Coin Curiosity

Exploring Old and New Coins of the British Commonwealth

Australian Small and Tiny SD 5c

Posted on 11 May 2018

The reverse of the Australian 5c piece has changed in subtle ways on multiple occasions since its introduction in 1966. The exact reason for most of these changes has never been stated but it is likely the changes were in pursuit of improved die life.

One such change was first detected on a small number of 5c pieces in 2007 - the position of the echidna had changed slightly, as had the size of the designer's initials (SD) under the echidna. On the older type reverse there was a noticeable gap between the top of the echidna and the rim and the initials SD had curved tops and bottoms; on the newer type reverse the gap between the top of the echidna and the rim was much smaller and the initials SD had flatter tops and bottoms and were also smaller in general.

Examination of 5c pieces dated 2007 and onwards showed that the small SD/low echidna type was being replaced by the new tiny SD/high echidna type: clearly the Royal Australian Mint had a large reserve of 5c reverse dies though as the old design has been used from 2007 up to and including 2018. With the exception of 2007 the new design has been used to produce the majority of 5c pieces, suggesting that the initial change occurred late in 2007.

Survey by author of variety break-downs from circulation
YearLow EchidnaHigh EchidnaNumber searched
2016 (plain)0%100%236

While no small SD/low echidna coins are known in circulation for 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018, they are known to exist in various mint-produced sets for all of those years except 2017 and 2018. Of them, the 2011 seems to be the least common small SD/low echidna year in sets. The 2012 small SD/low echidna is also widely-thought to be a non-circulating coin but it has been detected in circulation in small quantities by the author. All commemorative 2016 5c pieces are believed to be tiny SD/high echidna too (even those in sets) but an insufficient number have been examined.

It is likely that the anomalous 2014 small SD/low echidna is the last circulating example as, until it appeared, the variety's use on circulation coins had been rapidly decreasing and it has not been seen in circulation since.

See more in category Australia (Decimal)