Historical information

This Great Britain one shilling coin is dated 1885, which is during the reign of Queen Victoria. There were over 3 million of these coins minted. Queen Victoria succeeded King William IV to the British Throne in 1837 – she was only 18 years old at the time – and she ruled until 1901.

British coins such as this one shilling were in circulation in the colony of Australia until 1910, when the Commonwealth of Australia began producing its own coinage.

This one shilling coin was minted by the Royal Mint at Royal Mint Court, in Little Tower Hill, London, England. Coins for circulation in the Kingdom of England, Great Britain and most of the British Empire were produced here until the 1960’s when the Royal Mint shifted location to Wales.

There are three main groups of shillings produced during Queen Victoria’s reign:-
- The Young Head; 1837-1887, in 8 different versions, on the obverse showing the Queen’s maturing face over 50 years.
- The Junior Head; 1887-1892, minted when Queen Victoria had been reigning for 50 years. Her head was smaller on the coins minted 1887-1889 than on those shillings minted 1889-1892.
- The Old Head; 1893-1901, shows the veiled head of Queen Victoria.

The obverse side of the coin’s inscription translation is “Victoria by the Grace of God, Queen of the British territories, Defender of the Faith”. The engraver of the obverse image was William Wyon.

The reverse side of the coin is inscribed "ONE SHILLING. The engraver of the reverse image was Jean Baptiste Merlen.

The early settlers of Australia brought their own currency with them so a wide variety of coins, tokens and even ‘promissory’ notes (often called IOU’s) were used in the exchange of goods and services.

In 1813 40,000 silver Spanish dollars, purchased by the English government, were delivered to Sydney to help resolve the currency problem reported by Governor Macquarie. The coins were converted for use by punching a hole in the centre of the coin. Both the outer ring, called the holey dollar, and the punched out ‘hole’, called the dump, were then used as the official currency. The holey dollars hold the place of being the first distinctively Australian coins.

In 1825 the British Government passed the Sterling Silver Currency Act, making the British Pound the only legal form of currency in the Australian colonies. Not enough British currency was imported into the colony so other forms of currency were still used.

In the mid 1800’s Australia entered the Gold Rush period when many made their fortunes. Gold was used for trading, often shaped into ingots, stamped with their weight and purity, and one pound tokens.

In 1852 the Adelaide Assay Office, without British approval, made Australia’s first gold coin to meet the need for currency in South Australia after the Gold Rush began.

In 1855 the official Australian Mint opened in Sydney, operating as a branch of the Royal Mint in London, and the gold was turned into coins called ‘sovereigns’. Other branches also opened in Melbourne and Perth.

Up to the time of Australia becoming a federation in 1901 its currency included British copper and silver coins, Australian gold sovereigns, locally minted copper trade tokens, private bank notes, New South Wales and Queensland government treasury notes and Queensland government banknotes. After Federation the Australian government began to overwrite privately issued notes and prepared for the introduction of its own currency.

In 1910 a National Australian Currency was formed, based on the British currency of ‘pounds, shillings and pence’ and the first Commonwealth coining was produced.

In 1966, on February 14th, Australia changed over to the decimal currency system of dollars and cents.


Australia did not have its own currency in the colonial times. Settlers brought money from other countries and they also traded goods such as grain when currency was scarce. For a long time there was no standardised value for the different currencies.

In 1825 British currency became the only official currency in the colony of Australia and coins such as this silver shilling were imported into Australia to replace the mixture of foreign currency.

Australia became a Federated nation on 1st January 1901. In 1910 National Australian Currency was formed and Australia produced its own currency, based on the British ‘pounds, shillings and pence’. The British currency was no longer valid.

This silver shilling is of national significance as it represents the British currency used in Australia from 1825-1910.

Physical description

Coin, Great Britain Shilling, 1885. Silver coin, round. Obverse; Queen Victoria head, ‘Young Head’, looking left. Reverse; crown on top of wreath. Inscriptions on both sides of coin.

Inscriptions & markings

Reverse “ONE SHILLING, 1885”