1857 Sydney Mint Type II Half Sovereign about Unc
Obverse: Type II portrait of Victoria to left, legend around and date below.
Reverse: Australia within wreath
This is a bold example of the first date in the Type II half-sovereign set.
The Type II Australian half sovereign series runs from 1857 through to 1866 - each coin features the revised bust of Queen Victoria on the obverse, one that includes a spray of native Australian Banksia in her hair. A less-known characteristic of the coins in this series is that they were often struck from dies that were repaired by the Sydney Mint's staff, offering collectors numerous opportunities for study and investigation.
Although the Sydney Mint had only been in operation since 1855, due to the distance separating it from the Royal Mint in London (around 17,000 kilometres), Sydney's staff did not enjoy the level of technical support one might expect of a state of the art minting facility.
Dies were supplied to the Sydney Mint by the Royal Mint in London, orders and deliveries were often received at best several times per year. This arrangement worked absolutely fine in theory, yet did not take the rate of attrition inherent in the minting process.
Coinage dies are subjected to many tonnes of pressure each and every time they are used, there is very little tolerance available for deviation from the exact pressure required. That tolerance is absolutely minimal for coins that are quite thin or struck from a relatively soft metal such as gold.
The half-sovereign is both quite thin and is struck in relatively soft metal, so it posed an ongoing challenge for the staff of the Sydney Mint - they needed to set die pressure high enough that the fine detail on each coin was fully struck up, but not so high that the dies cracked.
Collectors that are familiar with the Sydney Mint Half Sovereign series will readily acknowledge that letters in the legend and digits in the date were re-punched or replaced regularly - those running repairs were a direct result of the damage incurred through normal use of the dies. Staff at the Royal Mint in London undoubtedly faced the exact same challenges, yet had more resources at hand that allowed them to maintain their working dies in a way that did not leave any evidence on the coins they struck.
Several letters in the legend of this particular half-sovereign have been re-punched, and tantalisingly there is additional detail poking out from the top of the 7.
That additional detail does not quite look to be part of a digit beneath the 7 but is certainly worthy of further research.
Special Note - as the images here show, this coin has minimal wear either side. The fine detail in the Queen's braid and hair remains sharp, as do the leaves in the wreath across the reverse.
That said, the coin does have several minor hairlines across both sides, which may well preclude the coin from being "graded" by PCGS.
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