The 1930 Penny
The 1930 Penny is a part of Australian folklore. The coin is a national icon and its star status has made it one of Australia’s most valuable coins.
What is most interesting is that the 1930 Penny stumbled into fame. A review of records at the Melbourne Mint confirms that apart from the six 1930 Pennies struck to proof quality, no pennies were struck for circulation in that year.
Many theories have been put forward as to the accidental minting of the 1930 Penny. One theory suggests that a few circulating strikes may have been minted at the same time as the Proof version, set aside and inadvertently issued years later by mistake.
The more popular explanation is also the more romantic. Mint policy dictated that the dies were prepared in readiness for the striking of a penny in 1930. The Depression and the lack of economic growth meant that, apart from striking a small number of halfpennies and gold sovereigns, the Melbourne Mint became a tourist attraction. It is thought that a mint guide minted small batches of 1930 pennies for tourists as souvenirs of their visit.
The suspected mintage is about 1500 coins.
The accidental minting of the 1930 Penny was not discovered until the 1940s, dealers responding to the discovery by offering to pay up to 10/- for an example. However, it was not until the 1960s that the 1930 Penny became a national symbol. Newspapers were instrumental in creating that image, television played a lesser role.
Lists of Australian coins and their market prices and headlines such as “Have you cashed in on Australia’s coin craze yet?” and “A Penny could be worth £500” appeared in the 60s in the daily newspapers. The nation’s rare coin market reacted in a frenzy as thousands cashed in on the opportunity to make big money.
In 1964, the Sydney Sunday Telegraph published a guide to the latest prices on Australian coins. It was the first time that such a list had been published and, while most pennies were fetching a small premium over face value, the 1930 Penny was listed at £50 in Fine condition. (Today that same coin would be worth close to $25,000.)
By 1965, a Fine 1930 Penny had more than doubled in price to £120. By decimal changeover, the price had moved to £255 ($510) and the 1930 Penny had captured the imagination of collectors and non-collectors alike.
Before the arrival of decimal currency in 1966, no Australian could look at a penny without glancing at the date just in case it was the elusive ‘1930’. A product of the Depression, it was everyone’s chance to make big money fast.
The craze was driven on the one hand by the lure of quick money and on the other by the pressure of the collector market for supplies. Decimal currency changeover posed an imminent and very real danger to coin collectors - the melting down of undiscovered rare pieces. Collectors keen to complete sets of all coins minted in Australia rushed to acquire the elusive pieces at rapidly escalating prices.
We are well into the decimal era now, so no one checks for pennies in schoolyards anymore. The backs of old couches and the deep recesses of old furniture are still to this day routinely checked. .
For many Australians the journey to acquire the 1930 Penny still goes on and it is to this day, Australia's favourite currency collectible.
Useful information for 1930 Penny buyers
For a lot of Australians, acquiring a 1930 Penny fulfills a lifetime’s ambition, a desire that began in childhood.
The first step in the task of acquiring a 1930 Penny is to set your budget.
1930 Pennies are available in price ranges to suit all budgets, starting at $20,000 for a well circulated example.
A 1930 Penny, that to the naked eye, has its design details relatively intact, will be graded Very Fine and will be priced upwards of $45,000.
A coin that has undergone minimal circulation, graded Good Very Fine or better, is extremely rare (perhaps forty to fifty would be available) and will be priced upwards of $65,000. The finest 1930 Penny is graded at About Uncirculated and is valued at $450,000-plus.
The best advice we can give potential 1930 Penny buyers is that irrespective of the quality level and the price, acquire a 1930 Penny that is visually very attractive and that has no obvious defects from its time in circulation.
The 1930 Penny was not discovered until the 1940s, allowing at least a decade of circulation before collectors even knew of their existence.
Which means that most of the 1930 Pennies had been handled, mishandled, dropped, scratched, or rattled around in change.
Do not accept the huge unsightly gouge. Or the massive edge knock. There will always be some signs of circulation with a 1930 Penny, but if they overwhelm the overall aesthetics of the coin, then in our view, do not buy it.
Storage, how well a coin has been preserved, is also a contributing factor to the value of a 1930 Penny. If there are tell-tale signs of poor storage, the coin should be knocked back.
The very reason why we reject more 1930 Pennies than we accept.
Our attitude with 1930 Pennies is clear. There are a number of 1930 Pennies around, but not all of them are worth having.