The Legislative Council of New South Wales first petitioned in 1851 for a mint to be established in the colony, and in 1853 this was accomplished by an Order in Council in Great Britain providing for a branch of the Royal Mint to be set up in Sydney. (1) Under the Order, the Chief Officer of the Sydney branch was to be a Deputy Master of the Royal Mint and was to be appointed at Her Majesty’s pleasure. The Sydney branch was to consist of four sections - bullion office, melting house, coining department, and the accountants department. The principal officers of these sections were to be appointed by the Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury. (2)
The Sydney branch opened on 14 May 1855 and would convert bullion from the gold fields into legal tender. (3) In June and September of 1855, Regulations for the receipt and issue of gold were issued by the Colonial Secretary’s Office detailing the price offered for bullion and the refusal to accept jewellery or gold plate for minting purposes. During the first five years, the Mint's coin output annually averaged over £ 1,000,000, while the amount of raw gold exported from New South Wales declined sharply. (4)
For more than ten years, all sovereigns minted in Sydney were legal tender only in the Australian colonies and New Zealand, but in February 1886 they became legal tender in the United Kingdom. In 1868, Sydney's sovereigns and half sovereigns became legal tender for all British colonies and were already identical, save for a small mint mark, with British coins. (5)
The Sydney Mint was first used for the issue of Imperial bronze coin in 1868 and for Imperial silver coin in 1879. During its period of operation, the Mint treated 42 million ounces of gold, valued approximately at £ 156, 000, 000. (6)
After the visit to Australia of the Master of the Mint in late 1925, the New South Wales Government decided to close the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint at the end of 1926. On 30 April 1926, the Government announced in the Government Gazette that the Regulations for the Receipt and Coinage of Gold would be cancelled from 30 June 1926 and, therefore, no further deposits of gold would be received by the Mint. (7) The Royal Mint’s Sydney Branch closed on 31 December 1926, although an office was kept open until January 1927 to finalise all accounts. (8)
(1). General Order Book, Royal Mint Sydney, State Records stroke number 2/766; The Legislative Council of NSW petitioned the Queen for the establishment of a branch of the Royal Mint at Sydney. The petition dated 19 December 1851 was forwarded to Earl Grey, Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs. Copies of official papers relating to the Mint, 1852 – 1870, 3/1684. The Order had its origins in a Minute from the Lords Commissioners of the Imperial Treasury dated the 22 March 1853, in which the conditions for the establishment of a Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint were set out.
(2) loc. cit.
(3). New South Wales Government Gazette, 10 May 1855, p1365.
(4). Concise Guide to the Archives of New South Wales, Royal Mint, Sydney Branch.
(5). Concise Guide to the Archives of New South Wales, Royal Mint, Sydney Branch.
(6. The Daily Guardian, 23 November 1926.
(7). New South Wales Government Gazette, 30 April 1926, p5965.
(8). Correspondence on the closing of the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint, 4 February 1927, State Records stroke number 3/1734.9