The Mint Marks of the Australian Branch Mints

Category: Collect

Until the mid-1800s, The Royal Mint in London was the sole producer of gold Sovereigns for the United Kingdom and the Empire. But when new sources of gold were discovered overseas, The Royal Mint opened branch mints to allow production to operate remotely in international locations. It made economic sense to refine the gold into usable coinage near where it was mined, rather than paying the substantial transport and insurance costs to ship the heavy metal back to The Royal Mint’s headquarters in Tower Hill, London.

The first of these overseas branch mints to open was in Sydney, Australia, in 1855. To differentiate between Sovereigns struck in Tower Hill and in Sydney, it was agreed that the Australian Sovereigns would feature a new reverse design. The design by Leonard C. Wyon, son of acclaimed engraver William Wyon, featured a crown with the word ‘AUSTRALIA’ within a wreath below it. It was also engraved with the words ‘SYDNEY MINT ONE SOVEREIGN’. The design continues to be popular and sought after by collectors around the world.

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In January 1871, a Royal Proclamation authorised the Sydney branch mint to start striking Sovereigns featuring the same design as those minted in Tower Hill, the only difference being the inclusion of a small ‘S’ mint mark to distinguish its origin. This design was Benedetto Pistrucci’s iconic St George and the dragon, which is still used on Sovereigns today.

A second Australian branch mint was opened in Melbourne in June 1872, producing coins with an ‘M’ mint mark, and a third branch in Perth commenced operations in June 1899, whose coins featured a small ‘P’ as their mint mark.

Between 1855 and 1931, these three Australian branch mints struck more than 400 million Sovereigns. In fact, coins from the three Australian branch mints made up around 40% of the total Sovereigns circulating within Britain at the start of the twentieth century. As the demand for Sovereigns waned following the First World War, so did the need for the branch mints. The Sydney mint closed in 1926 and the Melbourne and Perth mints stopped producing Sovereigns in 1931.

Australian Branch Mints Sets

Australian Branch Mints Four-Coin Set

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