The Gold Coronation Medal of Edward VII – what goes around comes around

The recipient of this medal, Thomas Hughes was born in Sydney in 1863 and as the son of a wealthy grazier was sent to England to be educated at Stonyhurst College. He returned to Sydney and in 1887 established a legal practice ‘Hughes and Hughes’ with his elder brother John. Both considered themselves movers and shakers in society and so it was inevitable that they would enter the world of politics.

One hundred years on from the ‘War to end all Wars’

At 11 o’clock on the 11th of November 1918, the guns of war fell silent on the ‘Western Front’ as the ‘Armistice’ between the warring factions, that had been signed at dawn that day in a railway culvert, came into force.

Germany and its dwindling allies were exhausted after four years of fierce battle and, gradually realising that they were no longer in a position to win the war, with the stroke of a pen negotiated to ‘stop fighting’ in lieu of a looming humiliating surrender. However, in reality it was just a face-saving exercise and the swingeing terms of the peace ‘Treaty of Versailles’ that followed, particularly the reparation payments demanded by France, fermented rising resentment in Germany.

Cook’s Second Voyage – a veritable moving feast !

Much like the victors who largely dictate military history, it was the British Admiralty who sanctioned the official accounts of the voyages of explorers who sailed under its command. During a voyage, senior officers were expected to keep journals of their duties which often included florid detail, and so it was the common practice for these to be collected shortly before the ships returned to home port lest controversial incidents be revealed.

The Fight of the Century that changed the World.

In 1908 the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion stood at the pinnacle of sporting dominance, and so the result of the Burns-Johnson fight held on Boxing Day at Rushcutters Bay, Sydney shook the white supremist view of the world to its core.

Jack Johnson, a black American champion had been denied a licence to contest the championship in America because of his colour and had come to Australia to fight the white Canadian title-holder Tommy Burns who had been lured by a local entrepreneur, Hugh McIntosh, on the promise of a £7,500 purse. Although there was no racial bar to the fight being held in Australia, the local white population was also instilled with racial bigotry and the Australian boxing champion Bill Squires demurred from taking on Johnson in any lead-up fights. Johnson won the world title regardless but certainly lost out on the prize money reportedly receiving only £1,500 for his efforts.

The upside-down Sovereign from the Land down-under.

From as early as 1855 the Sydney Mint, followed later by the Melbourne and Perth mints, struck Imperial gold sovereigns but on dies supplied by the Royal Mint in London. In their early years the branch mints were not trusted to produce dies for coins that were expected to circulate in the Empire on par with their British-struck counterparts.

The Race for Australia’s Rarest Florin.

There will always be debate about which Australian Florin is the hardest to find, especially in high grade. It is a good starting point to look at the mintages of the various dates and, if you were to rely on this exclusively then the 1932 Florin with just 188,000 struck would come up trumps. The 1932 Florin is certainly a scarce coin in any grade, but can it claim the mantle of the ‘rarest’ Australian Florin in high-grade?

The Scars of War and the Chatham Chest

Armchair warriors who fiercely battle on computer games such as ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Fortnite’ might like to take stock occasionally on the true scars of war. There is no bouncing back into battle the next day if you have really been struck by cannon fire, a fate that befell James Dunn who took a direct hit during the famous ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ which pitted the naval forces of Napoleon Bonaparte against the British Navy commanded by Admiral Lord Nelson. ‘Trafalgar’ is rightly ranked as the most important naval battle of the 19th Century, as the British victory put paid to the ambitious plans of the rampaging Napoleon to invade the island nation and, also ensured Britain ruled the waves for the next 100 years

Oliver Wendell Holmes – A Man of Letters

In 1874 the Treaty of Bern established the ‘International Postal Agreement’ which recognised the values of stamps of all member nations and introduced ‘a standard international postal charge’. Members nations were obliged to treat all mail the same, whether it was international or local, so that missives could meet their destinations in a timely fashion. Speed was the essence and, International contracts were decided on aggressive tenders often getting down to the exact number of days it would take to transport the mail using a ‘seamless’ combination of sea, road and rail links and, with carriers facing stiff penalties if they failed to deliver.

Much like today’s internet, the treaty sped-up the spread of new information around the world, and whether in letter form or published works such as books, learned men would correspond with like-minded people across the globe. Such was the case of the American man of letters, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who penned a quick note of thanks to the Australian (William) A(lfred) Callaway who had organised the delivery of books sent to him by the prominent Victorian politician Alfred Deakin who went on to become Australia’s second Prime Minister.

The sole surviving Sydney Academy Medal, 1822

Collectors of Australiana, and particularly the work of the acclaimed early Australian colonial silversmith Samuel Clayton, would be familiar with his craftsmanship evident in the Halloran School medals that turn up from time to time. To date eight of these coveted prize medals have surfaced, each bearing the maker’s mark ‘S. Clayton’. The earliest is dated 1819 the year that Laurence Halloran, a convicted felon, established his first private school in Sydney, and the last in 1826 when he headed-up the ‘Sydney Public Free Grammar School’. This was shortened to ‘Sydney Grammar School’ as it appears on the 1826 medal which is why this is sometimes claimed as the starting point of the modern-day ‘Sydney Grammar School’.

The unique 1966 ‘London’ polished Proof 20c

In 1990 a collector noticed in his collection a strange Australian 1966 Proof 20 Cent like no other and, perhaps suspecting that he had been sold a ‘dud’ sent it off to the Royal Australian Mint (RAM) Canberra for their expert opinion.

After carefully examining the coin the Mint declared it a genuine Proof 20 Cent coin, but not the typical ‘Canberra’ struck proof of which 18,110 were made to be included in the inaugural 1966 Australian Decimal Proof sets, but a ‘London’ struck proof which matched the sole example the Mint held in its collection.