This month saw the release of the Royal Australian Mint’s annual Year Sets. As always, the inclusion of some exclusive coins has sparked the interest of collectors, not only in Australia, but also from around the globe. Following on from previous years, the RAM has kept up with appearances by releasing the 2010 versions of the ever popular Proof and Year sets, along with the extremely cute Baby Year Set (in both Proof and Mint quality), and the exquisite Wedding Set. However, it was more so the new 2010 Commemorative 2-Coin sets that attracted the attention of most!
Honouring one of Australia’s most famous missions of exploration, these new 2-coin sets commemorate the Burke & Wills Expedition of 1860.
Gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851 and the subsequent gold-rush led to a huge influx of migrants, as a result Melbourne was slowly populated with gold seekers which rapidly led to the growth of schools, churches, libraries and learned societies. This large influx of European settlers spurred an interest in inland exploration and in 1854 The Philosophical Institute of Victoria was founded. Naturally many of the European settlers at the time were intrigued as to how expansive Australia really was and with the forming of the Exploration Committee by the Philosophical Institute in 1857, the catalyst to map out and explore Australia was too strong to resist. As a natural progression, Burke and Wills were later chosen to lead the ‘Victorian Exploring Expedition’ and then in 1860 they led an expedition of 19 men to cross Australia from Melbourne in the south to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, a distance of around 3,250 kilometers. At the time of their expedition most of the inland of Australia had not been explored by non-indigenous people and as a result was completely unknown to European settlers.
The expedition set off from Royal Park, Melbourne at about 4pm on 20th August 1860. The 19 men of the expedition included five Englishmen, six Irishmen, four Indian sepoys, three Germans and an American. They took twenty-three horses, six wagons and twenty-six camels. They had enough food to last them two years and ample amount of equipment fit for the expedition, however supplies were later left behind to lighten their load in the hopes they could increase their progress. Later in the expedition several men including second in charge George James Landells and the expedition’s surgeon, had all resigned. What was left of the expedition reached Menindee on October 12th, having taken two months to travel 750kms from Melbourne – the regular mail coach did the journey in little more than a week. By this time two of the expeditions five officers had resigned, thirteen members of the expedition had been fired and eight new men had been hired. Shortly after, Burke decided to split the group was he was concerned a rival explorer would beat him to the north coast and rob him of his title, and reward money which was offered by the South Australian Government.
They halved expedition continued their journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria after deciding not to wait for the hotter weather to pass. The south-north leg of the journey was successfully completed; however they were sadly stopped by swampland just 5 kilometers from the northern coastline. On their way north the weather had been hot and dry, but on the way back the wet season broke and the tropical monsoonal rains began. This is where things began to take a turn for the worse, with a camel having to be abandoned and three other camels having to be shot and eaten, with their only horse later shot. Equipment was abandoned at a number of locations as the number of pack animals was reduced.
To extend their food supply they ate from the bush, with Burke and some of the others immediately coming down with dysentery. Charles Gray was the first to die on April 17th. The expedition later made it back to Coopers Creek where Burke, Wills and King continued on to make an attempt back to Melbourne. Their remaining camels later died and without pack animals Burke, Wills and King were unable to carry enough water to make it across the Desert to Mt Hopeless. As a result the three men were forced to return to Coopers Creek to wait for rescue from a search party. The three men lived on bush tucker and food given to them by local aboriginals. Towards the end of June 1961 Burke and King decided to return upstream to see if a rescue party had arrived. Wills became too weak to continue and was left behind as his own insistence. Burke and King continued upstream for another two days until Burke became too weak to continue – the next morning he died. King stayed with his body for two days and then returned downstream where he found that Wills had also died. King was later found by a search party, in pitiful condition, living with the Yandruwandha. He survived the trip back to Melbourne and died eleven years later aged 33 having never recovered his health.
Available in Proof quality, these sparkling new sets from the RAM represent a fitting tribute to the 150th anniversary of the incredible achievements and great determination of the men who undertook this journey into the unknown. Sure to be hotly pursued by non-collectors, with Burke & Wills among Australia’s foremost ‘household names’, these sets are crucial to decimal collectors. The only way you can obtain the 20c and $1 Burke & Wills commemorative coins, with neither being issued for circulation and neither found in the 2010 Proof and Mint Sets, these new 2-coin presentations are essential to anyone keen to maintain a complete decimal collection.
- Official tributes to Burke & Wills Expedition 150th anniversary
- Available in both superb Proof quality
- Includes the one-year-only 2010 20c and $1 commemoratives!
- Housed in official, informative, attractive presentation packs
- Offered at the same affordable Official Issue Price as last year!
For more information or to purchase online, please click on the appropriate link: