Kangaroo Office Commemorative Medal, Struck circa 1854 by William Joseph Taylor
Reference #’s: Carlisle V/2, Andrews 784a
A truly exclusive relic from Australia's first private mint.
The Kangaroo Office at Port Phillip was a bold attempt by several British entrepreneurs to convert the raw wealth of Australia's goldfields into tokens that could circulate throughout colonial Victoria and New South Wales.
Circumstances ensured that Australia's first private mint failed after just three short years, however the vision of its founder is celebrated none the less for it. In fact, the 1853 Kangaroo Office Patterns of Port Phillip are among the rarest and most desirable of all Australian coins.
The list of private collections that have held even just one of the Kangaroo Office Patterns of Port Phillip read like a roll call of the finest holdings of Australian gold coins ever formed – the Murdoch; Montagu; Nobleman; Farouk and Quartermaster collections have all held Kangaroo Office Patterns.
The main man behind the Kangaroo Office was William Joseph Taylor, a medallist and die engraver in London. Taylor struck a number of tokens and medals in the name of the Kangaroo Office in London, while a wide range of tokens and medals were also struck on-site at the Kangaroo Office in Port Phillip (Melbourne).
The exact date checks such as this were struck isn't recorded, but they are believed to have been struck for sale or distribution at the Melbourne Exhibition from December 1854.
We have sighted just one other example in private hands, making it as rare as the gold tokens that were struck at the same time.
First Recorded in 1895 by Dr Walter Edmund Roth
A Kangaroo Office medal in white metal was first recorded in 1895, in an article by Dr Walter Edmund Roth, one of Australia's most important numismatists. Roth emigrated to Australia in 1887. He taught briefly at various schools in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney, then practised medicine with his brother Reuter in Sydney. Walter was a dedicated collector of tokens and coins and spent much time classifying and researching the items in his collection.
By 1893, Roth had prepared a “Catalogue of Australian Tokens”. Sections of Roth’s Catalogue were published as a series of articles titled “A Numismatic History of Australia” in “The Queenslander” newspaper across 1895. Roth’s second article (dated July 27th 1895) covered much of the history of the Kangaroo Office, many of the details of which were gained via a detailed conversation he had with Reginald Scaife in London in 1892. Roth’s conversation with Scaife is a solid source of primary information on the Kangaroo Office.
Roth’s description of the output of the Kangaroo Office included the comment that “…besides the gold coins, the Kangaroo Office issued: a. a medal to commemorate its establishment. The medal is size 39mm, pewter and copper. Obv.: a hand-press in centre, with “COINS MEDALS & TRADESMAN'S TOKENS STRUCK”, surrounded by “KANGAROO OFFICE MELBOURNE” on a raised border. Rev.: Crowned head of the Queen to left, “VICTORIA” above, and “W. J. TAYLOR LONDON” under.”
If we accept Roth’s description of the purpose of the medal, this dates it to the middle of 1854 at the latest - when the shop was built, and the press began operations.
Scaife’s letter to his parents in September 1854 indicated that he did not strike the gold Kangaroo Office patterns until close to the end of the Melbourne Exhibition, which opened on 17th October and ran until 12th December.
If the medal was indeed struck before the gold patterns, it explains why it has been so highly prized by collectors in years past.
No Alternative Production Dates Are Possible - 1854 or 1898
Kangaroo Office tokens are so tightly-held and valuable, generations of collectors (both public and private) have made legitimate copies via casting; electrotypes and re-use of the dies. To complicate matters further, the Kangaroo Office tokens were also a favoured target of Australia's most notorious counterfeiter, David Gee.
When it comes this medal or check, we believe the available evidence indicates that no alternative production date is possible other than 1854, or at the very latest 1898.
As part of his ground-breaking primary research into the Kangaroo Office, John Sharples determined that “with the exception of the gold piece dies, W. J. Taylor sent only halfpenny sized dies to Australia.” An article in the Australian Numismatic Society Report for September 1963 includes the following statement: "The Kangaroo Office medal, mentioned as a matter of interest, as well as the unique pattern halfpenny from the author's collection, were struck in England." 
As no dies for the advertising check were ever sent to Australia, they could not have been re-used by Scaife; Stokes; nor the staff of the Melbourne Mint nor the Royal Australian Mint. A review of the court transcript that covers David Gee's counterfeiting court case includes no reference to him ever having attempted to copy this check.
Commentary by John Sharples indicates that "some identical dies" and "probably... master tools" for the Kangaroo Office were retained by WJ Taylor in London. 
It is widely acknowledged that the firm of Taylor struck a small number of patterns from the Kangaroo Office for the famed (and very wealthy) collector John G Murdoch in or around 1898.  It is possible that this medal was struck at the same time as the 1854 patterns were struck for Murdoch, but as there is no mention of it in the catalogue that covers this section of his collection, it is most unlikely it was.
On the available evidence then, it seems this medal was most likely struck in 1853, at the very latest in 1898.
Ray Jewell - South Australian Numismatic Journal in 1962
Evidence of the appeal that this check has held in years past is an article written by the eminent numismatist Ray Jewell, published in the South Australian Numismatic Journal in 1962. We note that Jewell remarks only that "...a copy in copper..." had been noted, not multiple examples.
This check is an essential complement to any collection of Kangaroo Office patterns that aspires to be truly complete.
When the relative values it has traded at in years past are taken into account, it is solid value for money.
 Reynolds; Barrie, "Walter Roth and the Missing Manuscript" in the Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, 15, 2004, p 53.
 A Numismatic History of Australia. (1895, July 27). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), p. 171.
 Sharples, John, “The Australasian Tradesmen’s Tokens Project, The James Nokes Proof Halfpenny and Problems of the Kangaroo Office”, in the Journal of the NAA, Volume 17 Number 7, 2005, p 29.
 Sharples; John, "The Kangaroo Office - A 19th Century Sting" in the Journal of the NAA, Volume 4 Number 7, 1988, p 29.
 Australian Numismatic Society Report, September 1963, page 35.
 "The Australasian Tradesmen’s Tokens Project, The James Nokes Proof Halfpenny and Problems of the Kangaroo Office"; Sharples, John; The Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, Volume 17 (2006), pp. 51
 Quartermaster Collection Catalogue; June 2009
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