The coinage of the Internment Camps

News, May 2002: NZ collectors discover WWII internment camp token varieties

Liverpool, NSW, 1914-1917

The first internment camp for political prisoners was established at Liverpool in New South Wales at the outbreak of World War I. Little is known about this camp but it is of numismatic interest because the first Australian internment camp tokens were issued for use there. Perhaps setting a precedent for the WWII camps, the Liverpool token was radically different from any coin in general circulation.

Liverpool Internment Camp Token

7/10" across, this threepenny token is one of three types known for the Liverpool camp. Not intended for long-term use, it was struck in aluminium. Very few have survived and most of those are badly worn. This specimen would grade VF or perhaps gVF. It was purchased from Downies.

Hay, NSW, 1941-1945

It is fairly well known that Australia was "host" to a number of political detainees exported from Britain in 1940 aboard the military transport ship Dunera. The British Government considered these people to be potential spies but they had not actually been convicted of any crime. Almost two thousand of these prisoners were held at two camps near Hay in New South Wales where they remained until the end of WWII.

Australian currency was prohibited inside the camps and the first medium of exchange used therein was a series of currency notes produced inside the camp in 1941. The denominations printed were 6d, 1/- and 2/- but the issue of these notes contravened Australian law and they were withdrawn in favour of tokens issued by and on behalf of the Australian Defence Canteen Service from September 1941 onwards. The Internment Camp Tokens were struck by private contractors in Victoria and were also used in New Zealand. They were withdrawn at the end of the war and exchanged for Australian legal tender coins and notes. Nevertheless a few were souvenired by the inmates and/or guards and so are available to collectors today. The 5/- token is by far the scarcest and estimates put the number in existence below 100 specimens. This means they are much rarer than the 1930 penny.


The 5/- Hay Internment Camp Token. Minted by R. Arendeen & Sons Pty Ltd of Malvern, Victoria.

Bronze, 28.6mm (roughly 1 1/8")

The 2/- Hay Internment Camp Token. Minted by R. Arendeen & Sons Pty Ltd of Malvern, Victoria.

Bronze, 22.8mm (roughly 7/8")

The 1/- Hay Internment Camp Token. Minted by K. J. Luke & Co. Ltd of Fitzroy, Victoria.

Bronze, 18.8mm (almost 3/4"), 2.25g - 2.4g

Note that the coins minted by Luke & Co show several differences in design from the coins minted by Arendeen & Sons.

The 3d Hay Internment Camp Token. Minted by K. J. Luke & Co. Ltd of Fitzroy, Victoria.

Bronze, 15.8mm (about 5/8"), about 1.35g

The word CAMPS on the obverse was originally engraved as CAMP and most specimens of this coin show traces of the original lettering. It is possible that a few specimens exist with the CAMP legend.

The 1d Hay Internment Camp Token. Minted by R. Arendeen & Sons Pty Ltd of Malvern, Victoria

Brass, 20.3mm (about 13/16")

Note the reversion to the more ornate design and heavier lettering characteristic of the Aberdeen & Sons tokens.

The specimen shown here has a die crack through the E in PENNY.

May 2002: ICT varieties discovered

New Zealand collectors Martin McKenzie and Rob Watts have discovered that there are at least two reverse die varieties in the Hay 3d ICT. Martin sent me pictures. Subsequently, I examined the tokens in my own collection and found that I had two 1/- tokens with different obverses and reverses.

Martin and Rob's discovery may be new. I have not seen any mention of this in the numismatic literature.


These are the pictures sent to me by Martin McKenzie to support his discovery of the die variations in the Internment Camp threepence tokens. The number and positions of the berries in the left branch are clearly different and the gumnuts in the right branch are much larger on the second coin than those on the first.

The two reverses have the same number of beads on the inner and outer rims (47 and 111 respectively).

3d ICT enlargements

Some enlargements of portions of the pictures shown above. Note the different leaf shapes, variations in the number and locaton of the berries in the left branch and the larger gumnuts in the right branch

Here we have views of the obverses and reverses of two shilling tokens. Clear differences can be seen in each. Take note of the different numbers and positions of the berries in the wreath. The differences are are more noticeable in the left branch on each face of the coin.

Obverse has 150 rim beads on each coin but on the first coin the inner circle contains 45 beads whereas on the second coin it contains 44.

The reverses display similar differences. Each coin has 111 rim beads but the inner circle on coin 1 has 45 beads whereas on coin 2 it has 38.

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Most recent revision: 23rd June 2002
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