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1857 Half Sovereign

Sydney Mint Type II

Australia

1857 Half Sovereign Reverse1857 Half Sovereign Obverse MintageMintage figure includes 1857/5 Overdate537,000Reverse DesignerL. C. LyonObverse DesignerL. C. LyonWeight3.99 gramsSize19 mmCountryAustraliaDateMM1857DenominationHalf SovereignVarietySydney Mint Type IIPrefixMSWeight3.9934790159Size19EdgeReededFace CurrencyGBPFace Value0.5Mintage537000Mintage Info5691857 Half SovereignMintage Shares5701857/5 Overdate Half SovereignCompositionGold91.7%0.9167000055Silver8.3%0.0833000019Gold0.9167000055Silver0.0833000019Bullion Value$160
Following the discovery of gold in Sydney, half sovereigns were minted in Sydney from 1855 and continued until 1916. Prior to the discovery of gold, Australian colonies were reliant upon coins minted in Great Britain as these were the only coins recognised as having legal tender status(Reserve Bank of Australia, 2005)1215Book
The Auction of the Gold Coins of the Reserve Bank of Australia
All that glitters...the history of gold
Reserve Bank of Australia1/1/20054/8/2016 1:48:44 PMVI-VII
. The 1850s Gold Rush affected not only the mintage of coins but also sudden population growth, particularly in Victoria. In turn, this demanded sudden developments in government administration to manage standard utilities, land reform, communication, and transport(Reserve Bank of Australia, 2005)1215Book
The Auction of the Gold Coins of the Reserve Bank of Australia
All that glitters...the history of gold
Reserve Bank of Australia1/1/20054/8/2016 1:48:44 PMVI-VII

Proposals for the establishment of a Sydney branch of the Royal Mint started in 1851, these were met with some resistance from gold buyers and banks in Sydney who profited from the transfer of gold from Australia to London for the purpose of minting coins(Melbourne Museum, 2016)1249Website
Melbourne Museum
Sydney Mint
Melbourne Museum1/1/2016https://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/infosheets/sydney-mint/4/8/2016 3:39:59 PM
. But in 1853, an order was eventually granted for the Sydney branch, and it was in operation by 1855(Sydney Living Museums, 2016)1250Website
Sydney Living Museums
A Rattling Tale
Sydney Living Museums1/1/2016http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/rattling-tale4/8/2016 3:39:59 PM
. The Sydney Mint was set up in the southern wing of the hospital that had been part of Governor Lachlan Macquarie's building program. The hospital, finished in 1816, was initially set up to treat convicts; it became known as the ‘Sidney Slaughter House’ because of its notoriously poor conditions(Sydney Living Museums, 2016)1254Website
Sydney Living Museums
A Rattling Tale
Sydney Living Museums1/1/2016http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/rattling-tale4/8/2016 3:42:23 PM
. The southern wing then became a military hospital in 1823, and the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary in 1842(Sydney Living Museums, 2016)1255Website
Sydney Living Museums
A Rattling Tale
Sydney Living Museums 1/1/2016http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/rattling-tale4/8/2016 3:42:23 PM
. The Sydney mint contained offices, a Bullion Office, and a factory where it minted gold sovereigns and half sovereigns, and in 1916 began to mint commemorative medals, and copper and silver coins(Sydney Living Museums, 2016)1254Website
Sydney Living Museums
A Rattling Tale
Sydney Living Museums1/1/2016http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/rattling-tale4/8/2016 3:42:23 PM


In 1915, due to the economic difficulties of the First World War, Australia left the Gold Standard but returned in 1925. In 1929, the Australian Government established the Commonwealth Bank Act, which required all holdings of gold by banks and the public to be sold to the Commonwealth Bank (now the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA)) in exchange for notes(The Perth Mint Australia, 2016)1216Website
The Perth Mint Australia
History of Gold Controls in Australia
Australian Government1/1/2016http://www.perthmint.com.au/research_information.aspx4/8/2016 1:49:42 PM
. Such restrictions lasted until 1976(The Perth Mint Australia, 2016)1217Website
The Perth Mint Australia
History of Gold Controls in Australia
Australian Government1/1/2016http://www.perthmint.com.au/research_information.aspx4/8/2016 1:50:40 PM
. The Reserve Bank of Australia's 2005 auction of gold coins was a significant event in which a substantial amount of the RBA's gold coin holding was made available to collectors. Coins with great historical and numismatic value were retained in the Bank's Museum of Australian Currency Notes or moved to the Royal Australian Mint's National Coin Collection(Macfarlane, I, 2005)1218Book
The Auction of the Gold Coins of the Reserve Bank of Australia
Foreword
Macfarlane, I1/1/20054/8/2016 1:52:52 PMIII
.

Rather than using copper to harden the metal for sovereigns, as the Royal Mint did, the Sydney mint used silver(Melbourne Museum, 2016)1219Website
Melbourne Museum
Sydney Mint
Melbourne Museum 1/1/2016https://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/infosheets/sydney-mint/4/8/2016 1:53:43 PM
. The reverse design, by Leonard Charles Wyon, featured a banksia wreath tied into a bow, below and surrounding the word AUSTRALIA; these are positioned below a crown with the legend SYDNEY MINT and HALF SOVEREIGN encircling the entire design. This was the only time a colony would ever deviate from the imperial design though it was short-lived with the Sydney mint reverting to the imperial shield design in 1871.

In 1857, the Sydney mint introduced a wreathed bust type The heads side of the coinobverseobverse, also designed by Wyon. It depicts a bust of Queen Victoria, wreathed and facing left. Her hair is braided, with the braid curving from her temple, underneath her ear, to the back of her head, and secured in a bun. The legend reads VICTORIA D: G: BRITANNIAR :REG: F: D: (Victoria by the Grace of God Queen of Britain, Defender of the Faith).  This design would be used on half sovereigns up until 1869 after which the Sydney mint reverted to the Young Head The heads side of the coinobverseobverse and Shield The tails side of the coinreversereverse, consistent with Imperial half sovereigns.

A total of 537,000 1857 half sovereigns were struck. Despite the relatively high mintage the date has, especially in recent times, been quite difficult to acquire. The date is quite common in the higher grades as many top-quality examples were found in the Indian hoard. It would seem that most are residing in private collections. The highest known grade is MS63 with an estimated value of $39,000. More affordable examples range from VG to AU.

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