The 1856 Overdate Half Sovereign - Australia's Earliest Overdate

1856/5 Overdate Sydney Mint Half Sovereign
1856/5 Overdate Sydney Mint Half Sovereign

The gold coins struck by the Sydney Mint between 1855 and 1870 have long offered dedicated collectors’ fertile ground for research and new discoveries.

Over the past two decades, a number of different overdate varieties have been identified by eagle-eyed numismatists in this series - 4 overdates have been identified in the Sydney Mint half sovereign series, 4 overdates have also been identified in the Sydney Mint sovereign series.

As of April 2023, PCGS have confirmed that another overdate can be added to this list - the 1856/5 overdate half sovereign.

Although 1856/5 overdate half sovereign has previously been referred to in numismatic literature in passing, it is only now that this overdate has been independently acknowledged as being in existence.

What Is An Overdate?

The term overdate is used to describe a coin struck from a previously-used die or hub that has been altered - a numeral from a previous year is evident underneath the date.

1856/5 Overdate

In this particular overdate, the start of the upper wave of the number 5 is seen to the left of the upper loop of the 6, while the right-hand tail of the upper wave of the 5 is clearly evident to the right of the upper loop of the 6. The lower loop of the 5 can also be seen between the two sections of the 6.

1855 Sydney Half Sovereign

Earlier informal sightings of this variety have noted that a characteristic unique to the reverse die of the 1855 Sydney Half Sovereign is also evident on some examples of this overdate - a small dot is evident in the field directly to the right of the date.

The example shown here indicates clearly that this dot from the original 1855-dated die is not visible on all examples - that section of the die may have become worn from use, or the surface of certain coins may also become worn.

This overdate variety is a clear and exciting link to the 1855 Sydney Half Sovereign, which is the rarest coin ever issued into circulation in Australia. The mintage of the 1856 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign is recorded as 478,000, while the mintage of the 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign is recorded at just 21,000.

The exact rarity of the 1856/5 overdate half sovereign has not yet been established, but if it is comparable to the other overdates in the Sydney Mint gold coin series, it could well be rarer than the coins that the dies struck in the previous year of 1855.

It will no doubt be a prize for collectors of Australian gold coin collectors for years to come.


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Comments (1)


By: on 24 April 2023
do you have any research, or info on the 1857/5 overdate they also recognise? Dont doubt its also possible, but for it to happen, the original 1855 die would need to be type 2 obverse. i believe the type 2 1855 obverse was only proofs?

Sterling and Currency Response
I've only just seen your question now Michael, I apologise for the slow response! I'm not really familiar with the 1857/5 overdate, I haven't looked into it myself. I agree with your conclusion , it may be that a circulating die was prepared for the 1855 Half Sovereign with the T2 obverse, I'm only speculating there though!

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