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El Cazador Shipwreck Coin
  • 50th anniversary set to commemorate the decimal changeover

  • Nine-coin original shilling set from their era of issue, with some being up to 200 years old. 

  • Includes the 2016 commemorative fifty cent coin issued for the event.

  • Limited complete sets remain available​

The 50th Anniversary of Decimal Changeover

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In 2016 Australia celebrates the 50th anniversary of decimal changeover. On 14th February 1966 the predecimal system of 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound was replaced with a more readily reckoned system of 100 cents to the dollar. Australia was also one of the first major economies on the ‘old pound’ to go decimal and Britain studied the process undertaken in Australia to assist with their own change which would take place five years later. Decimal currency is so familiar to us today that we forget just how momentous a change this was. The ‘predecimal’ system had existed for over 1,000 years. 

At the heart of the system was the shilling. The shilling is one of Britain’s longest surviving coins, dating back to the reign of King Henry VII. It has always been a silver coin and since the Great Recoinage of King George III in 1816 it has been minted to the same size specification - 24mm.

The shillings of King George III were amongst the first coins to find their way to the new British settlement at Sydney Cove and as a result they were mentioned in Australia’s first attempt at organising an official coinage for Australia: Governor King’s Proclamation of November 1800. In that, the shilling, which was specifically mentioned, had its value fixed for commerce within the fledgling settlement.

From that point on British shillings were used as currency in the Australian colonies, a position formalised in 1825 under King George IV when an Imperial Order in Council made British coinage the sole legal tender for all nations and territories in the Empire, a situation ratified the following year with local legislation in New South Wales. This situation continued during the short reign of his successor King William IV, the ‘sailor king’, and also the markedly longer reign of his successor, Queen Victoria. During this time British coinage was both shipped to Australia and also arrived here during the normal course of trade.

On 1st January 1901 the six separate Australian colonies federated, each becoming states within the new nation of Australia. Authority to issue currency was ceded by Britain to the new Commonwealth Government, but for the first decade it was considerably busy and little progress was made with coinage issue. British coinage continued to be used. The first ‘national’ Australian coins were dated 1910 but only silver coins were struck. Minted in London, by the time they arrived King Edward VII whose portrait appeared on the obverse, was dead. New coins featuring the portrait of the new king, George V, were ordered dated 1911 onwards. Australia’s shillings were minted at first in London and Birmingham, then as the Australian mints transitioned from striking gold, also at Sydney and Melbourne. By the time his son and successor King George VI took the throne the mints in Melbourne and Perth were well equipped for the production of our national coinage. 

The production strains of war again saw assistance sought from overseas, this time being the US mint in San Francisco minting a small number of coins in the years of World War Two. Perth also assisted Melbourne with the shilling issue in 1946. This reign also saw the introduction of the famed ‘rams head’ design – iconically Australian - and it is this motif that features on the 2016 coin celebrating the 50th anniversary of the end of the predecimal shilling. This design continued use in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II who would prove to be the last monarch to issue shillings for use in Australia. During her reign the mint in Melbourne carried out all the minting of Australian shilling coins. The significance of the shilling in Australia’s history cannot be overstated - from the very first attempt to organise currency in the colony in the year 1800 to the dominance of the rams head coins of Queen Elizabeth II it was the coin of everyday commerce through much of our nation’s history.

This nine-coin set features original silver shilling coins of King George III, King George IV, King William IV, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II plus the new 2016 fifty cent coin celebrating the 50th anniversary of the end of the shilling. Housed in a handsome presentation case it comes with an informative 16 page booklet.


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