The History of Australian Gold Coins

The discovery of gold in Australia in 1851 gave birth to a number of initiatives (two official, one unoffical) that were intended to address the need for a circulating coinage throughout the Australian colonies.

At present I am researching the role that WJ Taylor, and his Kangaroo Office at Port Phillip played in the history of Australia's coinage.

When I have researched the evolution of the Adelaide Assay Office and the Sydney Mint previously, I've found it very useful to chart significant events on a timeline - this has helped greatly to understand the path from the realization of a pressing need for coinage to an established and effective system of coinage. What follows below is a timeline of key events related to the Adelaide Assay Office, the Sydney Mint and the Kangaroo Office.

Planning For The Adelaide Assay Office, The Sydney Mint And The Kangaroo Office - Roughly At The Same Time

Planning for the Adelaide Assay Office, the Sydney Mint and the Kangaroo Office all took place over roughly the same period of time (mid 1851 through to the mid 1850's), an examination of the timing of events for these unrelated enterprises occurred in relation to each other is very productive. We can begin to see how quick private enterprise is in relation to a imperial bureaucracy and also to a team of committed colonial merchants and community leaders.

Although the information below has been available ever since the actual events took place, it is generally recorded in disparate sources that are largely inaccessible to the average collector. I'm still drawing conclusions on just how an overall view of the events related to Australia's gold rush coinage affects my own understanding of the relative merits of each of the three enterprises mentioned above, however I'm finding the exploration very productive.

Descriptions of Taylor's efforts regarding the Kangaroo Office by numismatic authors in recent years have largely been less than complimentary - he's variously described as a failure, incompetent and myopic. These interpretations I believe have been arrived at based on a limited understanding of the timing of the events concerned. Although this is less than acceptable in many ways, it's hardly surprising as there really is a dearth of published information on Taylor and the Kangaroo Office. I have a sneaking suspicion that once we look at the speed at which Taylor and his partners moved relative to the British Imperial authorities and those in Adelaide, and keep the amount of money involved with the Kangaroo Office in mind, Taylor's efforts will be viewed more positively.

There are still some gaps in this information that need to be filled in, so consider the information below as a work in progress. Any comments, feedback or questions are welcome.

 

DATE

EVENT

1802

William Joseph (WJ) Taylor is born

1809

Death of Matthew Boulton

1829

Taylor establishes himself in London

1847

Taylor produces the first coins of the Republic of Liberia

1848

Death of James Watt Junior

1850

The Soho Mint ceases business

April 1850

Plant and equipment from the defunct Soho Mint sold via an auction conducted by Fuller and Horsey Auctioneers. WJ Taylor purchases a range of hubs and dies, Ralph Heaton II acquires all of the Soho minting equipment, and establishes the Birmingham Mint.

1850

Taylor & Challen, “coin press manufacturers”, established by WJ Taylor

1850 ~ 1860

Taylor struck a range of Washington Draped Bust copper tokens using dies produced from hubs purchased from the defunct Soho Mint, these with a plain edge1

Feb 12th, 1851

E.H. Hargraves discovers gold at Lewis Ponds Creek in NSW

Apr 7th, 1851

J. Lister & W. Tom discover gold at Ophir in NSW

May 1st 1851 ~ Oct 15th 1851

Taylor exhibited the coining press and some of the Phillip Gold Pattern dies at the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in London2. Sells the Kangaroo Office copper halfpenny / Washington draped bust mule token to visitors3

May 15th, 1851

The Sydney Morning Herald publishes the first news of Hargraves' discovery

June 7th, 1851

The discovery of gold at Clunes, Victoria by J. Esmond is announced

Aug 8th, 1851

Gold discovered in the Buninyong Range (near Ballarat) in Victoria

August 25th, 1851

First published proposal for a Mint at Sydneyi

November, 1851

Debate in NSW Legislative Council re Establishment of a Mint at Sydneyii

January 9th 1852

1st proposal for the establishment of an Assay Office in Adelaide put to Lieutenant Governor Sir Henry Young

January 16th 1852

Young makes his first reply to the merchants & bankers regarding the initial Adelaide assay office proposal

January 16, 1852

NSW Legislative Council petition for a Mint at Sydney forwarded by Governor Sir Charles August Fitzroy to Londoniii

