Port Phillip Kangaroo Office
1853 Half Ounce Pattern Restrike in Copper (Believed to be struck in 1918)
Diameter: 23.32 mm
Reference #: Andrews 779
Quality: as struck
Struck using the original dies of the Kangaroo Office, very nearly as rare as the original pattern struck in gold.
The products of the Kangaroo Office at Port Phillip are among the most highly-prized items in Australian numismatics. Incredibly rare, they are a testament to the entrepreneurial drive of the tens of thousands that chose to seek their fortune on the goldfields of Victoria.
The Intended National Coinage of England's Most Prosperous Colony
In his 1864 article on the background to the Kangaroo Office patterns for the Numismatic Chronicle, W.S.W. Vaux stated that the patterns were "...struck in the year 1853, when it was proposed to erect a separate mint for Port Philip (Melbourne), in South Australia. They cannot indeed be considered as specimens of art, but they will serve hereafter as an interesting record of what the most prosperous colony England has ever founded intended as the type of their national coinage."
This ultimate mix of rarity, history and quality comes at a price - nearly all of the output of the Kangaroo Office is valued in tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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.
Although dangerous to the novice, the counterfeits are generally poorly made and are no substitute for the genuine article. The various legitimate copies can each be valued relative to the original articles, once they have been accurately identified.
Stokes Purchased the Press and Dies in 1857
Commentary by John Sharples indicates that "some identical dies" and "probably... master tools" for the Kangaroo Office were retained by WJ Taylor in London. 
Research has shown that the original Kangaroo Office press, as well as the vast majority of the dies sent to Australia, were purchased in 1857 by Thomas Stokes, who used the press in his own business for many decades. Thomas Stokes passed away in 1910, but was succeeded in the family business by his four sons. Information held in the Stokes archives shows the Kangaroo Office press was scrapped in the 1930's, whereas the dies were either retained or donated to the National Gallery of Victoria.
The dies of the Kangaroo Office were officially used several times in the decades that followed 1854, this copper pattern is a genuine product of them.
Just How Rare Are the Kangaroo Office Patterns?
2oz: Only one 2oz pattern has been offered for sale anywhere in the world in the past half century - the ex Farouk specimen, which was in a Heritage (New York) auction in 2005.
1oz: No 1oz pattern has been publicly offered for sale anywhere in the world since an auction conducted by Glendining's in London in November 1967.
1/2oz: Only one gold Kangaroo Office half ounce pattern has been publicly offered for sale in Australia, that was by Spink and Son (Australia) in October 1977, where it made $24,500 - by far the highest price of any numismatic item in that auction.
1/4oz: Just 7 examples of the gold Kangaroo Office 1/4 oz pattern are known to exist - only 4 are known in private hands, and only 3 of those have been made available to collectors in the past half century.
Official Usage of the Kangaroo Office Dies Following 1854:
Empirical information that describes the occasions on which the Kangaroo Office dies were officially used is sparse and is unfortunately heavily reliant on oral history as opposed to published records. One auction listing [Noble Numismatics Auction 87a, lot 391 - April 2008] for a set of 8 uniface strikes of each die in gilt copper stated the following:
"The original dies were sold to Thomas Stokes in 1857. These in turn were donated to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1933, they were then transferred to the Science Museum of Victoria in 1976. Soon after its establishment the Royal Australian Mint produced these copper gilt restrikes from the original deteriorated "Kangaroo Office' dies (which were loaned to them from the National Gallery of Victoria in 1970) for presentation to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, U.S.A. This set was acquired through Ray Jewell when the the Carnegie Museum decided to dispose of its numismatic collection. The original obverse die of the half ounce is still in the possession of Stokes (Australasia) Ltd."
This is perhaps the most comprehensive written discussion of the use of the Kangaroo Office dies since 1854 located to date, yet it can be built upon via the following comments that have been taken from a range of published sources:
"Struck by Stokes in 1917" - this brief reference describes an apparent visit by a Victorian numismatic society to the premises of Stokes in 1917. A small number of patterns are thought to have been struck as uniface lead "pulls", as well as dual-sided patterns in copper.  This widely-accepted oral history may or may not be correct, as empirical evidence is yet to support it.
Research by Darren Burgess of the Numismatic Association of Victoria has determined that Page 3 of the minutes for the 1917 Annual General Meeting of the Numismatic Society of Victoria (NSV) includes the following statement: "One of the visitors, Mr. Russell, presented a letter of introduction from Messrs Stokes & Sons, the noted medallists and early token manufacturers of this city, & on their behalf presented to the President for the Society's collection 4 replicas of the old 1853 Kangaroo Gold Tokens (2oz, 1oz, 1/2oz 1/4oz), the dies of which are still in their possession. These examples were excellently finished and as the known originals are so few the President voiced the gratitude of the members for such rare and unexpected gifts." Despite widespread and repeated references to a visit to the premises of Stokes by a numismatic group having taken place in 1917, the above passage indicates that it is not likely to have happened.
