Australian numismatics is a wide and diverse field that has developed greatly in the last several decades. This development has been spurred by an avid collector and investor demand in coins. One area that has grown significantly is the study, collecting, and investment in the sovereign series. For those who specialize in Australian gold, the Victoria-era sovereign series offers a great challenge with many rarities and keys. Yet one of the great rarities for not only Australian gold but Australia numismatics as a whole are proof Victoria sovereign issues. Recently, PCGS had the surprise and honor of grading one such piece.
The sovereign was a circulation-issue coin struck across the world in the British Empire. Sovereigns were minted in England, Canada, South Africa, India, and Australia and circulated between all places. Australia produced sovereign coinage at the Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth Mints – serving as branch mints of the Royal Mint in London. The main task of the Australian mints was to turn gold into circulation-issue coinage. Manufacturing proof coinage, required to be struck to the Royal Mint Standard, required the additional labor of producing special planchets and dies. During the time of Queen Victoria, the head of the mint or mint master would have discretion on making and issuing proof issues for these pieces. Proofs were often minted for record coinage or the mint cabinet collection, but the mint master could order additional proofs produced for their own collection as well as their friends or other interested parties. During this time period it was very unusual to produce more than a few pieces, if any.
Recently, a very rare Proof 1890 Half Sovereign from the Melbourne Mint was submitted to the PCGS Asia in Hong Kong. According to the website Coinworks, it is estimated that only three Proof 1890-M Half Sovereigns exist. Coinworks goes on to estimate that only 21 Queen Victoria Jubilee Head Half Sovereigns are believed to exist from the Melbourne Mint production of the series. This coin is truly an amazing survivor, graded PR65CAM by PCGS.
Now authenticated and protected by PCGS and its holder, this rarity will carry on into the future for numismatics, collectors, and investors to enjoy and cherish.