The unique Proof 1921 Star Shilling

The unique Proof 1921 Star Shilling struck as a Presentation Piece at the Sydney Mint
The unique Proof 1921 Star Shilling struck as a Presentation Piece at the Sydney Mint
Sold 13/10/2022
Spink Auctions March April 1984 Lot 607, Spink Auctions March 1988 Lot 1167, Barrie Winsor Collection
This Proof 1921 Star Shilling is unique. And this Proof 1921 Star Shilling is acknowledged as one of the ‘great' coins of Australian numismatics. And that's a powerful combination. The ultimate rarity and the ultimate standing. Great coins capture the 'big moments' in history. They are the story tellers. And they are either, a proof striking of a coin that was struck for circulation. Or they are a pattern, a test piece of a coin that never went into circulation. The Proof 1930 Penny comes immediately to mind as one of the industry's great coins. So too, the 1937 Pattern Penny. The 1920 Kookaburra Halfpenny. And this coin, the Proof 1921 Star Shilling. To add to their greatness, they are excessively rare. The Proof 1930 Penny is one of three in private hands. The 1937 Pattern Penny one of seven privately held. The Kookaburra Halfpenny is one of three known. And this Proof 1921 Star Shilling, is the ultimate in rarity, it is unique. To offer this coin is a privilege. To own this coin and claim it as your own, is an even greater privilege. The technical shots (see READ MORE section) confirm the glorious state of this coin.
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The Proof 1921 Star Shilling has a brilliant reverse, reminiscent of the unique Proof 1920 Shilling (ex A. M. Le Souef and Syd Hagley) sold by Coinworks in 2012. Note the definitive star above the date.


The denticles in the rim have been struck twice, proving that more than one blow from the dies were required to strike the coin sharply as was the case when minting proofs.

The Star Shilling is iconic, one of Australia’s rarest shillings struck at the Sydney Mint from dies produced at the Royal Mint London.

Apart from an extremely low mintage of circulation coins, two proof pieces were produced.

One is held in the Museum of Victoria. The second piece, this coin, is the only known example in private hands.

The inclusion of the ‘star’ above the date reflected the intention of the Australian Government to reduce the silver content of its coinage.

Rapidly rising silver prices in 1919 prompted Governments around the world to review the metal content of their coinage.

Britain abandoned 800 years of tradition when the country reduced the silver content of its currency from sterling silver to an alloy of 50%.

Canada acted similarly moving from a sterling silver standard down to 80% while British West Africa dropped silver issues altogether in favour of nickel coins.

This Proof 1921 Star Shilling last appeared at public auction more than thirty years ago, at the very famous Spink March 1988 Auction. It was offered as lot 1167.

In Australia’s complete numismatic history, the March '88 auction has never been outdone for its offering of Australia’s top coin rarities. A yardstick for what constitutes the very best of Australia’s rare coins. And a yardstick for prices.

1988 was the nation's bicentenary year, and in a numismatic celebration, Spink London used all its contacts to garner the very best of the best of Australia’s coins to offer to local collectors.

Holey Dollars. The Madrid. The Hannibal Head. The unique Ferdinand VI. And other Holey Dollars making eleven in total. And the Sir Marcus Clark Dump. The famous 1920 Square Halfpenny. The 1919 Pattern Shilling. 1920 and 1921 Florin and Shillings. And the 1937 Patterns. And this coin, the Proof 1921 Star Shilling. All appeared in the March 1988 Bicentenary Auction.

That rare coins do deliver solid growth over the long term is exemplified in the Proof Star Shilling. The coin sold for $9500 in March 1988. And today is offered at twelve times that amount.

And the ratio of 12:1 from 1988 to today is not an aberration. It is in line with the price movement of other coins sold in the March 1988 Auction.

We have always been excited by the Proof 1921 Star Shilling and mentioned our offering to Greg McDonald, numismatic luminary and literary giant.

Greg has always been very forthcoming with his knowledge and he provided us with a sneak preview of a book that he has been working on  … the Essential Reference to Australian Coins and Banknotes. We were particularly interested in chapter 32, Pre-decimal Commonwealth Proof, Specimen and Pattern Coins and his feature of the Proof 1921 Star Shilling.

Greg notes that the Proof 1921 Star Shilling was likely minted at the request of A. M. Le Souef, Deputy Master of the Melbourne Mint who also happened to be a passionate collector of silver coins.

Greg also commented on the Proof Star Shilling's excessively rare, unique, collector status.

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PO Box 1060 Hawksburn Victoria Australia 3142

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