A half-ounce obverse struck in lead offered by Noble Numismatics in April 2012 is also attributed as having been struck "...by Stokes circa 1917." It exhibits a strong die crack between 3 and 5, and also shows loss of detail in front of the kangaroo's belly, as well as in the ground above its rear paws. Another half-ounce restrike in lead offered by Downie's (Australian Coin Auctions) in February 2002 shares the same die characteristics as both of the above items, as well as the copper restrike that we offer here.
"Struck by Stokes During 1918" There are several references on the Museum Victoria website to a visit by the NSW to the Stokes premises in 1918, and further to Kangaroo Office restrikes being commissioned during that year. An image of a half-ounce reverse struck in lead, currently held by Museum Victoria shows exactly the same rust characteristics as we see on this piece, which lends weight to them having been struck at the same time. The item description prepared by their curator states that it was "struck during a visit of Numismatics Society of Victoria (NSV) to the mint in 1918.” The description for a uniface restrike of a halfpenny reverse in copper held by Museum Victoria states "...in the early Twentieth Century Alfred Chitty arranged for the production of re-strikes..."Just how these two descriptions are related remains to be seen.
A double-sided 1oz in gilt copper is stated to have been "Struck from reworked dies by the Melbourne Mint Master" around 1919. [Reference - Downie ACA auction catalogue 274, page 69. March 2001] The catalogue images show the fields to be free of rust spots, confirming that if the Deputy Master of the Melbourne Mint (listed as being Matthew Lawson Bagge between 1915 and 1921) had indeed commissioned the striking of this item, the dies were cleaned up before they were deployed. Bagge is not widely known as having any numismatic interest, so this claim requires verification.
Struck by the Royal Australian Mint (RAM) in 1970. [Reference - Noble Numismatics Auction 87a, lot 391 - April 2008]. The details of how RAM staff gained access to the Kangaroo Office dies has not been published, however this is roughly the same era that the Controller of the RAM, Jim Henderson, gained permission from the Art Gallery of South Australia to re-strike examples of the Adelaide Pound and Five Pound using the original dies. It is entirely possible that Henderson gained similar permission from Stokes to strike examples of the Kangaroo Office patterns as well.
A wide range of restrikes; cast copies and electrotypes are held by public collections around the world and have been offered for sale via auction over the years. The above list will be built upon as more empirical information comes to hand.
This particular restrike obviously does not compare with the original gold piece struck in 1854, however it is authentic beyond question once we compare it with publicly-held examples known to be genuine (such as those in Museum Victoria and the British Museum) and others that have been offered for sale.
Our interpretation of the physical characteristics that it has leads us to conclude it was struck by Stokes at some stage in 1917 or 1918 at the time of the apparent visit by members of the Numismatic Society of Victoria to the Stokes premises. As Stokes did not dispose of the original Kangaroo Office press until "the 1930's", this item may well have been struck using the original Kangaroo Office dies and press - a technical status that cannot be made of restrikes struck after 1933.
We are reminded that only one gold Kangaroo Office half ounce pattern has ever been publicly offered for sale in Australia - that was by Spink and Son (Australia) in October 1977, where it made $24,500 - by far the highest price of any numismatic item in that auction. Although several uniface strikes of the half ounce pattern have been seen in lead, this is the only double-sided struck example we have seen offered for sale via public auction to collectors since the gold example was offered in 1977.
The only comparable double-sided Kangaroo Office restrike in copper was a 1oz piece in the Quartermaster Collection, auctioned by Monetarium in June 2009. It made a hammer price of $6,800 against a pre-sale estimate of $3,000.
In and of itself, this half ounce restrike in copper is an incredibly rare representation of this compelling chapter in Australia's numismatic and economic history.
It is certainly far cheaper than the gold pattern would be if it came onto the market, and if past auction appearances are any guide, it may well be just as rare.
1. "Proposed Coinage For Port Phillip, Australia, In 1853"; W. S. W. Vaux; The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, New Series, Vol. 4 (1864), pp. 64
2. "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
3. Kenyon, A. S., "Report of the Honorary Numismatist”, Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria for 1933, p. 57
4. Noble Numismatics Auction 87a, lot 391 - April 2008
5. Quartermaster Collection Catalogue; June 2009
6. Watson, Thomas & Bennett; , "Heads I win : the true story of David Gee, Australia's most audacious coin forger", Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1986, p 43.
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