January 22nd 1852

Young discusses 2nd Assay Office proposal with Executive Council

January 23rd 1852

George Francis (Assayer) notifies Young that it would not be possible to produce ingots of a uniform standard by casting, and that the only method by which this could be achieved was by rolling or laminating the metal

January 28th 1852

The Bullion Act passed by Legislative Council, assented to by Lieutenant Governor Sir Henry Young

January 29th 1852

London notified of the Bullion Act via Despatch #28

January 31st 1852

1st trip to Mt Alexander departs from Adelaide

February 10th 1852

Adelaide Assay Office opened for business – gold to the value of ?10,000 deposited (2,910 troy ounces)

February 20, 1852

Tacit approval given to Sydney Mint given by Secretary of State for Colonies, (The 3rd) Earl Henry Grey.

March 4th 1852

1st Adelaide ingots produced

March 19th 1852

Mt Alexander party returns with gold valued at ?21,300

01/03/52

Die sinker and engraver Joshua Pain appointed to prepare dies for the Adelaide Pounds

July 2nd, 1852

NSW Executive Council embraces concept of Sydney Mintiv.

August 28th, 1852

NSW Legislative Council drafts resolutions in favour of a mint at Sydneyv.

September 23rd 1852

1st Adelaide Pounds struck at the Adelaide Assay Office

01/10/52

Adelaide & Media arrive in Adelaide with ?30,000 in specie

01/10/52

Legislative Council appeals to London for the establishment of a branch of the Royal Mint in Adelaide

October 16th 1852

Official response to Despatch #28 sent from London

November 3rd 1852

Sydney reaches Adelaide with a load of specie

November 1852

Conception date according to Scaiffe, as quoted by Andrews4

November 1852

Departure date of the Kangaroo from England, according to Forrer (in turn on Bousfield)5

November 23rd 1852

Bullion Act amended to permit the striking of legal tender coins

November 25th 1852

Last ingots delivered to the banks

November 26th 1852

600 ?1 pieces supplied to the South Australian Banking Company

November 26th 1852

100 Adelaide Pounds sent to London, 32 to the Royal Mint

December 2nd 1852

London notified of the 2nd Bullion Act via Despatch #85, and that no reply had been received to notification of Bullion Act #1 being passed

December 9th 1852

?40,000 in specie arrived in Adelaide aboard the Cleopatra

February 3rd 1853

Bullion Act revoked

February 13th 1853

Last Adelaide Pounds produced

February 17th 1853

Adelaide Assay Office closed

March 17th 1853

London notified of the working (cessation?) of the 2nd Bullion Act via Despatch # 22

March 22nd, 1853

British Treasury Minute issued, first formal approval of Mint established at Sydneyvi.

April 4th 1853

London advised via Despatch # that no reply had been received to notification of Bullion Act #1

April 11th, 1853

Initial selections of staff to assist in the establishment of the Sydney Mint madevii.

May 4th 1853

1st official reaction to the initial Bullion Act arrives in Adelaide

May 16th 1853

Young advises London via Despatch #2 that “the subject of forming a gold currency was under consideration of the local government, and the project was abandoned…”

April 5th 1853

Public dinner held, to reward George Tinline for his efforts in pressing for the establishment of the Adelaide Assay Office. Tinline is presented with The Tinline Salver (a specially crafted “platter”) as well as ?2,500 sterling.

May 7th 1853

Assay Office property sold

June 26th, 1853

Departure of Kangaroo from London, bound for Australia6

Oct 23rd 1853

Taylor arrives in Victoria, unable to unload the press from the ship

May 1854

Taylor's Kangaroo Office opens for business in Melbourne

August 19th, 1853

Order in Council formally establishes the Sydnet Mintviii.

September 9th, 1853

Approval given for purchase of machinery & equipmentix.

October 1854

Legislation declares Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tender in NSW

Oct 17th 1854 ~ Nov 17th 1854

Seeking to solicit business producing copper trade tokens, Taylor displays a complete set of the Kangaroo Office gold patterns and the press used to strike them at the Melbourne Exhibition.

October 19th, 1853

Approval given for staff to depart for Sydneyx.

October 18th, 1854

Order in Council declares that Sydney Mint sovereigns should pass current as legal tender in Australian colonies and New Zealand (on such date as it was proclaimed in each colony)xi.

