Adelaide Pounds & Five Pounds
Notes: Strangely, the gold rush added to the problems of currency shortages experienced in the colony in the middle of the 19th century. Settlers heading off to the goldfields in Victoria and New South Wales had drained the banks of coins to provide their stake while many of the diggers returning from the goldfields possessed an excess of wealth that could not be put into circulation. The problem was a lack of a currency medium.
On 28th January, 1852, the South Australian Legislative Council passed an Act of Parliament which allowed the gold to be assayed and cast into ingots marked with their weights and fineness and the weight of standard gold. The Act also established a value for the exchange of assayed gold for legal tender banknotes of £3/11/- per ounce of standard gold and committed the banks to maintain gold reserves to back their note currency.
The Act was amended on 23rd November, 1852 so that banknotes would no longer be redeemed in exchange for bullion - instead the Act permitted the striking of gold coins in denominations of £5, £2, £1 and 10/-. Only the £1 was issued as currency and the number of pieces struck is recorded as 24,768.
The coin became the prey of English profiteers when it was discovered that the intrinsic value of the gold contained in each piece exceeded its nominal value. Their actual gold value was worth £1/1/10½ in London but, at the rate of exchange set by the South Australian Assay Office, they could be purchased for only £-/19/11½ in the colony. Large quantities were exported to London where they were melted down. Those that remained in the colony were used extensively in circulation.
The coin is known today as the 1852 Adelaide One Pound, Australia's first legal tender gold coin, and is extremely difficult to find in a high state of preservation - no more that a few hundred (possibly as few as 200) specimens have survived. The last Adelaide pound was struck on 13th February, 1853. The British Government intervened proclaiming that the coins subverted the currency laws of the Empire. By that stage, preparations were well underway for the establishment of a branch of the Royal Mint in Sydney and the issuing of Australia's first 'approved' legal tender coin, the sovereign.