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 sixpence minted from 1953 to 1963 at the Melbourne Mint represents the last sixpence type coin of the pre-decimal or sterling monetary system. Also, the sixpence was the only silver coin to retain the same obverse design from the reign of Edward VII to Elizabeth II.
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, designed by W.H.J. Blakemore, features the original Australian Coat of Arms (also referred to as the Commonwealth Coat of Arms) based on the design granted by King Edward VII on 7 May 1908. The coat of arms features an emu and kangaroo flanking a shield under a seven pointed star all over a banner with the legend “ADVANCE AUSTRALIA”. On the outer periphery is the denomination “SIXPENCE” 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 1955 until the series end in 1963.
Variety 1 – 1953-1954 No “F:D” in legend
Variety 2 – 1955-1963 With “F:D” in legend
|Old Legend||New Legend|
General Market Notes
Excluding proofs, the key to the series is the 1953 issue.