World Coins

Most well known Australian rarity in auction

An example of Australia’s most well known rare coin is offered in International Auction Galleries’ April 23 auction in Queensland.

Coin images courtesy of International Auction Galleries.

Though it is not the rarest Australian coin, the 1930 penny has attained legendary status. 

One of the more “affordable” examples of this key date in the Australian series highlights sale No. 83 for International Auction Galleries, scheduled for April 23 in Queensland. 

The example is graded Good Fine to About Very Fine according to the firm and carries an estimate of $17,000 to $17,500 Australian (about $13,092 to $13,477 U.S.).

Connect with Coin World:  

The example offered April 23 has a “nice strong reverse, and good rim” and is “a better than average example of this rare key date issue.”

Australia’s bronze 1930 penny has gained both notoriety and popularity for its uncertain history. 

“The 1930 penny is undoubtedly Australia’s most well-known rare coin,” wrote Andrew Crellin in the June 2002 issue of the Australasian Coin & Banknote magazine. “Its rarity has reached an urban myth-like status, yet even the sharpest numismatic historian will not be able to precisely explain just why so few were minted,” Crellin wrote.

The general public became aware of the scarcity of the 1930 penny, and the coin became the object of frequent coin searches, write Tom Hanley and Bill James in Collecting Australian Coins.

“... The back-pocket bonanza that has brought people to coin collecting in Australia like Barnum & Bailey brought them to the circus,” the authors write. “Even if it has never made all the people look at their change all the time, the 1930 penny makes some of us do it all the time and all of us do it at some time.”

Melbourne Mint documents do not record an official mintage of 1930 pennies, but experts suggest that Mint tour guides there had a few dies for the 1930 penny to use to demonstrate the minting process, and that visitors could acquire examples of the 1930 penny by exchanging one of their pennies for the new coin. 

Another theory is that the 1930 pennies were experimental pieces that were set aside. When the 1931 order for coins arrived, the 1930 cents were shipped out with 1931 coins. 

Whatever the reason for the coin’s striking, amidst the Great Depression a penny was a lot of money, notes Crellin, and that’s why most 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. 

International Auction Galleries offered the finest known circulation example in its sale No. 74, on June 2, 2011, in Melbourne. 

According to the auction house, the example in that auction is “superb” and has “mint red lustre.”

Estimated at $450,000 Australian (then worth about $493,649 U.S.), it failed to sell. 

To learn more about the auction, visit the firm's website

Community Comments