Choice Change Challenge – Henry Parkes in our pocket!

Here we have another entry from Choice Change Challenger Alex!

The Choice Change Challenge… hmmm…. when the Online Team here at Downies asked George and I how the challenge was coming along, and whether we had any exciting new finds to share, we were distressed to respond in the negative. Aside from a 2000 50c issued for the Queen’s Royal Visit – incidentally, a coin bearing the only decimal obverse portrait of Her Majesty designed by an Australian, and a one-year-only portrait to boot! – picked up at the coffee shop, there isn’t much to share. It continues to be a tough undertaking, collecting the commemorative from change.

1996 $1 Sir Henry Parkes M Mintmark UNC

1996 $1 Sir Henry Parkes M Mintmark UNC

And then, one of our Team Members realised that last week was Sir Henry Parkes’ 199th Birthday! Henry Parkes is a man often called the Father of Federation, a man with the distinct honour of having a town named for him (in NSW), a man that appears on one of Australia’s only two commemorative banknotes (the 2001 Federation $5 note), and finally, a man that the Royal Australian Mint saw fit to honour with a commemorative coin in 1996. A coin that, besides RAM’s issuance of collector strikes in silver and as part of that year’s Mintmark series, was also issued for circulation.

Prior to the beginning of our challenge, George and I discussed the coins that we expected to be tough. And, the 1996 Henry Parkes Dollar was amongst those discussed. It’s a coin that is now almost 20 years old and from our own casual observations did not often turn up in change. We expected it to take some time to uncover – a bit like my nemesis, the 2001 Bradman 20c. Yet, lo and behold, it was not long into the challenge that we each boasted a Henry Parkes Dollar in our collections!

2001 Henry Parkes Federation $5

2001 Federation $5 note

What’s more, flying in the face of our preconceptions, we started seeing the 1996 coin everywhere! So much so that we were each able to not just add the coin to our collections but also to upgrade from lowly circulated examples to bright shiny almost-Uncirculated examples – all from daily change! Nowadays, this far in to the challenge, we continue to be frustrated by the unexpected over-abundance of Henry Parkes in our pockets. Adding to that frustration, as the Father of Federation, one might hope that his paternal good luck would rub off onto the 2001 Federation 50c and 20c series. Unfortunately, these coins are the lowest mintage commemoratives ever issued for circulation in Australia, and continue to frustrate us due to the dearth of examples – ESPECIALLY the 20c issues.

Still, it is ultimately the frustration of finding plenty of 1996 Henry Parkes $1 coins that leads to the jubilation when and if we uncover one of those scarce 2001 coins. And so, it is with that optimistic final thought that I would like to wish the Father of Federation a very happy 199th birthday!

Happy Birthday Sir Henry!

PS. Despite our frustrations at finding too many 1996 $1 coins, and not enough Federation 50c or 20c coins, it’s difficult to remain cranky at a man who sported such a glorious beard, as did Sir Henry Parkes….

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