By Eric Eigner for PCGS ……
Modern Australian coins have been extremely popular, touching a cohort of new collectors with the collecting bug. While you may be familiar with the famous Coronation $2 or the Red Poppy Dollar coins, few may be aware of the 1966 Wavy “2” 20 Cent.
Like other popular modern issues, the coin is a variety of an otherwise-common 1966 London Mint Australian 20 Cent. Collectors can identify the variety by examining the baseline of the “2” on the reverse. If the baseline is flat, then the coin is the standard 20-cent piece. If the baseline is wavy, the coin is this variety. In addition to the wavy baseline, the variety exhibits a raised bulbous area beneath the wave on the baseline of the “2”. It is a fairly straightforward variety to identify, even on well-worn pieces, making the coin popular with collectors checking their change.
As with many great numismatic rarities, the coin’s birth is shrouded in mystery, with neither the mint nor numismatists able to conclusively explain the circumstances around the coin’s creation.
Tony Byrne, former Chief Numismatist of the Royal Australian Mint, speculates that a round object lightly impacted the face of a 20 cent reverse working die prior to the die being case hardened, resulting in a part of the surface of the die being pressed inward. This depression on the die appears on coins as a raised bulbous area around the base of the “2,” forming the famous curvature that looks like a wave.
With 30 million ordinary 20-cent pieces minted in London in 1966, the Wavy “2” variety is surprisingly difficult to obtain in high grade, but even lower-grade coins are uncommon. Collectors still occasionally announce the discovery of an example found in change, but these pieces are typically heavily worn. Collectors and dealers have almost always sourced the highest-grade coins out of original mint rolls, and as there are still unopened 1966 20-cent rolls trading the market, fresh discoveries of these coins are still possible. In fact, two rolls were discovered in 2010 that contained eight Wavy “2” 20-cent pieces. Two of those coins graded MS66, four achieved MS65, and one made MS64 (the remaining piece was rejected for damage). The two MS66 examples are still the finest assessed by PCGS and reside in high-grade Set Registry sets. They are worth closer to $10,000 than to $5,000.
The 1966 Wavy “2” 20 Cent is among the trifecta of modern Australian coin varieties sought after by experienced collectors, the other two coins being the 2000 Incused Flag 50 Cent and the 2000 Mule Dollar. With modern Australian coin collecting enjoying a renaissance at the moment, their popularity is sure to rise.
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