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 penny minted from 1953 to 1964 at the Melbourne & Perth Mints represents the last copper penny 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 1964. A two 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, designed by George Kruger Gray, was carried over from the previous George VI penny series and features a kangaroo in leaping stride. On the outer periphery is the denomination “PENNY”, country name “AUSTRALIA” and year of issue. Located just above the kangaroo's tail is the designers initials “KG”. Perth mint pennies feature a dot mint mark after the “Y” in “PENNY” except for the year 1953 where the dot is after the last “A” in “AUSTRALIA”. Melbourne minted pennies carried no mint marks.
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 1955 until the series end in 1964.
Variety 1 – 1953 No “F:D” in legend
Variety 2 – 1955-1964 With “F:D” in legend
General Market Notes
Excluding proofs & errors, the key to the series is the 1959 Melbourne issue and even this is affordable for most collectors.