AUSTRALIAN SHIPWRECKS (2019-2021) by the Royal Australian Mint

Quite the surprise on its debut, the Royal Australian Mint’s new Australian Shipwrecks bullion coin featured a couple of design choices not normally associated with this traditionally conservativbe mint. Quite apart from the fact the RAM had only recently jumped into the bullion market with both feet, after years of just dabbling, the choice of a triangular format was a brave one. The first time we’ve seen a triangular denominated bullion coin from anyone, that alone gives this series some kudos amongst collectors.

The theme of the range revolves around the many historical ships that have come to grief around the waters off the Australian continent. Countless vessels from the European colonial powers ended their voyages on the local sea bed, often with some astounding stories of bravery and/or horror. It’s a superb idea for a bullion series, especially from the Australasian producers who tend to head to the local wildlife for inspiration. The reverse face is interesting in that it is designed to be looked at in two ways. Went turned one way, the inscriptions are the correct way up to be read, and the ship is portrayed as sinking beneath the waves. Turned up the other way, the ship is depicted under full sail on the surface of the sea. Not something done with great intricacy, of course, it does remain a neat touch, however.

The second unusual aspect of this coin series concerns the obverse. It’s very rare indeed for the RAM to have anything other than the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on it, but for this series, each issue carries a fully customised piece of art related to the theme, with the effigy integrated into it. These are also packed with fine detail, so we’re not just talking about a simple patterned border here. The end result is each coin is quite unique and it’s rare you can say that in the bullion market these days.

Two formats are available, both a troy ounce in weight. The 0.999 silver coin has a pretty tight mintage of 20,000 units, while the gold is
positively rare at just 250 pieces. Both are provided encapsulated, so you don’t have to tear your hair out trying to find a capsule for them at least. A new addition is the release of an antiqued silver version of each design, just the first being available at the time of writing. They look great and a mintage of just 1,000 pieces has to be appealing to admirers of the series.

Sadly, Australian Shipwrecks is to be capped at four issues. The series is exclusively distributed by LPM, a Hong Kong based bullion dealer with a good history of exclusive low mintage bullion coin releases. A very cool set of coins with a format we hope is at least revisied by the mint in another form in the future.

2019 BATAVIA (1629)

Built in Amsterdam in 1628 and sailing from Texel to the Dutch East Indies later that year, on the surface the Batavia was just another merchant ship heading east. What followed was a horrifying story of brutality in the name of self interest that is still remembered almost four centuries later. Commanded by Francisco Pelsaert and captained by Ariaen Jacobsz, the ship carried a huge supply of trade gold and silver, and a junior merchant named Jeronimus Cornelisz, a bankrupt pharmacist from Haarlem who was fleeing the Netherlands.

During the voyage, Jacobsz and Cornelisz conceived a plan to take the ship. On 4 June 1629 the ship struck Morning Reef near Beacon Island off the Western Australian coast. Most of the passengers and crew managed to get ashore on an island but 40 people drowned of the 322 aboard. After realising there was no fresh water and limited food on the islands, Pelsaert headed to the mainland in a 9.1m longboat, only to discover it was also without fresh water. In what is considered one of the greatest feats of navigation in open boats, Pelsaert, Jacobsz and some others took a 33 day voyage to Batavia, now Jakarta in which all survived. Batavia’s Governor General, Jan Coen, immediately gave Pelsaert command of the Sardam to rescue the other survivors, as well as to attempt to salvage riches from the Batavia’s wreck.

Arriving two months after leaving the wreck of the Batavia, what he discovered was horrifying. Cornelisz, left in charge of the survivors, realised that should the party going to the city of Batavia succeed the discovery of the planned mutiny would lead to possible executions, so he planned to hijack any rescue ship and try to find shelter somewhere remote, using the gold and silver to start a new kingdom. Opponents would need to be eliminated, however. After gaining control by sending the soldiers to nearby West Wallabi Island, under the false pretence of searching for water and then abandoning them there, Cornelisz took complete control. Over the next two months, “With a dedicated band of murderous young men, Cornelisz began to systematically kill anyone he believed would be a problem to his reign of terror, or a burden on their limited resources. The mutineers became intoxicated with killing, and no one could stop them. They needed only the smallest of excuses to drown, bash, strangle or stab to death any of their victims, including women and children”. In total, his followers murdered at least 110 men, women, and children.

