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Small Head Sovereigns

28-Apr-2009

The final run of sovereigns minted at Australian mints were struck from 1929 to 1931 from the Melbourne and Perth mints. The Sydney mint had already closed in 1926. The Perth mint sovereigns are relatively easy to acquire while the Melbourne mint pieces are all scarce to very scarce. All dates are generally not found below extremely fine due to the lack of circulation they were exposed to. The type, commonly referred to as the 'small head' series is distinguished by, you guessed it, a smaller bust, and also, a thicker, beaded rim.


The 'large head' design and the 'small head' designs

The 1929 Melbourne is the rarest date in the series, coming from a mintage of 436,938. It can be assumed that most of these were melted down from 1929 to 1933 after Australia ceased backing its currency with gold. The date is extremely scarce in all grades with probably under 10 mint state examples.

The 1930 is the most common of the Melbourne mint sovereigns in the series, despite a low mintage of 77,588. Typical Uncirculated examples grade MS63 and one recently sold for $700, a far cry from pre-decimal coins of similar scarcity considering that the piece probably would've sold for $500 a decade ago.

The 1931 Melbourne is a very scarce type with the lowest mintage in the series, a total 57,809 pieces struck, with most melted down as usual. The piece rarely appears on the market with probably under 50 mint state examples available, yet only sells for around $1300 in typical mint state.

The Perth mint series is relatively easy to complete with all dates available in mint state for close to bullion value. The 1929 is the scarcest to acquire in mint state while the 1930 and 1931 are readily available from MS62 to MS64.

The 1931 is available with both a matte and brilliant finish. While the matte finish is slightly scarcer, the brilliant finish tends to sell higher due to a more attractive appearance. The matte finish appears to be the only type to turn up in MS65 or higher with the brilliant finish piece usually being softly struck up.


The matte finish 1931-P


The brilliant finish 1931-P


Short of the 1931 Perth matte finish, the entire series is plagued by soft, undetailed strikes which limits typical mint state grades to MS64 with the series scarcely appearing in better grades. Type set collectors will be challenged if seeking the series in higher mint state grades.

For more information and valuations on the small head series or the sovereign series as a whole, please see the Small Head Sovereign Values


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