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Australia Victoria Shield

1880-S Proof Half Sovereign reverse 1880-S Proof Half Sovereign obverse

1880-S Proof Half Sovereign

Mintage:3 Known Reverse Designer:J. B. Merlen Obverse Designer:William Wyon Size:19mm Weight:3.99g Edge:Reeded Composition:91.67% Gold
8.33% Copper


Sales History


Following the example of the Sydney Mint, which had been established in 1855 to ensure efficient minting of Australian gold into legal tender (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009) , and the passing of The Colonial Branch Mint Act of 1866, the Melbourne Mint was established in June, 1872 (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009) . Victoria's ample gold resources were also a strong factor in the British' government's decision to open a branch in Melbourne (Melbourne Museum, 2016) . The building that housed the Melbourne Mint was built especially for this purpose. Its architectural design purportedly inspired by Raphael's Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli in Rome, constructed in 1515 (Melbourne Mint Australia, 2013) . The building now houses the Hellenic Museum. The Melbourne Mint joined the Sydney Mint in striking full and half sovereigns and continued to strike half sovereigns until 1915, and full sovereigns until 1931, then silver and copper coinage until its closure in 1968 (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009) . The Sydney Mint closed in 1926 having produced gold, silver, and copper coins throughout its time (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009) . The Half Sovereign Young Head series was first struck on Australian soil in 1871 following the short-lived Sydney Mint series. The changeover to the imperial shield reverse design half sovereign also coincided with the changeover to a gold-copper alloy for half sovereigns. The series has five different obverse s with very slight variations (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009) . They all feature the portrait of a young Queen Victoria facing left, her hair bound in a double fillet and secured in a bun. The legend reads VICTORIA DEI GRATIA.

There are four different reverses (Monetarium (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2009) . All the reverses show a crown atop a shield. The legend reads BRITANNIARUM REGINA FID: DEF:. The mintmark is positioned directly below the shield between two rosettes.

This type is the typical die design used by the Sydney Mint during the final run of the Young Head series, distinguished by a beaded rim, it was minted from 1880 to 1887, excluding the years 1884 and 1885 which were only struck at the Melbourne Mint.

The type is available in mint state, however, it is very scarce. The most common year is the 1883 Sydney, which is the most common Young Head type in the series with two mint state examples being sold through the Reserve Bank Sale (Downies, 2005) .

The 1880 Sydney is the only date in the series sighted as a proof, but it is extremely rare and has not been seen on the market in recent times.

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