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Australian Veiled Head Half Sovereign Varieties 1893-1901

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Veiled Head half sovereigns were not struck every year in Australia, but the short series of low mintage coins does exhibit two different obverse die varieties. On the first obverse (generally referred to as a type 1), the first I in VICTORIA points between rim denticles and on the second (generally referred to as type 2) the first I in VICTORIA points at a rim denticle.

Type 1 Veiled Head Half Sovereign Obverse
Type 1 Veiled Head Half Sovereign Obverse
Type 2 Veiled Head Half Sovereign Obverse
Type 2 Veiled Head Half Sovereign Obverse

The reason for the existence of two different obverse dies is unknown but Veiled Head obverse die varieties exist in many other British coin denominations so it can be assumed that some minor change or improvement was made in 1893 or 1894. Crellin suggests that the increase in rim denticles from type 1 to type 2 may have been made to improve the strike quality of the half sovereigns (Crellin, Obverse Varieties of Australia's Veiled Head Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns).

Known Veiled Head half sovereign varieties
YearMintageType 1Type 2
1893S250,000YesNo
1893M5 knownYesNo
1894MPatterns onlyYes
1895MPatterns onlyYesNo
1896M218,946YesYes
1897S130,000YesYes
1897MPatterns onlyNoYes
1898MPatterns onlyNoYes
1899M97,221YesYes
1899PPatterns onlyNoYes
1900S260,000YesYes
1900M112,920NoYes
1900P119,376NoYes
1901MPatterns onlyUnknownUnknown
1901PPatterns onlyNoYes

The relative rarities of the different varieties can be difficult to estimate as not only were half sovereigns produced in relatively low numbers, their survival rate was not particularly high either due to their regular use in circulation. Briggs' research suggests that for 1896M half sovereigns the breakdown is 8% type 1/92% type 2; for 1897S half sovereigns the breakdown is 12% type 1/88% type 2 and for 1900S half sovereigns the breakdown is 5% type 1/95% type 2. The 1899M type 1 is not recorded by Briggs (p42, Briggs, Veiled or Old Head Half Sovereigns in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine, November 2019) but the variety does exist.

The exact arrival time of the type die in Australia is difficult to say - the die would have existed by 1894 but no circulation half sovereigns were struck in 1894 or 1895 and the use of type 1 obverse dies there doesn't discount the possibility that new dies had arrived but were not in use. The continued use of the type 1 obverse into 1900 was likely to not waste existing dies, and while the 1901M sovereign has not been photographed recently it was probably struck with a type 2 obverse die.

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