It’s with satisfaction that I’ve intellectually engaged in numismatic research and seen positive change result. Now TEC is offering all collectors and dealers of Australian half-sovereigns an opportunity to provide input for the 3rd ed. of Marsh’s very popular guidebook. This is a call to community for assistance in updating Australian half sovereigns!

An Email from the (New) Editor

I had with some sadness heard of John Mussel’s (below centre) passing in September of 2023. I had first engaged with John in 2018, after only having been a collector for a year! Since then, I had rushed in some scribblings on what I perceived to be correct for scarcity of Australian half sovereigns as John advised the 2nd edn. was approaching print. I thought little more of it as I started full time employment again and lo and behold, Steve Hill (below left) had taken those notes and used them almost verbatim. I was shocked.

Just a couple of weeks ago John’s wife Carol (right image) dropped me an email as she has taken up where John has left off. I for one am happy to assist in updating the record, so that Australian half-sovereigns take the rightful place as some of the rarest gold pre-decimal coins produced by the Royal Mint’s subsidiaries. If you are interested in supporting this effort to produce a better guidebook, then read on!

Looking for a better guidebook

Back in 2018 yours truly wrote to Token Publishing to advise of a publication error in The Gold Sovereign. It was a misspelling of perhaps the most glaring error in Australian half sovereigns – the RR variant of 1858. A short time later the following was published in UK Coin News.

Updating Australian Half Sovereigns – Furious Scribbling

Some lengthy discussions with Dr David Briggs back in 2019-20 led to the following publication at the behest of John. Some numismatists may argue that 1882M is a variant of 1877M type 4, but for myself the comparison with bronze is applicable. The Royal Mint took the 1911 London obverse penny, ground off the beading and tacked on a new rim to create the Birmingham obverse of Heaton Mint in 1912.

The half sovereign series, being of such small surface area and proving so difficult to create quality steel dies led the Royal Mint to constantly modify their dies in search of a happy medium. It didn’t work, but it led to such novelties as a single experimental die being delivered to the Melbourne Mint (then in possession of superior minting equipment) in order to observe outcomes. Thus the logic of enforcing the Royal Mint nomenclature – of obverse dies one through six – as published in the following paper in UK Coin News. Obverse die 5 had already been placed into service in 1880, so the Royal Mint didn’t go backwards in rereleasing an old die variant, but discretely minted a sixth head for one die only.

Updating Australian Half Sovereigns for the 2nd Edition

Fast forward to early 2021 and I find myself furiously scribbling out some revised figures for Sydney Mint and Young Head half sovereigns. They are largely quoted in the 2nd edn, accompanied by some rather rough and ready images as seen below. If you believe that any of these estimates are incorrect, now is your chance to influence change!

Scribblings and images provided to Token Publishing for their 2nd edn.


Updated Images for Australian Half Sovereigns – A Call to Community

The admittedly rather rough looking images of obverse 1 thru 5 (above) supplied to John were also published in the 2nd edn. I do have a few obverses that could be tweaked in Photoshop to remove the impairments (like this extremely scarce grade of 1887M YH details grade scratched). However, if you have images ready for print and would like acknowledgement of said contribution, please forward to myself and I will – in the next couple of weeks – provide a package of updated material to send to Token Publishing.

A Call to Community and Recorded for Posterity

Those collectors contributing valuable information that I can correlate and forward for publication can choose their level of discretion in what will be a follow up blog post and PDF research publication in TEC’s Library of Essential Reading. Your name, your location or just your comments or images will be published in a follow up post and hard copied into a PDF publication. It’s by such community efforts that I hope to see Australian Half Sovereigns take their place as the most collectable of pre-decimal UK and Colonial gold coinage. You can sign in to log a comment or email [email protected]Here’s hoping to see a bigger and better updating of Australian Half Sovereigns. Cheers, Les.