The 1930 Australian penny obverse
features the robed and crowned bust of
King George V facing left, with the legend:
‘GEORGIVS V D.G.BRITT:OMN:REX F.D.IND:IMP:’, with a dot at the bottom.
The reverse shows an inner beaded circle with
the words ‘ONE PENNY’ between two scrolls.
The outer legend reads: ‘COMMONWEALTH
OF AUSTRALIA’, with the date below.
From the worst days of the Great Depression…
It is a coin with the highest of profiles, both within and outside numismatic circles, and yet the origin of the 1930 Penny is shrouded in mystery. Issued by the Melbourne Mint during the worst days of the Great Depression, and known by approximately 1,500 examples, Australia’s greatest numismatic icon was ‘the coin not meant to be struck’.
No need for more coins…
A day of infamy, identified as the signal for the global economic crisis, Black Friday took place in October 1929. This day was the dramatic climax of a deflationary spiral that had been dragging the global economy down, with ultimately explosive consequences. Consumer confidence had been falling, causing a drop in demand, and thus a drop in the need for production, and thus a drop in the need for producers. Industry, banks and governments collapsed under the weight of this economic misfortune, and the dark hand of employment took a firm grip, squeezing the life out of a forlorn global populace.
Australia was hit particularly hard, with the unemployment rate over 30% at the height of the Depression. With the economy shrinking, an influx of fresh coinage was deemed inappropriate, and so for periods during the Depression years, the Melbourne Mint lay idle. There were no threepences and sixpences struck from 1929 to 1933, for example, and no florins and shillings in 1929 and 1930. No pennies were struck in 1930 – or so it was thought.
‘The coin not meant to be struck’…
Although Melbourne Mint records state that no pennies were struck in 1930 – nor any other denomination for that matter – it is now thought that perhaps 3,000 were produced to test 1930-dated dies. It is likely that these coins would have been released with the 1931 Penny in satisfaction of a new Commonwealth order and, as a result, the iconic 1930 Penny is inevitably found in well-worn, heavily circulated condition.
The discovery of a genuine rarity…
The great rarity of this legendary Australian coin would remain largely unknown during the predecimal period. It was only in the lead-up to the introduction of decimal currency in 1966 that the difficulty in finding the 1930 Penny became apparent.
Thousands of people were desperate to assemble a complete collection of Australia’s soon-to-be defunct predecimal coins as a memento of our first national currency system. The one coin that was missing from virtually all collections was the 1930 Penny. Very quickly, collectors recognised the rarity of the coin, and with intense competition for the few available examples, the market value of the 1930 Penny began to escalate.
The King of Australian Coins
Regardless of why the 1930 Penny was struck, the key issue is, of course, that so few were struck. The known existence of some 1,500 examples, combined with the unique Great Depression heritage, has given this coin a status unrivalled in Australian numismatics. It is now considered as much prime investment material as the ultimate collector acquisition.
Struck in base metal, and a low denomination that could have been found in anybody’s pocket, the 1930 Penny has risen from humble beginnings to be the King of Australian Coins – and a rarity of world standing.