On February 6, 1952, King George VI of the United Kingdom passed away in his sleep. Upon his death, his daughter Elizabeth assumed the crown to become Queen Elizabeth II. As is tradition, United Kingdom and Common Wealth Nation coinage replaced the effigy of King George the VI with Queen Elizabeth II on all denominations in the following year of 1953. Australia, being a Common Wealth Nation, likewise updated their coinage.
The Elizabeth II silver florins minted from 1953 to 1963 at the Melbourne Mint represent the last florin type coin of the pre-decimal or sterling monetary system.
During 1963, Australia initiated the change from sterling coinage to decimal currency. All sterling coinage (florins, shillings & pence) would cease to be produced in 1963. A three year change over period was given to allow for a smooth transition to decimal coinage (dollars & cents) in 1966 without impacting businesses, banks, or vending.
The obverse, designed by Mary Gillick, features the image of a young Queen Elizabeth II facing right. On the outer periphery is the legend “DEI GRATIA REGINA F:D” (By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith) and “ELIZABETH II”.
The reverse design remained unchanged from previous the previous year. Designed by W G. E. Kruger-Gray, the reverse features the Australian Coat of Arms based on the design granted by King George V in 1912. The coat of arms features an emu and kangaroo flanking a shield under a crown. Just above the emu are the designer's initials “KG”. On the outer periphery is the denomination “FLORIN”, country name “AUSTRALIA” and year of issue.
Initially, the legend was modified by eliminating the religious title “FIDEI DEFENSOR” or “F:D” from Elizabeth II coinage. The amount of controversy among the public was enough to have the religious title return to coinage in 1956 until the series end in 1963.
Variety 1 – 1953-1954 No “F:D” in legend
Variety 2 – 1956-1963 With “F:D” in legend
General Market Notes
The key to the series is the 1956 issue. For a possible undervalued coin look at the 1959 issue which has the lowest mintage for the series at 3,500,000.