100 Greatest Modern World Coins Series: Australia 1930 Melbourne Penny, Proof

The Lincoln cent is hands down one of the most collected, most sought after, most seen, and perhaps most recognizable in all past and present produced United States coinage strikes. We see and we sell a lot of them ourselves here at The Coin Vault and there is a reason for that: collectors love pennies! But just like the United States, there are other countries out there whose collectors love their penny.

In this edition of our journey through the top 100 Greatest Modern World Coins, as put together by authors Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for Whitman Publishing’s first publication of the series, we go to the land down under. While the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent is perhaps the most famous of United States pennies, we take a look at Australia’s version. However, it remains even rarer and more valuable.

#7 - Australia 1930 Melbourne Penny, Proof

During the mid-twentieth century, collectors in Australia found themselves curious about a specific year dated coin that seemed to evade their pockets. However, there was a pretty good reason for this as the United States, and eventually, the world would see the effects of the Great Depression that began in October of 1929 when the stock market crashed in New York City. As economies struggled throughout the world, Australia was no different, and the need to strike new coins was just not there in 1930. But what coin are we talking about specifically seemed to be missing?

Bearing the obverse portrait of then-King George V, the 1930 penny was extremely difficult to find. It turns out that among some of the most key and sought after dates out of the Australian penny series, including the 1919, 1920, 1925, 1933, and 1946 issues, the 1930 was the rarest and lowest minted. While the key date pennies held low mintages of anywhere between 240,000 and nine million coins, it is estimated that the 1930 holds a limited mintage of about 3,000 business strikes and just six Proofs.

During this grim time, silver coins could only be produced if there was an order for them and that was if silver stocks allowed for it. Bronze, however, was allowed to be stockpiled regardless if there were orders for it or not. Because of this, Australian Mint officials were able to change dies to feature the 1930 date in case orders were to come in for them. In response to this, they decided to go as far as to test the dies for the bronze coins. The Mint already had a large number of 1929 pennies produced which caused them to strike very few 1930 dated coins during trials. So few were struck that they did not even bother counting them. They ended up releasing the 1929 and 1930 pennies together into circulation as they waited for the next order of bronze coins to come in 1931.

The six Proof versions of the 1930 penny were said to have been made in the calendar year of 1930 for simple “completionist reasons” as determined by authors’ Morgan and Walker. They were then ushered over to the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia, two of the nation’s leading public coin collections.

One of the coins was said to have been sold in 1974 for AU$16,000. That same coin was then sold again in 1982 for US$100,000 which equivalent to the most recent market in 2019 would be around $534,000. A different coin, which was found to be removed from the British Museum’s collection, sold for nearly US$620,000 (equivalent to $803,000 in 2019) in 2005. It sold again in 2009 for $800,000 (equivalent to $938,000 today).