The Proof 1930 Penny is the world’s most valuable copper coin of the modern era. Its pricing is on a par with Australia’s other famous coin rarity, the 1920 Sydney Mint Sovereign. Both coins have cracked the million dollar mark, the 1930 Penny in 2011 and the sovereign more recently in 2013.
Melbourne Mint records confirm that six Proof 1930 Pennies were struck.
Three are held privately, one in Melbourne with the remaining two in Sydney. The three publicly held specimens are located in the British Museum, the Museum of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Belinda Downie celebrated the purchase and sale of her first Proof 1930 Penny in 1997. It was acquired at a Melbourne public auction and later sold to the owner of the Madrid Collection for $147,500.
A second Proof 1930 Penny came up at auction in 1999. This example had been formerly housed in the British Museum. Acting on the instructions of a Victorian buyer the coin was acquired for $258,750. The same coin came back into Coinworks hands in 2005, when it was sold to a Sydney family for $620,000. And where it still resides.
Downie sold her third Proof 1930 Penny in 2011 for 1.05 million. This example had a long and exemplary history having been owned by one of the industry’s great collectors and a pioneer of the rare coin industry, Syd Hagley.
In an interview conducted late in 2010, a colleague of Sydney Hagley recalled being offered the coin for just £300 in 1964. He declined the offer simply because he couldn’t afford it at the time.
His misfortune became clear in 1974 when the coin sold at auction in Los Angeles for $16,000 as part of the famed Dr Paxman Collection. The under bidder at the time, now retired rare coin dealer Laurie Nugent, still recalls his bitter disappointment at missing out on the famous penny. He eventually acquired it in 1981.
In 1982, the Proof 1930 Penny’s star status was confirmed when Australian nursing home magnate Doug Moran bought it for a reported $100,000. For Moran, it was a matter of national pride – he declared that the coin was so important it should never leave Australian shores.
The Hagley specimen was offered at public auction in 2000, where it was picked up by a Melbourne collector for $281,750.
In 2011, Coinworks was commissioned to sell the coin privately. The sale was completed in that year for $1.05 million.
The Proof 1930 Penny is referred to in the press as the ‘King of Australian coin rarities’. And with good reason. The coin has generated a strong emotional attachment that goes far beyond its numismatic worth. It exemplifies a national pride that has given it, as an object of Australiana, a much broader place in history.