By Jay Turner for PCGS ……
Recently, a circulated Australian 50 Cents coin crossed my desk. What would have the appearance of an ordinary, common coin was anything but that – it was a rarity for circulating Australian coinage. At first, what looks like a normal Australia 1977 50 Cents is a mint error with fewer than 10 known examples.
In Australia in 1977, the Royal Australian Mint produced a special circulating commemorative 50 cents coin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II. This silver jubilee issue was intended to be the only design for the 1977-dated 50 cents coins produced that year. These coins were struck in abundance, with a mintage of over 25 million pieces.
However, a few examples of 1977 50 Cents coinage later surfaced bearing the non-commemorative Australia coat of arms design used for previous and subsequent years. This type of issue, a coin featuring an unintended design pairing, is known in numismatics as a “mule”. The term mule comes from an animal of the same name that is a hybrid, born from a pairing of a horse and a donkey.
While it is unknown how many of the 1977 mules exist, with estimates of under 10 and catalogs noting seven known examples, it is indeed a rare and desirable coin. There are speculations that the 1977 arms reverse mule was purposely made at the Mint. Another verified mule from 1977 is known where two obverse dies are paired together, leading to this theory. However, the circulated example seen here seems unlikely to happen if the intention of mint workers was to make a rarity for profit. It is likely that some sharp-eyed collector found this example in circulation and pulled it. This example was recently graded PCGS AU55.
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