The Australian Three and Six Pence Silver Coins were some of the first legal tender coins issued by the Commonwealth of Australia. Both the Three Pence and the Six Pence Coins started appearing in 1910 and were struck until the introduction of decimal coinage in 1966.
Each Three and Six Pence Silver Coin was composed of 92.5% silver since their introduction in 1910 until a change occurred in the 1940′s. That change was the result of debt accumulated during World War II leading to a decrease in the amount of silver used for each strike. Beginning in 1946, new three and six pence coins were composed of only 50% silver.
Australian Three and Six Pence Silver Coin History
When the first colony of Australia was founded in 1788, there was no official currency of the region. Instead, coins minted in other countries were used. In 1800, the governor of New South Wales decreed an exchange rate for these foreign coins officially giving them legal tender status.
By 1825, the colonies of Australia officially adopted British currency for use in commerce with branches of the Royal Mint of England even opening at several locations within Australia. However, federation in 1901 gave the power to issue coins to the commonwealth, a power it started exercising in 1910 with the introduction of the Australian Pound and the associated smaller denominations such as the three and six pence coins.
The first few years of both the three and six pence coins were actually struck at the Royal Mint in London. These coins contained no distinguishing mintmarks. In 1915, the sixpence was struck at both the Royal Mint as well as the Birmingham Mint at Heaton. Those Heaton coins contain a small H mintmark under the date.
From 1916-1920, both the three and six pence coins were produced at the Melbourne Mint with a small M under the date indicating the minting facility. Beginning in 1921 through 1926, the Sydney Mint also started striking the coins with only a small number of the 1921 threepence carrying any mintmark (an M).
From 1927 until World War II, the two coins were struck solely in Melbourne. However, logistics and material issues brought about by the war saw some of the coins also being struck by the United States Mint. Both the Denver Mint and the San Francisco Mint augmented strikes produced by the Melbourne facility.
Following the war, sole production resumed in Melbourne except for the year of 1951 when the Royal Mint in London was asked to help with a shortage of the two strikes. Production responsibilities then returned solely to Melbourne until the strikes were discontinued with the introduction of decimal coinage.
As for designs, King Edward VII of England graced the coins in 1910. He was replaced on the obverse in 1911 by King George V until 1938 when King George VI appeared. Finally, in 1953, a portrait Queen Elizabeth II was placed on the obverse and remained there until the pence coins were discontinued.
The reverse of the 1910-1936 coins showed the 1908 Coat of Arms of Australia design. Starting with the 1938 coins, the threepence reverse began featuring a design with three stalks of wheat and a ribbon while the sixpence retained the previous Coat of Arms design.