News & Views

The 'King' of Australian coin rarities laid bare. Coinworks continues its style of educating collectors with our latest article on the legendary 1930 Penny. We highlight the technical features that define Australia's favourite copper rarity.

1930 Penny aEF rev Large n&v feature

Australia’s 1930 Penny is legendary. It is the nation’s glamour rare coin.

Unrivalled for popularity, the 1930 Penny enjoys a constant stream of demand unmatched by any other numismatic rarity. It is an industry phenomenon, for in a market that is quality focused it is interesting to note that the 1930 Penny is keenly sought irrespective of its quality ranking.

And growth over the mid to long term has been significant across all quality levels.

The 1930 Penny was selling for £50 in the 1950s. A decade later, by decimal changeover, the coin was fetching £255 ($510). By 1988, Australia's Bicentenary, the 1930 Penny reached $6000.

The turn of the century saw 1930 Penny prices move to $13,000.

And with a 100th anniversary just over a decade away, the push to acquire Australia’s favourite Penny is already on. 

A coin to suit all budgets

Melbourne Mint records reveal that the 1930 Penny was never struck. And while many theories have been put forward as to how it was inadvertently minted and released into circulation, no one really knows how and why.

What is known is that its striking was an accident that was discovered by collectors in the 1940s. 

That the 1930 Penny underwent at least ten years of circulation before it was discovered means that surviving examples show wear.

The coins were used. With the majority, very well used.

The raised areas of the design, the high points, are the first elements to show wear during circulation and for the 1930 Penny, the high points are the king's crown on the obverse of the coin.

How soon into its life the 1930 Penny became a collectable, and was taken out of circulation, determines its price.

The Classic 1930 Penny

The most popular entry point for 1930 Penny buyers is the $25,000 - $30,000 range.

That’s an entry level that will deliver the 'Classic' 1930 Penny.

A coin that is technically classified from ‘Fine’ up to ‘Good Fine’ on the obverse (the King’s head) and classified a higher quality ranking on the reverse (the 1930 side). Six pearls will be evident in the King’s Crown.

In summary, the 'Classic' 1930 Penny is a well circulated but evenly toned piece and overall, aesthetically pleasing. 

1930 Penny good Fine Classic BAND n&v june 2017 1

The Diamond 1930 Penny

The next most popular entry level for 1930 buyers is the $35,000 - $60,000 range. That’s a level that will deliver the ‘Diamond’ 1930 Penny.

A coin that is technically classified from ‘About Very Fine’ up to ‘Very Fine’ with the central diamond in the Kings Crown evident. Six pearls will also be present in the Crown.

In summary, the 'Diamond' 1930 Penny became a collectable earlier in its life than the 'Classic'. Evenly toned and again, overall aesthetically pleasing.

1930 Penny VF Diamond BAND

The Diamond and Pearl 1930 Penny

The buyer seeking extreme exclusivity and extreme rarity can look to a financial commitment of $75,000 and up to $250,000. That’s a level that, subject to availability, will deliver the ‘Diamond and Pearl’ 1930 Penny. 

A coin that is technically classified from ‘Good Very Fine’ up to ‘About Uncirculated’ with a complete and strong central diamond that almost leaps out of the coin. Eight pearls are evident in the King’s Crown in varying degrees of strength.

This is an elite coin that became a collectable very early in its life and is of the highest rarity. Waiting lists are the norm for a 1930 Penny of this calibre.

The 1930 Penny is a part of Australian folklore

The 1930 Penny is a national icon and its star status has made it one of Australia’s most valuable coins.

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 accidental minting of the 1930 Penny was not discovered until the 1940s. Dealers responded to the discovery by offering to pay up to 10/- for an example.

However, it wasn’t 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 more than $20,000).

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.

The craze was fuelled 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.

What’s most interesting is that the 1930 Penny stumbled into fame. It was the coin that was never meant to be struck.

Officially the 1930 Penny was never struck and a review of minting records at the Melbourne Mint confirms that no pennies were struck for circulation in that year. The mint does however have a record of the six Proof 1930 Pennies that were struck as museum pieces.

Many theories have been put forward as to the accidental minting of the 1930 Penny. One theory postulates 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 1500 to 2000.

There are no pennies being checked in schoolyards anymore, but for many collectors the journey to acquire our most famous penny still goes on.


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