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Australia Florin Obv 1927
1927 Australian Florin Obverse - Commemorating the Opening of Parliament House

Australia Florin Rev 1927
1927 Australian Florin Reverse - Commemorating the Opening of Parliament House

A Brief History of Australia

Early History
It is believed that the earliest human habitants, the Australian Aboriginis first arrived in Australia some 60,000 years ago from Indonesia. By the time European settlers arrived in the 18th Century, the Aboriginis had the longest-surviving human culture in the world.

Botany Bay
The British Naval explorer Captain Cook had chartered the area in 1770, but it wasn’t until 1788 that the first permanent settlement was established at Botony Bay in what is now Sydney, New South Wales. The driving force behind the settlement was the loss of the American Colonies, which had been used as dumping ground for British Criminals until the outbreak of the American War of Independence. In 1788 the first British settlers arrived, composed largely of convicts. The establishment of penal colonies was intended to resolve the dilemma of what to do with Britain’s criminal multitudes. Transportation was seen as a humane alternative to hanging them, which was a common sentence for even petty criminals in 18th Century England.

19th Century
As a colony with a large proportion of convicts and rebels from the British Isles, Australia’s early years under British Colonialism were not surprisingly, turbulent. The 1804 Castle Hill Rebellion, led by deported Irish Catholics had to be put down with brutal force. Another rebellion, the Rum Rebellion of 1808, enjoyed more success and saw poor old William Bligh (the same Bligh who had faced mutiny by his crew on the HMS Bounty) captured and expelled as governor of New South Wales. In 1824, the land mass consisting of the Australian Continent was officially named ‘Australia’ by the British Admiralty, after years of being informally refered to as such. Initially founded as a Penal Colony, New South Wales and other States in Australia began to attract free settlers as well as convicts. However, convicts continued to be sent to Australia until 1868, when after coming under pressure from the local population, the British Government ceased the transportations.

From Autonomy to Nationhood
In 1855, New South Wales became the first Australian colony to gain self-government. The other states followed soon afterwards. Essentially, they were independent in all matters except foreign affairs and defence. By the 1880s, the majority of the population was born in Australia (most of British or Irish ancestry), and this contributed to a sense of Australian nationalism. There was a consequent push for federation, which led, in 1900 to the passing of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act in Britain, creating a federation of Australian states with its own Parliament. Melbourne was to serve as a temporary capital while an entirely new city was built to serve as a permanent one (as a compromise due to the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne precluding either of them from serving as the permanent capital).

20th Century
Australia sent soldiers to fight during the Boer War, but controversy over the British military ordering the deaths of Australian Soldiers ‘Breaker’ Morant and Peter Handcock led to Australia insisting that its soldiers would be subject to Australian, rather than British legal jurisdiction.
The Australian contribution to the First World War, especially during the Gallipoli Campaign, helped forge the Australian sense of identity, and is still an important part of their national consciousness. The 1931 Dominion Act made Australia a Dominion of the British Empire, requiring more consultation on Imperial Matters than had previously been the case. One of the consequences of this was that in 1939, Australia had to make its own declaration of war rather than automatically entering the war on Britain’s behalf. The war saw Australia seriously threatened by invasion be Japan, and Britain, having surrendered a large force at ‘Fortress Singapore’ (including large numbers of Australian soldiers) and gainfully occupied with Nazi Germany and Italy in Europe, was not in a position to protect Australia in any meaningful way. And so, Australia had to look to America and itself for its defence. The last vestiges of British dependence were removed with the Australia Act of 1986, which removed the jurstiction of the British Privy Council as the final court of appeal in Australian legal cases. Although the Queen remains as head of state, she is the Queen of Australia, theoretically a separate political entity to the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain of Northern Ireland, although both offices are occupied by the same person.

Australian Coins
The first coins used in Australia were, not surprisingly, British, although Spanish and Dutch coins played an important role in early Australian colonial history.
There was a chronic shortage of small change during the 19th Century in Australia. One of the most famous numismatic phenomenon in Australian history were the ‘Holey Dollars’ consisting of a Spanish Dollar with the centre punched out. The outer rim was valued at 5 shillings whilst the ‘dump’ part was valued at a shilling. These were overvalued relative to their metal content, which discouraged export.
Although almost the entire issue of 1827 pennies were shipped to Australia, lack of small change remained a problem. As had happened in Britain during the 1790s, local merchants took matters into their own hands and issued tokens in large numbers to cover the shortfall. In 1855, Australia issued its own sovereign struck at the Sydney Mint, taking advantage of the discovery of huge quantities of gold in the nearby area. These sovereigns however traded at a slight discount to their British counterparts (in part due to black propaganda against the Sydney Mint by Sydney’s jealous rival Melbourne!) despite being of a slightly higher intrinsic value to the UK Sovereign.
From 1870, the Sydney and Melbourne struck sovereigns to the British standard, and Perth followed in 1899. The last British sovereigns were struck in Australia were the Melbourne and Perth issues of 1931.
In 1910, Australian circulation coins of the new Australian Pound were introduced, consisting of the same denominations as those of Britain, but with their own designs. Unlike Britain, Australia maintained the fineness of its silver coinage in sterling until 1946, when it was debased to 0.500 fine (the year before Britain removed the silver content of its coinage entirely). Silver was only removed from circulation following decimalisation in 1966, when the Australian Dollar was introduced at £1=$2 or 10/-=$1. Today, coins of 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c coins are issued for circulation (the 1c and 2c coins where discontinued in 1991 due to inflation). In addition, $1 and $2 coins were introduced in 1984 and 1988 respectively.

For Sale and Wanted
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Australian Coins

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