Throughout history, governments have recognised the political advantage of depicting major events on coins. The opening of Canberra's Parliament House in 1927. The celebration of fifty years since Federation, in 1951. The Royal Visit in 1954. To name but three!
Very public events that were recorded on our currency.
But, not every moment becomes a 'currency' event. In fact, great historical eras in Australia’s history might have gone unnoticed without our Pattern coinage.
So, what is a ‘pattern’ coin?
Pattern coins are test pieces, coins that were struck by the mints to obtain government approval or to assess public reaction. For various reasons, the coins never went into production so they represent what ‘might have been’.
And they are critical to presenting a nation’s complete history. They essentially fill in the gaps.
Their extreme popularity with collectors relates to their scarcity. They are amongst Australia’s rarest coins.
Consider the Patterns of 1937, coins that were produced with brand new Australian designs and the portrait of Edward VIII. Edwards abdication resulted in the obverse portrait being tooled off. And the coins never went into production.
Historically important, Australia’s 1937 Pattern coins are the only evidence of Edward’s very brief and eventful reign.
The Kookaburra Square Penny and Square Halfpenny. The Government hoped that a uniquely Australian coinage would arouse a strong national spirit and weaken our ties with Great Britain. It’s a move today’s Republican movement would heartily applaud.
The kookaburra coins never went into production but the coins that are the legacy of this era (1919 to 1921) are much sought after collectors items.
The period 1918 to 1921 produced some of Australia's great coin rarities, including this 1919 Pattern Shilling. And the 1920 Star Florin.
The price of silver was fluctuating wildly at the time and, despite being a silver producing nation, Australia was rocked by the price rise and forced to reassess the silver content of its currency.
The Melbourne Mint trialed a reduced silver alloy and the 1919 shilling was struck as a consequence.
The cost of silver became so prohibitive in 1919 that no shillings were struck.