Though it is not the rarest Australian coin, the 1930 bronze penny has attained legendary status thanks to its uncertain history.
An example being offered in Downies Australian Coin Auctions’ July 8 to 10 auction is notable for something else, however.
The holed example of the famed rarity was worn during World War II by an Australian Digger (soldier), who carried the piece with his “dog tags.” The soldier “knew it was a rare coin and placed great faith in it bringing him good luck,” according to the auction firm.
“He and his regimental unit mates called it his ‘Lucky Penny’ and he attributed it to getting him through the war and home alive.”
That genuine example of the circulating coin, which is one of perhaps as many as 700 known to exist today, is estimated at $1,250 in Australian funds.
It's estimate is less than one-tenth the $15,000 estimate for a Good Fine example (without holes) in the lot preceding it. The story of the holed version, though, may also attract bidders.
What makes the 1930 penny so valuable?
Melbourne Mint documents do not record an official mintage of 1930 pennies, but experts suggest one theory, that tour guides at the facility had access to a few dies for the 1930 penny and used them to demonstrate the minting process. Visitors could then acquire examples of the 1930 penny by exchanging one of their pennies for the new coin.
Another theory states that the 1930 pennies were experimental pieces that were set aside. When the 1931 order for coins arrived, because the order didn’t specify a date, the 1930 cents were shipped with the 1931 coins.
Whatever the reason for the coin’s striking, amidst the Great Depression even a penny was a lot of money, and that’s why most of the surviving circulation examples are found with wear.
Estimates of the surviving number of circulation examples top out at around 700. Six Proof examples are also reported to exist, according to researchers.