Aggressive bidding took a 1937 Model Penny from its opening price of $50,000 to a final record breaking result of $270,000 at a Sydney auction last month. (October) The same coin changed hands at auction in 1982 for $7500.
The coin is profoundly important and exceedingly rare with only six examples believed privately held.
The 1937 Model Penny is a powerful coin and boasts an enviable track record of growth. Over the last decade, examples of the Model Penny have changed hands for $52,000 (Melbourne Auction 2002), $106,000 (Perth Auction 2004) capped off by last month’s record breaking result of $270,000.
The Australian 1937 Pattern coins are the ONLY legacy in the Australian coin series of the short reign of King Edward VIII.
King Edward VIII had just ascended to the thrown after the death of his father, King George V. It soon became clear that he wanted Mrs Wallis Simpson as his wife and Queen, but there was a problem - she was a divorcee.
While wheels were turning in British parliamentary and royal circles, the Australian Commonwealth was busy planning a new coin issue in anticipation of Edward’s coronation.
The Royal Mint London prepared test pieces for the Australian Government of the florin, shilling, threepence and penny – the designs all radically new and with a strong focus on national identity.
The penny introduced one of our most loved coin designs, the bounding kangaroo. The florin featured a revised Australian Coat of Arms. The threepence was adorned with three ears of wheat. The shilling had a merino ram’s head.
Then history intervened. On December 11th 1936, Edward abdicated the throne so that he could marry Mrs Simpson. So the four new coins never made it beyond the test stage.
In each case, the obverse design depicting Edward VIII was removed. In the case of the penny only, the word ‘MODEL’ was struck onto the blank face. (Model coins were usually given to the Treasurer and a handful of other officials before a design was finalised)
These test coins are very rare. The number of specimens available to collectors can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
With obverse designs featuring George VI, Edward’s brother and successor, being prepared in 1937, the Royal Mint London issued a further small number of 1937 patterns, but only of the penny. This featured the bounding kangaroo design on the reverse side and the portrait of the new monarch on the obverse side. It is estimated that only six examples of this coin are held in private hands.
In the end, the only coin issued in 1937 was the Crown, worth five shillings.
The exciting new designs did, however, appear on all Australian coins from 1938, right up until the introduction of decimal currency in 1966.