The 1966 silver 'round' fifty cent piece is both one of the most interesting and misunderstood coin in the Australian series. At the time it was the highest denomination issued and one of the few world circulaton coins still to be issued in silver. Great Britan, for instance, had stopped issuing silver coins way back in 1947. This proved to be its downfall however. The coin was either withdrawn or hoarded shortly after its release as a sudden jump in silver saw the instrinsic value overshoot the face value. The government was actually losing money issuing the coin. Not suprisingly, it is a one year issue. It was also the first Australian Commonwealth issue to get the coat of arms right. All the pre-decimal coins had the crest of South Australia as a rising sun and three stalks of wheat rather than the correct Piping Strike. It is also a confusing coin for investors. Most people are told that coins are worth more the longer you keep them. Not so, this one.
With an issue of 36 million pieces, this is not a rare coin. It's value is strictly related to its silver content, unless in Uncirculated condition. Made of 80% pure silver, three coins equal a full ounce of the pure metal. Back in the early 1980's when the Texas-born Hunt brothers tried to corner the world silver supplies the market reacted by driving up the price to a peak of US$50 an ounce. That meant that each coin was worth more for its 'melt' value than its collector's rarity. Since the collapse of the silver market the going rate per coin today is less than $6.00 each - a long way from the $15.00 plus offered by dealers when the Hunt brothers thought they had enough mony to own it all.
As Nelson Bunker Hunt was to lament after losing his fortune: "A billion dollar's ain't what it used to be!"