A treasure trove* of more than 5600 Australian coins, some of them dating back as far as the 1800s, has been uncovered on a Toowoomba construction site in Queensland.
The historic find was made two years ago when a former employee working on the site stumbled across the coins buried in a metal container. However, news of the find could not be revealed until this week after a Department of Environment and Science investigation into the find had finally finished.
The coins are in Australian currency, including a 1927 silver florin.
Florins were a coin used in Australia before decimalisation* in 1966. Between 1910 and 1945 they were made from 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent copper.
A DES spokesman said further investigation showed all the coins were of archaeological* significance, varying from copper to silver, with a date range from 1882 to 1940.
“While the financial value of the coins is unknown, the historical value and importance is high,” the spokesman said.
Investigations into who buried the coins, and why, are ongoing.
The treasure finder was fined $1828 for failing to follow the Queensland Heritage Act, which states a person who discovers any archaeological artefact* that is an important source of information about an aspect of Queensland’s history must notify the DES as soon as possible after making the discovery.
The coins are now being kept in a secure location while it’s decided where to house them permanently.
HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN COINS
(Source: The Royal Australian Mint)
Before 1770: The First Australians did not use money, they used a barter system, which means trading goods (for example, trading chickens for wood).
1778: The British sent the First Fleet to Australia to set up a convict* colony, but they didn’t send much money because the convicts were not paid and the soldiers were supplied with goods for free. Most of the first coins used in Australia came from the pockets of the officers, sailors and convicts who settled in Australia. These coins included English sovereigns, shillings and pence; Spanish reales; Indian rupees and Dutch guilders.
1800: As the Australian population grew, a proper money system was needed. Governor King tried to solve the problem by fixing the value of all of the different coins in the colony. These became known as the Proclamation Coins*. However, there was still not enough money to go around.
1813: The British Government decided to send 40,000 Spanish dollars to the colony. Governor Macquarie asked a convict named William Henshall to punch a round piece out of each of the Spanish dollars. This almost doubled the number of coins – producing 39,910 donut-shaped pieces known as ‘holey dollars’, and the same in solid pieces called ‘dumps’.
All the coins were stamped with the words New South Wales, and were used in NSW until 1829 and in Tasmania until 1849.
1825: The English Parliament passed the Stirling Silver Money Act, which officially made British coins the only recognised form of currency in Australia. Silver coins were shipped to Australia after being made at the British Royal Mint.
1855: A branch of the British Royal Mint was opened in Sydney. A Melbourne branch followed in 1872 and a Perth branch opened in 1899.
1910: The first distinctive* Australian coins were made. The coins were based on the British
sterling system of pounds, shillings and pence.
1965: The Royal Australian Mint opened in Canberra meaning Australia now had its own Mint.
1966: On 14 February, decimal currency was introduced in Australia, with 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c coins, which were all round in shape.
1969: The circular 50c coin was replaced by a 12-sided 50c coin which we still use today.
1984: $1 coin introduced to replace the $1 note (which was made out of paper).
1988: $2 coin was introduced to replace the $2 note.
1992: Australia’s 1c and 2c coins were taken out of circulation because their
worth had dropped, and they were becoming too expensive to make.
treasure trove: amount of money or gold found hidden underground or in places such as cellars or attics, where the treasure seems old enough that its owners might be dead
decimalisation: converting currency to a decimal system (in Australia we have 100 as our base unit and currency in sub-units, ie 50c and 20c)
archaeological: relating to the study of material remains (such as tools, pottery, jewellery etc) of past human life
artefact: object made by a human, typically one of cultural or historical interest
Proclamation coins: various silver coins used in the early days of Australia
distinctive: easy to recognise as belonging to something or somewhere
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
1. How many coins were found at the construction site?
2. When did they date back to?
3. What years were florins used in Australia as money?
4. When was decimal currency introduced in Australia?
5. What shape was the original Australian 50c coin?
1. Similar and different
Create a Venn Diagram (two overlapping circles) to show the similarities and differences between the coins that could have been found in this collection, with the money we use in Australia today. In one circle write facts about the coins possibly found in this collection. In the second circle write facts about money we use today. In the overlapping section write facts that are similar to both types of money.
There is information in the article to help you.
Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Humanities – History and Economics and Business
2. Extension: Investigations into who buried the coins and why are ongoing.
Why do you think the coins were buried there? Write a narrative story about how the coins came to be buried at this construction site. Remember it probably wasn’t a construction site when they were buried. Why were they collected and buried? Who did they belong to? Why were they left there? You can be as imaginative and creative as you like in your narrative to make your story intriguing and interesting to read.
Time: Allow 40 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Humanities – History.
The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?
HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you hand in the historic coins if you had found them?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.