The Commonwealth Threepences

Contents:

General description of the threepences
Obverse master die types
Reverse master die types
Mints of issue
Die pairings
Individual dates
General description of the threepences

Threepences were minted from 1910 until 1964 with a few gaps. The early coins were minted in London but from 1916 onwards, most threepences were struck at the Melbourne branch mint. The ones which were not were minted in Denver and San Francisco during WWII and at the Royal Mint in London in 1951.

The threepence was the smallest coin in the Australian Commonwealth series. 5/8" (16mm) in diameter it weighed 1/20 oz or just 1.4g. Like other silver coins, it was minted in sterling silver until 1945 and in quad alloy from 1946 onwards.

The series commenced in 1910 with a single year of issue bearing the effigy of Edward VII. The obverse design was by George W. de Saules, even though he died in 1903 well before any Australian coins were struck. The reverse design featured the Arms of Australia and was the work of William Henry James Blakemore.

King Edward VII died in May 1910 and was succeeded by George V. Australian threepences bearing George V's effigy were minted in London, Melbourne and Sydney during the years 1911 to 1936. There are no obverse die varieties reported for any of the threepences of that period, suggesting that there was a single master die for the entire George V series. The obverse design was by Sir Edgar B. Mackennal, an Australian sculptor appointed to the Royal Mint in 1910.

Upon the death of George V in 1936 the crown passed to his elder son, Edward VIII but he abdicated before any Australian coins were struck bearing his likeness. His younger brother assumed the throne as George VI and the striking of Australian threepences resumed in 1938 bearing a left-facing portrait of George VI on an obverse designed by Thomas Humphrey Paget. As part of the general redesign of Australian coinage a new reverse depicting wheat stalks was introduced. This design by George Kruger Gray reflected the significance of agriculture in general and of wheat farming in particular in 20th century Australia.

George VI had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret and in 1953 Elizabeth became queen. The obverse design for subsequent threepences was by Mary Gillick and depicted Elizabeth II facing to the right and continued in use until the cessation of minting in 1964.

Obverse designs

Obverse 1, 1910.

Edward VII. 120 rim denticles.


Obverse 2, 1911-1936

George V. 121 rim denticles.


Obverse 3, 1938-1948.

First of the George VI obverses. 114 rim denticles.


Obverse 4, 1949-1952.

Second of the George VI obverses. IND IMP was eliminated from the legend, (necessary because India had become an independent nation in 1947) and F.D. was expanded to FIDEI DEF. 118 elongated rim denticles.


Obverse 5, 1953-1954.

Obverse used for early Elizabeth II sixpences. The rim embellishment was changed from denticles to discrete round beads of which there are 89.


Obverse 6, 1955-1964.

Obverse used for the later Elizabeth II threepences. F.D. restored to legend. 87 rim beads.


Reverse designs

Reverse A

Used 1910 only.

117 rim denticles. Gap over star. Uprights of REE aligned with denticles.


Reverse B

Used from 1911 until 1936.

115 rim denticles. Denticle above star. Uprights of REE aligned with gaps between denticles.


Reverse C

Used for all threepences struck between 1938 and 1964 in Melbourne, Denver and San Francisco.

Alternating thick and thin rim denticles, 83 of each.


Reverse D

Used in 1951 for threepences struck at the Royal Mint in London.

Similar to reverse C but with 85 denticle pairs. PL mintmark in lower fold of ribbon.

Issuing mints

The early coins of the series were all minted at the Royal Mint in London. From 1916 onwards all sixpences were struck in Melbourne with three exceptions.

In the years 1924 to 1926 inclusive, the Sydney mint shared the job of striking threepences. There is no way known to distinguish the Melbourne and Sydney mintings by inspecting the coins.

During World War II there was an increased demand for coinage and the Australian mints could not handle the workload. In 1942 and 1943 a substantial portion of the threepences were struck at the U.S. Mints in San Francisco and Denver and in 1944 the entire issue was struck at the San Francisco mint.

Finally, in 1951 some forty million coins out of a total issue of about 62 million were struck by the Royal Mint.

Die pairings

Die pairings
1910

1A
1911-1936

2B
1938-1964

3C
1951 London

3D
No die pair varieties are known for the threepences so I have not bothered to include a table.

Now for the individual coins:-

Edward VII & George V threepences
1910
1911
1912
1914
1916
1917
1918
1919
1920
1921
1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1934
1935
1936

George VI & Elizabeth II threepences
1937
1938
1939
1940
1941
1942
1943
1944
1945
1946
1947
1948
1949
1950
1951
1952
1953
1954
1955
1956
1957
1958
1959
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964

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Most recent revision: 4th August 2002:
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