The Type I, 1852 Adelaide One Pound minted in the very first production run of the nation's first gold coin. Of the highest rarity and historical significance. .

The Type I, 1852 Adelaide One Pound minted in the very first production run of the nation's first gold coin. Of the highest rarity and historical significance. .
The Type I, 1852 Adelaide One Pound minted in the very first production run of the nation's first gold coin. Of the highest rarity and historical significance. .
SOLD 29/9/2023
About Uncirculated and as such, one of the finest
Private Collection Melbourne
The One Pound was the nation’s first gold coin struck in 1852 at Adelaide's Government Assay Office, twelve months after gold was discovered in Victoria. Two distinct One Pound types are available to buyers, the Type I from the first production run or the Type II from the second run. The first production run of Adelaide Pounds utilised a reverse die that had a beaded inner-circle as part of its design. Its usage was brief. The die cracked. And was replaced with a new die that had a completely different design, a style that was maintained for the entire second run. Because it was brief, coins from the first production run are extremely rare. Second production run coins are scarce, but nowhere near the exclusivity of those from the first production run. This Type I Adelaide Pound is a prized piece with four key characteristics that make it ripe for investment. Supreme quality. Extreme rarity. The ultimate historical standing of being the nation's first gold coin produced in the very first production run. And a conservative price. The technical shots below confirm the glorious state of this coin.
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Two designs. Two production runs. Two degrees of rarity.

Gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851. And while the natural assumption might be that it would bring wealth to all, the mass departure of people (and money) to the Victorian gold fields pushed the colony of South Australia to the brink of bankruptcy.

The Governor of South Australia devised a two-part solution to the crisis. Pay an over the top price for Victorian gold and finance its overland transportation back to Adelaide. And using a loophole in the Currency Act pass legislation (The Bullion Act) that would allow the production of gold coins, circumventing the requirement for Royal approval.

Local jeweller and engraver Joshua Payne created the dies, the obverse with the issuing authority - Government Assay Office Adelaide - encircling a crown and the date. The reverse declared the fineness and weight encircling it's one pound value.

Payne confirmed that he had prepared two differently styled reverse dies. The design of the obverse die, featuring a central crown, remaining unchanged throughout the entire minting process.

The first production run. Modest with less than 100 coins.

The One Pound coin was struck on 23 September 1852: the first gold coinage for the colony of South Australia and the first for the nation.

The coin was struck using a reverse die that featured stylish lettering and a simple, elegant beaded inner-circle.

Only a minuscule number of coins were produced before a crack developed in the die, in the 'DWT' section of the legend, forcing an interruption to production. And the hasty preparation of a replacement die.

The second production run. Substantial with more than 24,000 coins.

Under pressure to resume production, Joshua Payne opted for a simpler version of the first reverse die, the legend and value in plain lettering. He also changed the design of the inner border, duplicating that already in place on the crown side.

Production resumed with the second die and a further 24,000-plus coins minted, referred to as the Type II One Pounds.

There were two upsides to the disaster that occurred during the first production run of Adelaide Pounds.

• The first upside. While the pressure exerted on the edges cracked the reverse die, that same pressure resulted in the coin having almost perfect edges, beautiful strong denticles framing the central crown design.

• The second upside. Because the coin was considered 'imperfect' very few examples were put aside as souvenirs, making high quality Type I Adelaide Pounds extremely scarce. Most Type I Adelaide Pounds have circulated with the biggest proportion, more than fifty per cent, well circulated and in a quality level of poor to Good Very Fine. The reality is that out of the pool of Type I One Pounds available to collectors, perhaps five or six are in the premium quality levels of About Uncirculated to Uncirculated, this coin being one of them.

Ultimately, it was the decision to change the design of the reverse die that is momentous.

By producing two distinctly different dies Joshua Payne clearly distinguished between those coins struck in the modest first run. And those from the more substantial second run.

In so doing Payne created a rarity of the highest order, the Gold One Pound struck during the very first production run, better known as the Type I One Pound.

Today there are less than forty Type I Gold One Pounds in collector’s hands. And perhaps six times that figure of the Type II examples.

Both rare. But the Type I One Pound, particularly at the quality level of this coin, is excruciatingly rare.


The Type 1 1852 Adelaide One Pound - obverse
A lustrous example with strength in the legend and strength in the edges. And in the top five to six surviving examples.


The Type 1 1852 Adelaide One Pound - reverse
A simple, elegant beaded inner-circle abutted by two lines defines the reverse and identifies this coin as coming from the first production run.


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The icons below clearly show the different designs of the 1852 Adelaide Pound reverse die.


Reverse of the Type I


Reverse of the Type II

The history of the 1852 Adelaide Pound

The discovery of gold in the 1850s is one of the most extraordinary chapters in Australian history, transforming the economy. And transforming our society for it marked the beginnings of a modern multi-cultural Australia instigated by mass migration, particularly from China.  

Several coins were spawned by the Gold Rush, including our first gold coin, the 1852 Adelaide Pound.

It was struck in Adelaide at the South Australian Government Assay Office without the sanction of the British Government or the approval of Queen Victoria.

To validate their actions in circumventing Royal protocols, the South Australian Legislators found a loophole in the Government’s regulations and passed the Bullion Act, that allowed them to create their own mint and strike gold ingots. And eventually strike gold coins.

The Bullion Act No 1 of 1852 has a record unique in Australian history. A special session of Parliament was convened to consider it. Parliament met at noon on the 28 January 1852.

The Bill was read and promptly passed three readings and was then forwarded to the Lieutenant Governor and immediately received his assent. It was one of the quickest pieces of legislation on record, with the whole proceedings taking less than two hours.

Thirteen days after the passing of the Act, on 10 February 1852, the Government Assay office was opened. Its activities were supported by a state government initiative to provide armed escorts to bring back the gold from the Victorian diggings.

The Assay Office was effectively Australia's first mint, be it unofficial. Its sole purpose was to assay gold nuggets brought from the Victorian goldfields and to re-shape them into ingots. No minting expertise was required in the casting of the ingots.

Nine months later, following agitation from Adelaide’s business community, legislation was passed that authorised the Government Assay Office to strike gold coins. Within a week of opening, 600 gold Adelaide Pounds had been delivered to the South Australian Banking Company, 100 of which were sent to London.

Suddenly precision was required. The design was intricate, created by colonial die sinker and engraver, Joshua Payne. So, it was always going to be a tough ask for a factory to start churning out currency to a defined weight and design.

The Bullion Act had a lifetime of only twelve months.

By the time the legislative amendments were passed to enact the production of gold coins, the Act had less than three months to run. As a consequence, only a small number of Adelaide Pounds were struck and very few actually circulated. The official and recorded mintage of the nation’s first gold coin, the 1852 Adelaide Pound, was 24,648.

When it was discovered that the intrinsic value of the gold contained in each piece exceeded its nominal value, the vast majority were promptly exported to London and melted down.

The 1852 Adelaide Pound was as unofficial as you could get but it saved the colony of South Australia from bankruptcy. A simple case where the end justified the means.


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