Fifty years ago back in 1966, Australia moved from its old system of currency to a decimal one. The new and logical system is widely used in various incarnations around the world and Australia launched a new range of coins to mark the change. One of the best of these was the 50-cent piece, a design that is classically Australian on so many levels.
Originally a 13.28g coin struck in 0.800 fineness silver, the 31.5mm round piece carried a pretty complex and detailed design and lasted just a single year before the rising price of silver put paid to it. It was replaced with a copper-nickel 12-sided coin in 1969, no 50-cent coins having been struck in 1968 or 1969. Despite its short lifespan, some 36,454,000 of them were produced (only 14,000,000 were distributed), along with 18,000 proof versions.
The design features the current coat of arms of Australia, as authorised in September 1912 by King George V. An ermine bordered escutcheon is supported by a Red Kangaroo and an Emu, above which is a seven-pointed star on a wreath. The shield carries the emblems of six Australian states. The version for the coin was designed by Stuart Devlin, also responsible for the superb Mob of Roos design.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Royal Australian Mint have released a commemorative version of this beautiful classic. Keeping the diameter of the original and being within half a gram of the original weight, the design is an accurate reproduction except for some areas of selective gilding. The obverse layout hasn’t really changed, as you’d expect with Australian circulating currency, except the effigy is now the ubiquitous Ian Rank Broadley version, instead of the arguably prettier Arnold Machin version. Selling for $100.00 AUS, it’s available to order now.