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Australia Dame Nellie Melba

1996 Proof Five Dollar reverse 1996 Proof Five Dollar obverse

1996 Proof Five Dollar

Reverse Designer:Wojciech Pietranik Obverse Designer:Raphael Maklouf Size:39mm Weight:35.79g Edge:Reeded Composition:92.5% Silver
7.5% Copper


Sales History


This piece is a commemorative coin, which pays tribute to the contributions made to Australian culture by the singer Dame Nellie Melba. This particular coin is just one out of a set of five $5 proof coins, all which were struck into sterling Silver. Australia is a country of rich culture there are people and events that have contributed to making it so. Each coin celebrates the achievements or effects of significant people and pastimes which have helped to shape the national Identity that Australia holds proud today. Those chosen to feature on the coins are believed to have played an important role in inspiring and motivating others on both an individual basis and a national one. Joining Dame Nellie Melba in this collection of people and pastimes that helped shape Australia are Henry Lawson, Tom Roberts, The Stockman and horse racing. Together they make up a set known as 'Shaping National Identity', which was released in 1996 from the Masterpieces in Silver collection struck by the Royal Australian Mint.

This coin struck in sterling silver had the reverse designed by Wojciech Pietranik, who has worked regularly on the Masterpieces in Silver collections for the RAM. Dame Nellie Melba herself is featured on the reverse and the legend, her name has been stylised in such a way to suggest that it is being sung. This is of course intended to represent her tremendous contributions to Australian culture as a popular singer. The obverse of the coin features the traditional Maklouf effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the legend ELIZABETH II AUSTRALIA 1995. This coin was packaged along with 4 others to create the complete "Shaping National Identity" set. This set originally came in the simple black box which is a staple of the Masterpieces in Silver Collection, a Certificate of Authenticity came with the set, which includes a short description of the coins and information regarding the designers and sculptors. An extract from the certificate reads 'Each of the five coins are struck on specially prepared blanks using hand-polished dies, following the Mint's strict quality guidelines. The finished product is a mirror-like flat surface complemented by a delicately frosted raised design.'

Australian born Dame Nellie Melba was an operatic soprano whose talents and dedication to her passion led to her becoming one of the most famous singers in the late Victorian era, not only within Australia but throughout the English speaking world. Melba (1861-1931) studied singing in Melbourne and quickly found herself performing successfully there. This prompted her to search for greater opportunities and she made the decision to travel to London but finding harder that expected to make an impression, she headed to Paris where she studied singing under teacher Mathilde Marchesi. This would be the move that sealed her success as she was instantly recognised for her great potential. Around this time she dropped her real name Helen Mitchell and became Nellie Melba (Melba derived from her hometown of Melbourne). In the years that followed she would debut and become an instant hit in Paris, London and New York. She had continued success throughout her life with huge tours, becoming the first Australian to appear on the cover of Time magazine and being appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1918 for her charity work and a few years later as Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire. She died at the age of 69 and her death was front page news across most of the Western world.

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