The 1920s were a highly variable decade for Australian gold coins, both in terms of mintage and survival. Some dates such as the 1927M were likely completely destroyed, while others, such as the 1925S are considered to be some of the most abundant of the George V sovereigns today. As a result, 1920s Australian gold issues see strong and ever-increasing demand from numismatists and investors alike.
It is perhaps worth discussing why there is little apparent continuity in Australian mint policy during the third decade of the 20th century. Firstly, the ripple effect, both economic and social of the First World War was heavily felt in the land down under – the country was left with war debts totaling £262.5 million, and returning cash flush soldiers increased domestic spending, thus forcing inflation into the double digits through much of the 10 years following 1919. Much of the gold extracted from the famed ‘Golden Mile’ was hastily worked into ingots and used to service foreign debt.
This situation had the foreseeable effect of provoking widespread hoarding of gold coin, leading in turn to shortages. By the middle of the 1920s, the mints were beginning to respond to demand, and mintages exploded. With increased production came increased demand for gold ore, and this led to the depletion of economically viable gold reserves in some of Australia’s largest extraction points – only in the 1980s would technological advances make them again worth mining.
As the economic situation began to sour both at home and abroad through the latter years of the 1920s, gold stocks were either exported or remelted (often the exported material met the same fate as the domestically destroyed pieces), meaning that years which may have been high mintage dates were sometimes completely obliterated.
We here at PCGM recently received an interesting memento of this erratic decade in Australian numismatics when this 1922S was submitted for authentication and grading. With correct weight and fineness, and displaying die diagnostics consistent with a later state 1922S die, the authenticity of this piece checked out quickly – making it quite the find indeed! Only 578 000 of these coins were struck to begin with, and records indicate that most of these were not released. Furthermore, it is generally considered likely that the majority, if not all of the remaining stocks were melted down after being shipped to Britain in 1930-1, meaning that very few survive today.
This example, though showing some contact marks consistent with mint storage, as well as some minor ‘counting wear,’ still presents the viewer with relatively clean fields and pleasing detail. After some deliberation, we assessed it at AU-58, making it a very solid example of a supremely collectible coin – the third most difficult date/mintmark combination in the set!
Not only a beautiful numismatic item, this coin speaks volumes about the socio-economic turmoil which was created by the First World War, thus making it a fascinating piece of history.