A special place in Australia's history
The 1852 Adelaide Pound holds a very special place in Australia's history as the nation's first gold coin. It was minted in November 1852 at the Government Assay Office, Adelaide using gold that had been brought from the Victorian gold fields.
Minted by authority of the Bullion Act of 1852, coin production commenced in November of that year and finished in February 1853 when the Act expired. South Australia produced just over 24,000 coins in that short three-month time-frame.
The Assay office had opened months earlier on 10 February 1852, its sole purpose 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. While they conformed to a shape and style, they were crude and rough and ready and each had its own unique shape and size depending on the weight of gold assayed.
Nine months later, following agitation from Adelaide’s business community, legislation was passed that authorised the Government Assay Office to strike gold coins.
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 intention was that the Adelaide Pound would circulate. And be used in every day commercial transactions, as part of a grand plan by South Australia's Governor, Sir Henry Young, to stimulate his state's ailing economy. The coin was never given kid gloves treatment during the production process.
It was struck in what can only be described as a factory, hammered out and hurled down an assembly line, more than likely into a barrel or bucket.
How this coin survived the production process, and more than a century and a half later is still in an almost original state with lustre on both obverse and reverse, is almost impossible to fathom.