RELATIVELY AVAILABLE. Five words that sum up the overwhelming popularity of the 1920 Type 7 Square Penny. Now if that sounds like a contradiction in terms ... rare yet available ... let us explain. The Type 7 is known by perhaps 12 examples. Now we know that twelve Type 7s are never going to be slapped onto the table in one hit and offered for sale at the one time, so how often can a buyer realistically expect to see a 1920 Type 7 on the market? Our research confirms that you might expect to be offered a Type 7 Square Penny once every two to three years. Which goes back to our opening comment that the Type 7 Square Penny is EXTREMELY RARE. Now let’s expand upon our second comment of YET RELATIVELY AVAILABLE for it is the combination of both points, the rarity and its availability, that is the key to the Type 7's popularity. And its affordable price.
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The Square Pennies were struck in 1919, 1920 and 1921 at the Melbourne Mint.

One of the most popular means of collecting the Kookaburra coins is to acquire ONE coin from each year. One from 1919. One from 1920. And one from 1921.

And the year 1920 is a tricky one.

  • Five designs were tested in 1920 and they are referred to as the Type 7, Type 8, Type 9, Type 10 and Type 13.
  • Forget the Type 13 because the only known examples are held in the Museum of Victoria.
  • The Type 8 is one of the rarest in the entire series and we estimate four examples are known. Expect to pay around $180,000 to $200,000 if - and when - the coin becomes available. Waiting time could be anything up to ten years.
  • We estimate that seven examples of the Type 9 and Type 10 are available, which translates into a waiting time of up to five to six years.
  • And the price tags on the Type 9 and Type 10 are onerous to most collectors, the Type 9 is around the $200,000 mark. And the Type 10, featuring the crowned head portrait of King George V available at a figure close to $400,000.

Buyers don't want to wait ten years. And buyers don't necessarily want to outlay $180,000-plus for a coin.

When you weigh the challenges of acquiring a 1920 Square Penny is it any wonder that the Type 7 is the most popular choice.

Now for a bit of history ...

The rumblings of a Republican movement were heard in 1919 when the Australian Labor Government decided to discard the traditional British penny and halfpenny designs and replace the coins with square coinage featuring the kookaburra.

The change to incorporate Australia's native bird onto our coinage was politically motivated.


A wave of nationalism was sweeping the country post World War I and the Government saw political advantage in tapping into the mood of the people by introducing a uniquely Australian flavour to our coinage.

A kookaburra design and the depiction of the monarch without a crown were two of the elements of the new coinage that while highly contentious and provocative, the Government believed would be accepted.

A new metal was also used. The square kookaburra coins were tested in cupro-nickel.  

Trials 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.

It is believed that over the three year period 200 pieces, of various designs, were produced.

The response to Australia’s square coinage was however 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.

For many collectors the fascination with the Square Penny and Halfpenny takes them on a journey to acquire more than one example. The coins are engaging and their rarity offers collectors the challenge they so often seek.

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