Australia 1988 Fifty Cent Pattern Die Trial - ACT Coat of Arms / Parliament House
Obverse: Coat of Arms of the Australian Capital Territory
Reverse: "New" Australian Parliament House
Alloy: 75% Copper, 25% Nickel
An enigmatic and desirable Australian decimal pattern.
This intriguing decimal pattern first came to light in the early 1990s, when a small number of them "...turned up in a box of junk in England."
Everyone agrees that these patterns have been struck on Australian copper-nickel 50 cent planchets - just where and why they were struck remains a subject of intellectual numismatic debate.
The first pattern discovered was described as being an "Australia Pattern 50c dodecagonal in cupro-nickel obverse Parliament House with the flag raised reverse Coat of Arms over "FOR THE QUEEN, THE LAW AND THE PEOPLE", EF as yet unlisted and extremely rare."
Struck With Official Designs
A direct enquiry with staff at the Royal Australian Mint has determined that "...there are no records of this piece having been struck." This is quite remarkable for a pattern that has clearly been struck with official designs, to the same standard of our circulating coinage!
Research by the respected numismatist Jon Saxton has shown that the depiction of the ACT Coat of Arms is exactly the same as that seen on the 1993 $10 silver commemorative coin, which indicates that even if these patterns were not struck on the RAM's premises, they must have been struck by a mint that had a direct commercial relationship with the Royal Australian Mint.
Struck on A Correct Planchet
The Australian Commonwealth Government understandably controls the blank planchets used in the production of our national coinage very tightly - they are not the type of item that is sensibly allowed to fall into the hands of the wrong people. This indicates to me that these patterns have some official status - if they were illicitly produced the Federal Police would surely have been involved long ago.
First Discovered in the United Kingdom
For my mind, it is telling that the first batch of these patterns turned up in the United Kingdom - a nation that has provided minting technology to central banks and national governments around the world for more than two centuries.
Given the information that has come to light to date (official designs on an official planchet; first discovered in the United Kingdom), I believe these patterns are the product of a British Mint (perhaps the Birmingham Mint), and were struck as one stage of a tendering process for raw materials; equipment or technology being considered in the production of Australia's circulating coinage.
They have captured the imagination of collectors of Australian decimal coins for several decades now, any further information on their purpose that comes to light in future can only enhance their standing and appeal.
Past sales figures via auction and private treaty have ranged up to $20,000.
This particular example has been well preserved - several minor marks are scattered across either side, it remains devoid of wear, damage or tone.
It is a bold example of this scarce and intriguing decimal pattern.
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