We have always held the 1860 Aborigine Threepence in the highest regard.
It is the earliest numismatic depiction of an Aboriginal Australian and is a piece of cultural significance. And of tremendous national significance.
Furthermore, it is rare. Only seven other pieces are known.
The Marcus Clark Aborigine Threepence is in a class all on its own as it is the absolute finest example of the Aborigine Threepence, in mint-state and proof-like.
The first public appearance of this Aborigine Threepence occurred in July 1954 when James R. Lawson Auctioneers sold the collection of the late Sir Marcus Clark KBE. His 1860 Aborigine Threepence was placed in the sale alongside his Holey Dollar and Dump, such was the respect with which it was held.
Selling for £38, the Aborigine Threepence fetched more than twice that of Clark's Extremely Fine Dump that sold for £18. (The Dump is today held with a Coinworks client residing in Perth and is valued in excess of $100,000.)
At £38, the Aborigine Threepence fetched nearly double that of Clark's Extremely Fine 1852 Adelaide Pound Cracked Die (£20) which today would be valued at $150,000-plus.
The potential of the Aborigine Threepence is further highlighted by the realisation of Sir Marcus Clark's Ferdinand VII Holey Dollar in the same 1954 Lawson Auction. Struck on an 1809 Ferdinand VII Spanish Silver Dollar, the coin sold for £72. (That very same coin was sold by Coinworks in 2018 for $440,000.)
Marcus Clark's Aborigine Threepence was auctioned again twenty seven years later, and in a fiercely contested bidding war, sold for $23,000 on a pre-auction estimate of $12,500.
The 1860 Aborigine Threepence was minted by jewellers Julius Hogarth and Conrad Erichsen. Scandinavian citizens, Hogarth was a sculptor and silversmith. Erichsen an engraver.
Both migrated to Australia to make their fortunes on the gold fields reaching Sydney on 11 December 1852. Failing to realise their ambitions, they utilised their skills and went into partnership as silversmiths opening their first enterprise at 255 George Street Sydney.
The firm quickly gained a reputation in the development of ‘Australiana’ themed decoration on metalwork and jewellery, which actively promoted the use of indigenous Australian floral and faunal elements and indigenous figures.
Hogarth & Erichsen achieved great success during the 1850s notably through the vice-regal patronage of Governors Young and Denison.
The works of Hogarth and Erichsen are revered and are held by the following institutions, to name but a few.
• The National Library of Australia, Canberra
• The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
• The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
• The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Hogarth & Erichsen were numismatic trailblazers when in 1860 they created the Aborigine Threepence.
It would be another one hundred and twenty-eight years before Australia would acknowledge the contribution of Aboriginal Australians to our society when a portrait of a tribal elder appeared on the nation's Two Dollar coins created especially for the Bicentenary in 1988.