1854

Tasmania proclaims Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tenderxii.

Late 1854 ~ May 1855

Reginald Scaife (Manager of the Kangaroo Office) “admits to failure”, begins to produce military buttons with the Kangaroo Office press

May 14th 1855

Sydney Mint opens for deposits

June 23rd, 1855

First sovereigns issued by the Sydney Mintxiii.

June 26th, 1855

Publication in New Zealand Government Gazette of proclamation declaring Sydney Mint sovereigns legal tender in New Zealandxiv.

July 18th, 1855

Legislative Act regulating NSW currency passed.xv

May 14th, 1855

Sydney Mint opens to receive gold depositsxvi.

1856

West Australia proclaims Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tenderxvii.

January 3rd, 1857

British Treasury rejects an application by the NSW Legislative Council for Sydney Mint soveriegns to be current throughout the British Empirexviii.

July 21st, 1857

Victorian Governor issues a proclamation declaring Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tenderxix.

July 30th, 1857

Proclamation issued in South Australia declaring Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tenderxx.

1857

Decision made to close the Kangaroo Office – some plant was returned to Britain, “certain machinery and dies” were sold to Thomas Stokes & Son. Taylor gave orders to destroy the Kangaroo Office dies, but these were presumably not carried out

July 1857

Sydney Mint sovereigns declared legal tender in Victoria

August 27th, 1857

Victorian Legislative Council passes act declaring Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tenderxxi.

September 9th, 1857

Victorian Legislative Council passes act exempting Sydney Mint sovereigns from duty within Victoriaxxii.

May 15th 1860

Report on the Sydney Mint tabled in the House of Commons, covered also the possibility of the establishment of a Mint at Melbourne

1860 ~

Taylor struck a range of Washington Draped Bust copper tokens using dies produced from hubs purchased from the defunct Soho Mint, these with an “ornamented” edge7

May 1st 1862 ~ Nov 1st 1862

Second International Industrial Exposition held in London

1862

Mr William Morgan Brown (Assistant Manager of the Kangaroo Office) sells a set of Kangaroo Office gold tokens to the British Museum

July 17th 1862

Report from the Select Committee on the Sydney Branch Mint presented to the House of Commons

1862 ~ 1880

Taylor struck proofs and a range of restrike varieties of the Washington Draped Bust tokens in gold, silver, copper, aluminum, gilt and pewter. Minor variants and mules are known among them

1864

The Assistant Manager appointed to run the Kangaroo Office, William Morgan Brown, told a member of the Royal Numismatic Society, W.S.W. Vaux, that 27 sets of tokens were struck, but that all but one set had been melted down8.

February 3rd, 1866

Act passed in Britain proclaiming Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tender within the United Kingdomxxiii.

August, 1866

Act passed in Britain proclaiming Sydney Mint sovereigns to be legal tender throughout the British Empire (with the exception of India and Canada)xxiv.

1871

Young Head portrait of Queen Victoria introduced

1871

Shield reverse & St George reverse designs replace Sydney Mint reverse designs

1872

Melbourne Mint opens

1898

1854/3 2oz Kangaroo Office token struck in gold for JG Murdoch. Were other tokens also struck? If so, which ones? By whom? With what dies?

1903

One, Half, and Quarter Ounce Kangaroo Office tokens were sold in the Montague Colonial Auction at Sotheby's.

1903

One, Half, and Quarter Ounce Kangaroo Office tokens were sold in the Murdoch sale by Sotheby's. This sale also included some fresh Two Ounce pieces (2 * 1853 in gold; 2 * 1854 – 1 in Gold, 1 in copper). These were reported at the time as being undoubtedly all “recent strikings” - the gold having been alloyed with copper rather than silver.

1914

Stokes & Son cease using the Kangaroo Office press

1936

Stokes & Son dismantle the ex Kangaroo Office press and sell it for scrap

Feb 24- 28 & Mar 3-7, 1954

Palace Collection of Egypt (Farouk Collection) sold by Sotheby's and Co, included in it was an 1854/3 2oz in gold.

 

1Breen, Walter; source unknown

2Source?

3http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCoin/ColCoinIntros/WashDRAPED.intro.html

4Andrews, p124

5Forre



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