World Coins

Adelaide Assay Office gold ingot sells for $540,000

A rare 1852 gold ingot from the Adelaide Assay Office was a marquee lot in Heritage Auctions’ Jan. 9 auction, realizing $540,000.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Adelaide Assay Office gold ingots are among the earliest of Australian numismatic items.

An example of the undated (1852) piece realized $540,000 U.S., including the 20% buyer’s fee, during Heritage Auction’s Jan. 9 New York International Numismatic Convention Platinum Night sale.

Numismatic Guaranty Co. graded the ingot Mint State 63.

The ingot is a relic of Australia’s gold rush history.

While the Government Assay Office of South Australia filled the need to process an influx of gold, this treatment proved impractical due to the varying weight and fineness of these ingots, coupled with a general lack of circulating standard currency.

Many challenges accompanied the Australian Gold Rush of the 1850s for both miners and the communities they would return to. After months away, droves of individuals would return to their respective towns, Adelaide included, with ample gold in tow.

A necessity to process this gold was immediately apparent, and, under the Bullion Act of the Province, the Government Assay Office of South Australia was authorized.

The Assay Office issued gold ingots, which were to be used to back bank notes circulated by local banks.

This piece is classified as a Type 1 version. These ingots proved unsuccessful and would soon be replaced by the round Adelaide pound coins, the Type II examples.

This ingot weighs 15.58 grams, or a half-ounce.

Cast in a fairly crude manner it carries obverse text WEIGHT OF INGOT slightly off-planchet and is stamped 10, indicating the pennyweight, a contemporary value equaling the total of a pound, 17 shillings, a penny and a half penny.

Most examples of this rarity are held in institutional collections.

Stellar provenance

This example was once part of the Quartermaster Collection, which was sold in 2009.

Prior to that sale, it was part of the John Jay Pittman Collection sold by David Akers in August 1999, and the King Farouk Collection, sold by Sotheby’s in  February 1954.

Chicago beer baron Virgil Brand is also among this example’s list of previous owners.

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