The soldiers Cornelisz thought he had abandoned had in fact found good food and water supplies, and learning of what Cornelisz had done they fabricated some weapons and built a small fort. After several battles with musket-armed men sent by Cornelisz, they prevailed until Pelsaert arrived with reinforcements which together soon captured all the mutineers.

Pelsaert held trials on the islands and the worst offenders were hanged after having their hands cut off. Others were punished in Batavia, even Pelsaert not escaping as a board of inquiry decided that Pelsaert had exercised a lack of authority and was therefore partly responsible for what had happened.


On the morning of 28 April 1656, a VOC ship called the Vergulde Draeck, travelling towards Batavia (now Jakarta) with a load of trade goods, coins, cargo, passengers and crew, struck an uncharted reef off the coast of Western Australia. The reef gutted the ship and only 75 of the crew survived, along with a small quantity of provisions and a single boat.

The under steersman, Abraham Leeman, took the boat and six crew on an astonishing and gruelling journey to Batavia and reported the wreck. Several attempts were made to rescue the survivors, but they were never located. The wreck of the Vergulde Draeck was discovered in 1963 and was excavated in 1972. Some 19,000 coins were recovered, mainly Spanish reals and some Japanese silver coins. The mystery of what became of the survivors of the Vergulde Draeck has never been answered. This was one of the most enigmatic episodes of Australia’s maritime history

2020 ZUYTDORP (1712)

In 1711, Dutch East India Company trading ship, the Zuytdorp (meaning ‘South Village’), set out from the Netherlands for Batavia on what was to be its third and final voyage. Onboard were more than 200 men and precious cargo comprising 250,000 silver coins. After nearly seven months at sea with scurvy claiming the lives of many men, the Zuytdorp continued its journey from the Cape of Good Hope via the Indian Ocean.

Zuytdorp never arrived at Batavia and with no knowledge of where it may have sunk or whether it had been taken by pirates, no search was ever made. The wreck was found more than 200 years later off the coast of Western Australia along a stretch now known as the Zuytdorp Cliffs. Divers of the wreck have reported a ‘Carpet of Silver’ – the result of thousands of silver coins strewn along the ocean floor. These coins inscribed with ‘Zeeland’ and ‘1711’ helped identify the wreck as the ill-fated Zuytdorp, which still abounds in mystery today.

2021 ZEEWIJK (1727)

The Zeewijk left the Netherlands in 1726 for Batavia with 208 seamen and a rich cargo of more than 315,000 guilders in ten chests. Having lost 28 men by the time it reached the Cape of Good Hope in 1727, further disaster soon struck when the Zeewijk hit reef off the Western Australian coast. Managing to set up camp on a nearby island and saving the chests of guilders, 11 of the survivors later launched the longboat to raise the alarm in Batavia. Tragically, these men were never seen again.

Meanwhile, the remaining crew salvaged material from the Zeewijk’s wreck and ingeniously built another boat, named ‘Sloepie,’ reinforced with local mangrove timber. More than ten months after being shipwrecked, the men and chests of guilders set sail in Sloepie. After just four weeks, 82 survivors victoriously landed at Batavia in their makeshift boat. The Zeewijk was the last Dutch East Indiaman to be wrecked off the Western Australian coast and Sloepie was the first boat built by Europeans in Australia.


Released on 16th September 2020, a year after the debut of the original brilliant uncirculated version, is a new antiqued variant of the same design. The only difference in this re-issue of the first Batavia release is that finish and a mintage limited to just 1,000 pieces. It is supplied encapsulated, as per the original, and not sold as a higher-end numismatic. This is the first example of an antique-finished Royal Australian Mint bullion coin.


DENOMINATION $1 AUD (Australia) $100 AUD (Australia)
WEIGHT 31.1 grams 31.1 grams
DIMENSIONS 33.9 mm 33.9 mm
FINISH Brilliant uncirculated or Antiqued Brilliant uncirculated
MINTAGE 20,000 (1,000 antiqued) 250