Australian High and Low Echidna 5c 1984 - 1987
The position of the echnida on Australia's 5c piece has moved with respect to the top and bottom rims on a number of occasions since the introduction of the design in 1966. In 1984 the then in-use high echidna reverse began to be phased out in favour of a new low echinda reverse. The reason in unknown but it has been suggested that a new master die was bought into use (Andrews, http://www.thesandpit.net/index.php?option=five_cent_different_echidnas). The difference is easy to spot by looking at the distance between the designer's initials SD and the rim, though on some coins the rim is quite tapered and the SD appears further from the rim than it really is.
The new low echidna is somewhat scarce in the 1984 mintage and so was probably introduced later in the year. No circulating 5c pieces were produced in 1985 or 1986 but both high and low echidna coins are known in 1986 mint sets with the the low echidna now being more common. High echidna coins are also known in 1987 but are rare and are probably the result of a single die. The 1987 high echidna 5c piece is probably the rarest circulating 5c piece.
While a 1985 low echidna would be expected, none have ever been reported or found. It is possible that the production of 1985 mint sets was completed before the new reverse was introduced. At least in recent times, mint sets have been released in November or December of the previous year so mint set production occurring entirely before the introduction of the new reverse is not unlikely. It is also possible that the reverse dies used to produce the 1985 mint sets all happened to be high echidna, which is not unlikely given that a comparatively small number of coins are made for mint sets. Regardless, the 1985 low echidna 5c piece probably does not exist.
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