Treasures in your change: 20c – What to look for

infographic-smallThe following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy…

Welcome to the second entry in my ‘Treasures in your change’ series, focusing on rare circulating decimal types that you might find in your change! My last entry – that you can read HERE – was based on the 5c piece and 10c piece, and this one will focus on the 20c piece.

Now, while you may have already seen the informative infographic we posted last week, and pictured to the right, this blog post will go into a bit more detail, pointing out exactly what you need to be looking for while searching through your pocket money.

1966 Wavy Line 20c

1966 Wavy Line 20c

Australia’s first variety takes us back to the beginning of decimal currency, and the highly sought after 1966 Wavy Line 20c. This key type is thus named because the bottom stroke of the 2 in the denomination appears to have a wave at the top, rather than the straight line seen on other 20c coins. To cater for the massive amount of currency required at decimalisation, the then new Royal Australian Mint was joined by Britain’s Royal Mint for the production of 1966 coinage, and it was at the latter that a small number of 20c coins were struck with a slightly different die, creating the Wavy Line 20c variety. Prices for Uncirculated examples have been known to fetch up to $3,000, with even an EF example worth more than $1,000, and, as a result, I routinely check every 20c piece I receive in change. The Royal Mint did strike normal versions of the coin, which brings us to our next collectable variety…

1966 Canberra Mint 20c

1966 Canberra Mint 20c

Although many people are unaware that different mints struck the 1966 20c, knowledgeable collectors do tend to seek out examples from each mint – and there is one quick way to find out if you have a Royal Mint or RAM version in your hand. If you have a look at the water ripples around the platypus, there is a ripple that comes into contact with the right side of its head. This is where the difference between the mint variations will be apparent. A ripple that touches the head of the platypus will indicate the coin is from the Royal Mint, whereas a ripple that has a slight gap between the head will indicate a RAM coin! Both can demand good prices from collectors, so as a rule of thumb, if you get a 1966 20c in change, pay close attention to it!

1981 Three & a Half Claws 20c

1981 Three & a Half Claws 20c

The next 20c in the series to look out for was issued in 1981. In this particular year, industrial action at the Royal Australian Mint saw Australia once again seek the assistance of mints overseas, with Britain’s Royal Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint called into action. Now, while mintage figures from both overseas mints are similar, it is the coins struck at the Royal Canadian Mint that prove most popular with collectors. The Royal Canadian Mint 1981 20c can be distinguished by examining the claws on the left paw of the platypus, located directly under the 2 in the denomination. All other coins from 1981 have 4 claws on the left paw, but coins struck at the Canadian mint have a claw on the far right that appears to be half missing! This distinctive type is consequently known as the ‘Three & a Half Claws’ variety.

1981 Scalloped 20c

1981 Scalloped 20c

No analysis of 20c varieties could possibly ignore the famed 1981 Scalloped 20c. Coming to light late in 1982, this is a VERY RARE coin which, whilst you almost certainly will not have seen in change, you may have read about in one of our previous entries. Assisting the production of Australian 20c coins during the aforementioned industrial action at the RAM, the Royal Mint apparently struck some coins using scalloped blanks intended for use for $2 coins for Hong Kong, for whom it also struck currency. Amazingly, some of these coins made it into circulation!

Although less than 10 examples of this stunning coin have come to light, with the type currently cataloguing at $7,500 in Extremely Fine, who knows whether another one might arise in the future? Always check your change!

The Royal Australian Mint’s First Ever Triangle Coin?

It has been exactly one year since the Royal Australian Mint announced the groundbreaking 2013 $5 Parliament House Triangular Silver Proof on March 18th, 2013. The very first 3-sided Australian legal tender coin, this sensational release naturally attracted interest from news media around the world. It was exciting to see an Australian numismatic collectable receive such extensive international publicity – with the triangle coin selling out as a result – even if a few under-prepared news reporters frustratingly got some obvious details about coin collecting wrong.

Twelve months on from that groundbreaking announcement, we thought we’d take a look at the history of triangle coins around the world.

2008 Canadian 50c Triangle Coin – Milk Delivery

2008 Canadian 50c Triangle Coin – Milk Delivery

In 2008, The Royal Canadian Mint broke new ground by striking its very first triangle shaped coin. That coin was the 2008 50c Milk Delivery coin, featuring a beautiful translucent enamel effect. Public demand for this triangle coin was monumental, and it sold out at an astonishing pace. The second triangle coin came a year later, with the release of the 2009 50c Six String Nation Guitar coin, which featured a selective hologram, making the guitar strings appear as if they are resonating!

1996 Bermuda Triangle $30 Gold 1/2oz Proof

1996 Bermuda Triangle $30 Gold 1/2oz Proof

Fittingly, Bermuda has issued the odd triangle coin over the years too. Most recently, these were minted by The Royal Mint and, unsurprisingly, many feature ships or… shipwrecks!

The demand for these coins got us wondering about other triangle shaped coins. Along the way we learned a little known fact about the 2013 Parliament House Triangle Coin – it’s not the first triangle coin struck by the RAM! After a bit of research we discovered that the Cook Islands became the first modern country to issue a circulating three-sided coin! And guess what? From at least 2003, and possibly earlier, their $2 coin was struck by our very own Royal Australian Mint!

And so, whilst triangles are a rare occurrence in Numismatics, there are a few out there. Perhaps, given the success of last year’s Australian legal tender triangle coin, we may even see another one soon?

We certainly hope so! While we wait, a question: what do you think would make a good theme for another Australian triangle shaped coin?

The Penny has dropped: Canada to stop minting the 1 cent piece

In a major break with tradition, Canada is doing away with the humble penny. Citing cost of production and weakened buying power due to inflation, the Canadian Government is to phase the 1 cent piece out of circulation from February 2013. 2012 is the last year the penny will be struck for circulation and the change is causing quite a stir amongst numismatists, for a number of reasons. It’s also leading some to speculate that the Australian 5 cent piece could be next.

A coin with a fascinating history, the Canadian penny denomination was, from 1858 to 1908, struck in England and shipped to Canada for use in circulation. The penny would ultimately become one of Canada’s first domestically produced coins, with the recently opened Royal Canadian Mint first striking the denomination in 1908. With several dates from the penny series attaining notoriety due to interesting background events or great rarity, this denomination has gained a significant following worldwide. For example, a 1923 King George V penny in Brilliant, Uncirculated condition could potentially realise upwards of $2,000 at auction, signifying interest in the history of the Canadian penny.

Canadian Penny - Reverse

Perhaps the most famous example of that history is the 1936 dot cent. After the Death of George V in early 1936, dies were made that featured King Edward VIII, for use in 1937. Upon Edward’s abdication those dies became unusable, so the existing 1936 dies were used, with the addition of a dot under the date to distinguish them. Once new designs were available, the 1936 dot cent was destroyed. With only three known to exist and a recent sale fetching $400,000, it’s a prime example of the important place in numismatics of lower denomination coinage generally, and the Canadian Penny in particular.

Despite this rich history, the financial reality is that the 1 cent piece in Canada has proven too costly to produce. With a production cost 1.6 cents per coin, plus the cost of handling the millions of coins in circulation borne by banks and businesses, the Canadian government has decided to ditch the nation’s lowest denomination coin.

This change has driven demand for commemorative sets, as any change in circulating currency is, rightfully, watched very closely by numismatists worldwide. Demand for Canadian pennies of all kinds will only increase as they become progressively scarce.

This end of an era is part of a growing trend followed by a number of countries to remove their lowest face-value coins from circulation, and it raises the question: should Australia stop producing the 5 cent piece? Let us know what you think in the comments below.