Melbourne Minted 1922 Indian Obverse Pennies?

Image 1 - 1922 Indian Obverse Penny

Image 1 – 1922 Indian Obverse Penny

Intro – Together We Prosper

I read once that science advances when people share ideas freely. I understand that concept because, as individuals, we are not going to learn everything, nor discover everything ourselves. However, when bits of the jigsaw puzzle are shared and links can be made between the various information, suddenly a bigger picture comes about.

So it was with gratitude that Fred Lever reached out to myself and Neal Effendi for reasons I cannot remember anymore, but the back and forth has been providing solid reading and avenues of further research. I am the worst person to place in a group of knowledge that I am enthusiastic about. I will prod and poke until the cows come home. However, the results often justify the means (in my mind at least!). 🙂

Fred & Neal Filling in the Gaps

It was over the Christmas break that Neal dropped a commentary that caught my attention. The 1st set of tools/master dies sent from Calcutta in 1920 contained a key obverse die marker, which was rectified in the 2nd set of tools sent to Melbourne. My first thought was that it was news to me that a 2nd Indian obverse master die/tooling had been delivered. The literature I’ve read spoke of the Indian die continuing to circulate after 1920, until 1931. It is now clear that this is not the case. Observe the crown beading below.

Image 2 - 1920 Double Dot (left), 1920 DATS (centre) and 1920 No Dot obverse varieties.

Image 2 – 1920 Double Dot (left), 1920 DATS (centre) and 1920 No Dot obverse varieties.

Along with differences in alloy, the differences in crowd beading on Indian obverse pennies in Australian KGV bronze is a major breakthrough for this author. Not so for Fred and Neal, who’d researched and discussed this die marker years ago. All varieties of 1920 Indian Obverse pennies suffer a beading defect in the King’s crown, visible as a small bridge linking the third and fourth beads.

Another Surprise in Changing Alloys

The contribution this author made in this discussion is as follows. The 1920 clone pennies are all Phosphor bronze, consisting of Cu/Sn/P. A single example of 1920 double-dot and 1920 dot-above-top-scroll (DATS) tested showed Phosphor bronze with the addition of Ni – Nickel. That is an alloy that is evident in 1919 pennies and reappears in 1921, along with a sub-set of coins alloyed in Cu/Sn/Zn. The ‘mint mark’ theory plot deepens, but this is a subject of further researched and will be elaborated in another article.

New Indian Obverse Coins in 1921 & 1922

Image 3 - 1921 Indian Obverse Penny illustrating another master die was introduced

Image 3 – 1921 Indian Obverse Penny illustrating another master die was introduced

This UNC 1921 penny (image 3) was purchased for the double hobbing error – the first I’d seen in early Australian bronze (since found on a 1919 penny as well). Once Neal alerted me to the 2nd die introduced, I went through the collection looking for the changeover. When I found the 2nd die on the 1922 Indian Obverse penny (image 1 above and in detail image 4 below), I sought out the literature from Holland and Sharples.

Image 4 - 1922 Indian Obverse penny illustrating 2nd obverse die.

Image 4 – 1922 Indian Obverse penny illustrating 2nd obverse die.

A Review of the Literature

Holland (JNAA Vol. 28, p.48) simply refers to Sharples earliest JNAA article. Sharples (JNAA Vol. 1, p.12) remarks on the introduction of the new English obverse tools in late 1921. From this he extrapolates that “…while Perth went into 1922 with the older Indian dies, Melbourne used the new London dies for that year.” It must be noted that the request from Treasury was made to Perth Mint in the same time period that the English and Calcutta obverse tools were being put to work. It is not inconceivable that Perth received at least one of the new obverses.

Elsewhere, Sharples in JNAA Vol. 6 writes that “…no new obverse dies were supplied to the Perth Mint as it had received fourteen obverse dies from Sydney in November 1921 (p.27).” I’ve analysed a small quantity of 1919 pennies in an alloy that partially appears in 1921, so I am curious about exactly which dies were delivered to Perth. Sydney had been provided three 1919 obverse and reverse dies, but never used them. Furthermore, “by the time Melbourne began striking 1922 pence, the new “London” masters were available and so it is that all 1922 pence bearing the combination I/B must have been struck at Perth Mint” (p.28).

Interpreting the Information

Sharples extrapolates two points in his research. Firstly, the delivery of old dies from Sydney to Perth must be Indian Obverse. Secondly, the arrival of “London” (English) master dies implies that Melbourne used them and Perth must have used the old Indian dies. This does not appear to be correct. However, to confirm some revisions to this history the following is required and on this author’s list of follow-up research:

  1. Confirmation from the Royal Mint of the delivery of Calcutta tools in 1921 from Neal Effendi.
  2. The ability to confirm mint origins via the strike characteristic of the coin with reasonable certainty.
  3. Ideally correlate the strike characteristic to the alloys found in XRF analysis.

Perth Mint Obverse Characteristics

TEC has written on mint marks and the unusual strike characteristics of pennies that possibly originate from Perth. Click on this link for more information (opens in new tab). The baseline for labelling a particular strike “Perth Mint” came about from remarks made by Peter Andrews as per the screenshot below. The coin in question can be viewed with PCGS here:

Take a good look at the coin in the link above and then observe the following penny. What do you see? If you see a concave obverse strike that is not fully struck up to the rim, then you’re looking at a strike characteristic that mirrors Peter Andrews’s (geography based) suspicions about the 1920 English Obverse dot-above-bottom-scroll (DABS). Only thing is, the coin below is English obverse; purported to be Melbourne Mint in origins.

Image 5 - a 1922 English Obverse Penny

Image 5 – a 1922 English Obverse Penny

Alloy, Colour, Strike & Die

If you’ve patiently and diligently followed the various ramblings of this author, you may have started to put together some potential links. We may be closer to drawing conclusions; however some additional research remains. Alloys have varying colour potential. The above yellow/orange toning in the Sunnywood Classification shows a nuanced difference to the Phosphor bronzes from 1916 in my collection.

For this reason (and this line of research) I purchased the above coin from Eric of Drake Sterling. Upon receipt the coin will be freed from its prison and an XRF analysis will be conducted, potentially confirming suspicions. The strike resembles a small but growing collection of concaved obverse die strikes. Dr David Briggs suggests that the Perth Mint machinery was modern and capable, but the die blocks fitted to said machinery were not intended to press large bronze.

This is further technical understanding I hope to gain from visiting the Sydney Powerhouse Museum this year. They have a Melbourne Mint Taylor & Challen press, hopefully with associated tools and accessories to peruse. Clearly the die (English obverse) does not align with the musings of Sharples, but this doesn’t particularly  concern me. I believe a fresh perspective is what is needed, which may or may not correspond to articles penned nearly 40 years ago!

Is it a Melbourne Minted 1922 Indian Obverse Penny?

Given the evidence presented and the preposition that concaved obverse pennies characterise neither Melbourne or Sydney, it is suggested here that Image 1 appears to be a Melbourne Minted, Indian obverse 1922 penny. Further research and evidence may confirm or negate this. Time will tell.