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Australian Fifty Cent Coins

1970 Captain Cook 50c


1970 saw the introduction of Australia's first ever commemorative 50c, the first in what has since become a very long line.
Even though the 12 sided copper nickel 50c had been introduced in 1969, there was a flurry of letters and complaints about issuing this coin.
It seems that although the Australian Coin Review had not got it's wish for a crown sized dollar coin in 1969, they had not given up hope of it being introduced and 1970 commemorations of Captain Cook's discovery of the east coast Australia seemed to be a perfect opportunity to introduce such a coin.
The feeling seemed to be that relegating Captain Cook to a mere 50c coins was an insult and in order to do him justice a crown sized dollar coin was the best option. The argument also reasoned that since the commemorative coin would become an ambassador for Australia with at least 100,000 going overseas, the coin needed to be large and impressive.
Letters to the editor of Australian Coin Review and then letters and even replies to and from the then Prime Minister of Australia were publish but as we now know, to no avail, the 50c was released in 1970 for circulation.

If you have better pictures, preferably with obverse as well, could you please supply us with it.

The reverse depicts Captain James Cook and a map of Australia, showing his route.
In 1766, the Royal Society hired Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun. He sailed from England in 1768, rounded Cape Horn and continued westward across the Pacific to arrive at Tahiti on 13 April 1769, where the observations were to be made. However, the result of the observations were not as conclusive or accurate as had been hoped. Cook later mapped the complete New Zealand coastline, making only some minor errors. He then sailed west, reaching the south-eastern coast of the Australian continent on 19 April 1770, and in doing so his expedition became the first recorded Europeans to have encountered its eastern coastline. On 23 April he made his first recorded direct observation of indigenous Australians at Brush Island near Bawley Point, noting in his journal "...and were so near the Shore as to distinguish several people upon the Sea beach they appear'd to be of a very dark or black Colour but whether this was the real colour of their skins or the C[l]othes they might have on I know not." On 29 April Cook and crew made their first landfall on the mainland of the continent at a place now known as the Kurnell Peninsula, which he named Botany Bay after the unique specimens retrieved by the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. It is here that James Cook made first contact with an Aboriginal tribe known as the Gweagal. After his departure from Botany Bay he continued northwards, and a mishap occurred when Endeavour ran aground on a shoal of the Great Barrier Reef, on 11 June. The ship was badly damaged and his voyage was delayed almost seven weeks while repairs were carried out on the beach (near the docks of modern Cooktown, at the mouth of the Endeavour River). Once repairs were complete the voyage continued, sailing through Torres Strait and on 22 August he landed on Possession Island, where he claimed the entire coastline he had just explored as British territory. He returned to England via the Cape of Good Hope and Saint Helena, arriving on 12 July 1771.

Nominal Specifications

Denomination: 50 cents
Metal: 75% Copper
25% Nickel
Mass: 15.55 grams
Diameter: 31.50 mm
Reverse: Stuart Devlin
Obverse: Arnold Machin


Date Publication Page Article Subject Author
May, 1969 Australian Coin Review 1 Wanted: Australian State Commemoratives Captain Cook Commemorative Editor
June, 1969 Australian Coin Review 1,3 The Cook Commemorative: We Write to the Prime Minister Captain Cook Commemorative John Gartner
July, 1969 Australian Coin Review 1,3 A Reader Writes to the PM The Cook Commemorative: Dollar or Half Dollar? R. A. Dunstan
  Wikipedia Link James Cook Full entry on Captain James Cook