World Coins

1916 Australian-Indian mule error coin is sold Oct. 5

A rare “mule” of a 1916 Australian halfpenny with an quarter-anna of India was recently discovered and sold in a private sale in Australia.

Images courtesy of Professional Coin Grading Service.

A coin that represents two denominations and two countries has sold in Australia.

The 1916 Australia halfpenny “mule” coin was sold by Roxbury’s Auction House for $43,920 Australian ($29,691 U.S.), including the 22 percent buyer’s fee, following the firm’s Oct. 5 auction in Brisbane, Queensland. 

A mule is a coin created by two dies that were not meant to be paired together. In this case, the coin was struck using an obverse die meant for quarter-anna coins of India and a reverse die for the Australian halfpenny. 

The die for the coin from India references King George V as emperor, instead of the Australia die’s legend, which includes BRITT as a reference to his rule over Britain. 

The coin recently sold is an apparent new discovery for the known variety, according to Roxbury’s. 

During World War I, high demand in Australia for pennies and halfpennies led to their being struck in India at the Calcutta Mint, which was then a British commonwealth mint. 

No Australian mints had the machinery capable of striking large copper penny or halfpenny coins until 1919.

A small number of Australian halfpennies in 1916 were accidentally struck with the wrong die pairing and went into circulation. By the time one was discovered by Cecil Poole in 1965, most of the 1916 halfpennies had been worn out or melted.

The coin in the 2019 auction was found in a tin in a shed, by a family cleaning up after their father died. The consignor (a family) is from Northern New South Wales.

Bob and Jacqui Innes, the principles of the auction house, advised the family to submit the coin for third-party grading, “so that it would give our buyers more confidence in bidding,” and the coin was graded Very Fine 35 Brown by Professional Coin Grading Service. 

Discovering the rarity

The first example of the mule coin surfaced July 8, 1965, when Cecil Poole presented the example he found, the discovery piece, to the July meeting of the Numismatic Society of South Australia. 

By Oct. 9, 1965, the population had grown to four examples, the firm said. 

According to research published in 2009 by Australian numismatic researcher Andrew Crellin, from Sterling & Currency in Western Australia, possibly eight other examples of this rarity are known, making it Australia’s rarest Commonwealth coin issued for circulation.

The research is published here

Selling the latest find

The 2019 find was sold to a private client, the firm said. 

Five bidders (one phone, one absentee) participated during the auction, but the coin failed to meet the reserve. 

“Although a very rare coin, it is only worth what someone will pay and with five Bidders negotiating that’s all the market perceived to be at in the present economic climate,” the firm told Coin World.

“As you are well aware the Australian Numismatic market has taken a hammering in the past six years with two major numismatic companies and several auction companies going into liquidation. This on top of forever changing rule in Superannuation Funds has made investing in numismatics more difficult for clients and hence reluctance to buy these items at top prices.”

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