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Decimal 1966 half dollar - The silver 50-cents coin

By CAC    |   Monday, 9 September 2019

In 1966, around 36,000,000 fifty cent coins were produced at the Canberra Mint exclusively. The production of this round highest-denomination coin stopped when silver price on the market got up by around 80% in a few months. We know that the mint melted down a large amount of them early in 1966 and recalled a lot of them each year since for melting/profit purposes.

Fifty cent 1966 - Australian coin
Australian silver fifty cent 1966

How many still exist? An estimate of 50% to 60%. Many people kept a lot of them out of circulation since 1966 making it less rare than it should be. At this moment in time, PCGS certified a total of 1,273 (circulating) of them and NGC a total of 35. Highest grade is MS-67 with only 3 of them, all PCGS. Only 9 50-cent 1966 proof coins have been certified.

A number of proofs and patterns, including the double bar pattern and the no field design pattern, are known to be struck at the Royal mint London.

Design

The obverse of this coin shows the portrait of Elizabeth II with Australia and 1966. The reverse, by Stuart Devlin, is the design of a kangaroo and an emu near the coat of arms, reminiscent the pre-decimal 1911 to 1936 silver threepence, sixpence, shilling and florin coins.

Threepence 1910 - Australian coin
Threepence 1910 - Kangaroo, Emu and Coat of Arms

Characteristics

  • Date: 1966
  • Denomination: Fifty cent
  • Shape: Round
  • Weight: 13.28g
  • Diameter: 31.5mm
  • Thickness: 2mm
  • Designers: Arnold Machin (obverse) and Stuart Devlin (reverse)
  • Alloy: 80% silver and 20% copper
  • Edge: Milled

1967 and up

No fifty cent coin was produced in 1967 and 1968. Starting in 1969, the composition of the coin changed from 80% silver and 20% copper to 75% copper and 25% nickel (bronze), making it one the last silver circulating coin in the history of Australia, and the shape became dodecagonal, to differentiate it from the twenty cent coin.

In 2006, 40 years after the introduction of the decimal currency, and 2010, a commemorative round silver (80% silver and 20% copper) proof uncirculating fifty-cent coin was made. An extremely limited pure gold proof set was also issued.

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