The Australian Shilling Silver Coins were issued under the authority of the commonwealth of Australia from 1910 until 1963. The strikes were based on the Australian Pound in use at the time as the official currency of the nation with the shilling being considered one-twentieth of the pound and twelve pence going into a shilling.
Upon their introduction, each Australian Shilling was struck from 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. However, that composition was changed in 1946 to only 50% silver with the remainder of the composition being 40% copper, 5% zinc and 5% nickel.
Australian Shilling Silver Coin History
When Australia was first colonized, it had no official currency but instead used coinage from around the world for use in commerce transactions. That changed in 1825 when the colonies officially adopted British currency for use, a practice which continued for several decades. In fact, the Royal Mint of England even opened several branches in the colonies to both keep up with local demand as well as take advantage of local resources such as gold deposits.
Then, in 1901, federation of the colonies gave the power to mint coins to the commonwealth. This process took several years to finalize with the first Australian Shilling appearing in 1910. However, for the first five years, all of the shillings were minted outside of the country with most produced by the Royal Mint in London. Some of the 1915 Shillings were also subcontracted to Heaton & Sons of Birmingham. Those Heaton coins can be identified by an ‘H’ mintmark under the date.
By 1916, production was transferred to within Australia as the Melbourne Mint assumed the minting responsibility. Shilling production was augmented, on occasion, by the Sydney Mint from 1921-1926 at which time the Sydney Mint closed down reverting all production back to Melbourne.
During World War II, production. logistic and material issues saw Australian Shillings also minted by facilities of the United States Mint. Some of the 1942, 1943 and 1944 Shillings were produced at the San Francisco Mint and contain an ‘S’ mintmark above the date indicating that.
In 1946, the silver composition of the shilling was reduced from .925 (which it had been since introduction) down to .50 as the country attempted to reduce the debt it had accumulated during the war. All other specifications remained the same including a diameter of 23.5mm and a weight of 5.65g.
The coin was last minted in 1963 as the country introduced decimal coinage a few years later. The old shillings are still considered legal tender, however.
Upon introduction, the Australian Shilling contained an obverse portrait of King Edward VII of England. His death resulted in the obverse being changed to an effigy of King George V in 1911 until replaced again by King George VI in 1938. Finally, Elizabeth II would grace the obverse beginning in 1953 until the shilling disappeared from production in 1963.
From 1910-1936, the reverse of the strike showed the Australian Coat of Arms. That design was replaced in 1937 with the image of a Merino sheep by George Kruger Gray.