The Australian Numismatic Society



Australian predecimal pennies are richer in important mint mark and master die varieties than any other series in Oceania, and are perhaps as complex in this regard as any coinage series of the twentieth century. The purpose of this brief article is to list the eighteen different master die types used for striking Australian pennies, present simple aids for their identification, and provide a listing of the die pairings that have been observed for these coins. In these listings obverse die types are designated by a number and reverse die types by a letter. Since modern methods of die production allow a very large number of working dies to be prepared from a single master die, even minor design variations characteristic of a master die such as the number or relative position of border beads to the legend can be precisely replicated on issues spanning many years of production. As a result, it is interesting to note that 1932-36 George V pennies employ the same master die types as those of 1912-15, and the reverse used on 1964 Melbourne pennies is of the same type used from 1938-51 at both Australian mints.

Master die types observed on Australian pennies are often associated with particular mints.
These include the well known "English" and "Indian" obverse dies of George V pennies (here labeled obv 1 and 2). Other master die types associated with particular mints include distinctive "Bombay" and "London" mint reverse die types for George VI pennies, and "Melbourne" and "Perth" die types for Elizabeth II pennies. Pairings of these have resulted in a number of scarce or rare varieties of Australian pennies including "English" die pennies of 1920-21, "Indian" die pennies of 1924, 1927 and 1931, 1943
Bombay pennies with 1942 style denticles, the Melbourne mint penny of 1953 without serifs on the "5" using the new reverse die type of 1955-59, and Perth mint penny "mules" of 1955-56 with either the newer "Perth" type obverse or older "Melbourne" style obverse, respectively.

Knowledge of master die types used can also provide a valuable tool for the detection of forged or altered coins, and in some cases can be used to identify the mint where the coins were struck in the absence of a mintmark. Since the numbers and types of varieties struck using various master die types were not officially recorded, collecting these not only provides a significant challenge for the collector, but offers possibilities for discovery.

In the listings below, the different master die types are designated by a number or letter, along with a count of the border beads and simple identification aids.
A summary listing of the known die pairings follows giving: year and mint mark, the normal die pairing, the variety die pairing with a relative rarity estimate (S=scarce, R=rare and ER=extremely rare), and brief comments.
The interested reader can find further details, including photos of the different types and many other references in the two articles listed at the end. However study of the coins themselves is probably more useful, and for this, even a partial date set of circulated pennies should be adequate.

Penny Master Die Types

Die Type (# beads) Die Type Identification Aids

George V with lettered Reverse

Obv 1 (177) upright of N of OMN between beads
Rev A (174) ALIA with AL with beads, IA between
Rev B (177) ALIA with A IA with beads, L between
Obv 2 (178) upright of N of OMN with bead
Rev C (179) ALIA with A IA between beads, L with bead

George VI with Roo reverse

Obv 1 (156) IMP upright of P with bead
Rev A (81) U of Australia and P of penny with beads
Obv 2 (148) IMP upright of P between beads
Rev B (77) elongated border beads
Rev C (77) shorter border beads
Obv 3 (155) IND:IMP: omitted
Rev D (81) P of penny between beads

Elizabeth II

Obv 1 (116) GRATIA with I between beads
Obv 2 (117) GRATIA with I aligned with bead
Rev E (81) as Rev A but U of Australia misaligned with beads
Obv 3 (120) F:D: GRATIA with I aligned with bead
Obv 4 (116) F:D: GRATIA with I aligned between beads
Rev F (81) PENNY letters NN aligned and between beads

Year/Mint Die Pair Variety Comments
1911               1 + A
All 1912-15     1 + B
All 1916-18I    2 + C
All 1919          1 + B   Dot varieties exist
1920               2 + C   1 + C (R)   Dot varieties exist
1921               2 + B   1 + B (R)  Obv 1 are Melb Mint
1922               1 + B   2 + B (S)  Obv 2 are Perth Mint
1923               1 + A
1924               1 + A   2 + A (R)  Obv 2 are Sydney Mint
1925-26          1 + A
1927               1 + A   2 + A (R)
1928               1 + A
1929               1 + A   2 + A (S)
1930               2 + A  Obv 1 reported
1931               1 + A   2 + A (ER) Dropped 1 (Rev A) " 1 + B 2 + B (R)
All 1932-36     1 + B 1933/2 overdate exists

--- George VI Roo type --
All Melb & Perth 1938-48    1 + A
1942I             2 + B Variety without I exists
1943I             2 + C 2 + B (S)
All Melb & Perth 1949-51     3 + A
1951PL          3 + D
1952              3 + A 5 with serifs
1952 A.          3 + D   3 + A (S) both have 5 without serifs

--- Elizabeth II ---
1953              1 + A 1 + E (R) 5 without serifs (Rev E)
1953 A.          2 + D
All Melb 1955-59     3 + E
1955 Y.          3 + D   4 + D (R) Obv 4 is late strike
1956 Y.          4 + F 3 + F (S)
1957 Y.          4 + F 4 + D (S) Wide date (Rev D)
All Perth 1958-64     4 + F
1964 Melb      3 + A


Holland, Paul M. "Australian Penny Varieties: A New Classification Scheme", Journal of the Australian Numismatic Society 1993, pp 14-27. (errata: photos switched Roo rev B and C; listing on page 27 should include "1964 Y. 4 + F Perth C")

Holland, Paul M. "Variation of Die Types of Australian Pennies 1937-1964" Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia Vol. 8, 1995, pp 1-14. (errata: listing on page 11 should read "1964 3 + A Melbourne C"; page 14 photos switched obv 1 and 2)

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Last Modified 12th November 1999