Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Rare coin auction sets new world record for old Aussie currency

June 20, 2021 2:30PM NCA NewsWire

Print Article

The five pound coin minted in Melbourne that sold at a Monaco online auction on June 12, 2021. Picture NCA NewsWire media_cameraThe five pound coin minted in Melbourne that sold at a Monaco online auction on June 12, 2021. Picture NCA NewsWire


Reading level: green

Two rare Australian coins have sold for a world record price of about $1.5m each at an online auction in Monaco.

The two coins, minted in Sydney and Melbourne, were sold on June 12 in what ranked as the highest auction prices of Australian coins worldwide.

One of the coins – a £5 coin minted in Melbourne in 1921 – was so rare that only six others were ever minted.

It was sold by auctioneers MDC Monaco for €992,000, which equates to $1.56m.

The auctioneers described it as “exceptional*” and “the rarest type” of £5 coin.

“This is the finest known specimen*”, MDC Monaco said in its online listing.

“Special strike of seven minted only, by the Melbourne mint in 1921 on the original die.”

The coin was inspired by an earlier coin designed by engraver Joshua Payne in 1852 after the gold rush.

Another of the seven “extremely rare” coins is believed to be at the Victoria Museum in Melbourne.

media_cameraA 1920 George V Sovereign minted in Sydney that sold at a Monaco online auction on June 12, 2021, featuring St George slaying a dragon. Picture: NCA NewsWire

The second record-breaking coin, a private strike of the George V sovereign*, was minted in Sydney in 1920 and features St George slaying a dragon.

It was one of only four of the known coins and sold for €942,400 ($1.48m) on June 12.

“It is the greatest rarity of the sovereign series,” MDC Monaco said in its online catalogue. “This is the rarest mint of the sovereign series, even rarer than the London 1819 sovereign, of which 10 to 12 coins are listed.

“With his seven children, his wife and him, we can assume that nine coins were minted … there are just three other coins known.”

They said the coin was struck as a private commission by NSW politician Jacob Garrard for his wedding anniversary on April 15, 1920.

1450-1500 AD : St George slaying the dragon, Crete, 1450-1500 AD. Pic Benaki Museum, Athens. Art / Painting Archaelogy media_cameraThis Renaissance painting shows St George slaying the dragon. Crete, 1450-1500 AD. St George is the patron saint of England. Picture: Benaki Museum, Athens

Ian Russell, president of coin experts Great Collections in Irvine, California, told The Sydney Morning Herald the sale prices ranked as the highest for Australian coins worldwide.

He said a record number of new coin bidders was helping to drive prices up across the market.

Frank Pauer, vice president of the Royal Philatelic* Society Victoria and current vice president of the Australian Philatelic Federation, said the number of new collectors entering the coin and stamp markets was thanks in part to coronavirus restrictions, as people around the world took up simple, old fashioned pastimes.

“Because of Covid we couldn’t have meetings face-to-face, so we had zoom meetings once a month and I noticed a lot of people have started to join,” he said.

“Face-to-face we used to get about 25 people to meetings (but) our first meeting was 45 people.

“We almost couldn’t fit them in because of the restrictions. I think (the pandemic) has reinvigorated people to come and have a hobby.”

Mr Pauer said the huge range of valuation* across coin, stamp and postal stationery collecting would surprise non-collectors – especially because flaws could even add to the price. According to Mr Pauer, a King George V stamp issued in 1913 could be valued anywhere from 20 cents to $250,000.

“The $250,000 stamp would have some sort of error on it, like an inverted* watermark* or an error in printing. It could be missing half the colour or it could be a different colour,” he said.

“In those early days, the inks were all a different set of colours. The King George V red could have red, scarlet, rose – all different colours.

“Most of the time … some sort of error will make it more valuable.”

DECEMBER, 2000 : One penny Australia postage stamps featuring King George V, Australia's second issued in 1913, part of Minted, Noted & Stamped: Images of Australia Federation Unity & Nationhood Exhibition from Powerhouse Museum collection that will be on display throughout NSW in 2001, 12/00. Historical Stamp media_cameraOne penny postage stamps featuring King George V that were issued in Australia in 1913 could be valued up to $250,000 according to stamp expert Frank Pauer. Picture: Powerhouse Museum/supplied


  • exceptional: unusual, not typical
  • specimen: an example of its species or type
  • sovereign: a supreme ruler, especially a monarch, but also a former British coin type
  • philatelic: to do with the collection and study of stamps
  • valuation: estimation of the worth of something
  • inverted: upside down or in the opposite position, order or arrangement
  • watermark: faint design on some paper, eg currency, typically identifying maker or mint


Rare 2000-year-old Roman gold coin for sale

The Aussie landmark coins to flip over

Aussie coins encourage conservation in kids


When and where was the £5 coin minted?

What was its sale price at the Monaco online auction?

Which saint features on the George V Sovereign coin and what is he doing?

How much did the George V coin sell for at auction?

What is the range in value for a 1913 King George V stamp, according to philatelic enthusiast Frank Pauer?


1. Old and new hobbies
In the story, it is mentioned that there seem to be lots of people taking up “simple old fashioned pastimes.” Interview five people from your class about their hobbies – ask them to tell you all of the hobbies they enjoy doing. Write their answers down. Then create a table, categorising the responses into hobbies could be considered “old fashioned” and ones that are “modern”. 

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; HASS

2. Extension
Ask some older people (teachers, parents, grandparents) to tell you about their favourite hobby from their childhood. Find out why they enjoyed that hobby and whether their hobbies have changed since then. Write a paragraph to share what you found out.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; HASS

Vocabulary Recycle
The two Australian coins that were recently sold at auction have been deemed “exceptional” and “extremely rare”.

See if you can borrow these adjectives to re-use to describe another noun or noun group.

If you don’t know what they mean, remember you can look up a definition in the glossary or a dictionary.

Re-read your work to make sure it makes sense and you have used the words in the right context.

Extra Reading in money