1965 -1968 - Lanka

Ten & Five Cents - TRIAL

A pair of TRIAL patterns struck most probably in Birmingham Mint in 1965 and 1968 of same weight and Nickel-Brass alloy for the standard Five cents coin and Ten cents coin denominations which were first struck few years previously in 1963 at British Royal Mint (BRM).

They are therefore unlike the 1971 Off-Metal-struck TRIAL patterns of both Five cents and Ten cents denominations in Nickel-Brass clad steel, Chromized steel, and Aluminum with word TRIAL in raised letters on Obverse at 2 O'clock.

DenominationTen cents
Diameter23.11/20.96 mm
Thickness1.55 mm
Weight4.29 gms
Shapeeight scallops
1965_Lanka_10c_trial_obverse 1965_Lanka_10c_trial_reverse
KM unlisted
DenominationFive cents
Diameter21.46/18.24 mm
Thickness1.50 mm
Weight3.18 gms
ShapeSquare with
round corners
1968_Lanka_05c_trial_obverse 1968_Lanka_05c_trial_reverse
KM unlisted

Obverse : The Armorial Ensign of Ceylon, with raised word TRIAL to the left (9 O'Clock) along the periphery.

Reverse : The large numeral with the value in Sinhala, Tamil and English below and year of issue at the bottom within a circle of the traditional Sinhala Liyavela art with Lanka in Sinhala on top. Raised word TRIAL to the left and upper side (10 O'clock) just inside the Liyavela.

Finding out the details of their true origin was real serendipity.

I first saw these TRIALs for sale on the Internet in 1998 August and was curious what they were. Two years later after I saw the 1971 TRIAL series, I suspected these to be fantasy creations on regular issue. They have been minted with the same weight and metal composition (non-magnetic) of the standard issue of those years and have been minted a few years after this coin type was first issued in 1963.

In 2002 September I requested them on approval to investigate.
I found that the raised lettering TRIAL looked real even under the 150X magnification of my recently acquired microscope. I then started my investigation of their origin more seriously.

I first asked Ed Krivoniak, a leading collector in Pittsburgh who had told me about his TRIAL coins from New Zealand. He confirmed that some commonwealth TRIALs accepted to be genuine were known, which were not of first year of issue.

In reply to a question on southasia-coins, Mr Paul Baker pointed out that a sub-contract mint to the BRM would not necessarily start making coins right from the first year of a type. The letter-head illustrated in his Birmingham Mint webpage on the Kings Norton Mint closure in 1991 includes this Ceylon 5 Cents (KM-129), among other coins and tokens. There are many examples where the same coin type was minted in different locations. Occasionally there is a mint mark like in the H in the 1912 5 cents coin or the B in the silver 1919/20/21 coins of the George V series.

The Royal Mint Annual Report for 1969 states that in 1969 about 45% of the overseas orders for coins were struck under sub-contract by Imperial Metal Industries (Kynoch) and the Mint Birmingham, Ltd. They do not however distinguish which of these Mints or the Royal Mint Struck the any of the listed coin types.

Then finally the curator of the British Royal Mint Museum confirmed that their coin cabinet did have six specimens of the 1968 5 cents TRIAL with a ticket which says they were sent to them in the early 1970's from the Birmingham Mint. This striking was an unusual occurrence since most TRIALs are struck at the British Royal Mint.
Visiting the British Royal Mint Museum on 2005 June 24th I was able to confirm that the 1965 10 cents TRIAL is not in their coin cabinet, and therefore thought it maybe unique. However in 2012 September, Heritage Coin Auction Lot #3020 a PCGS Slabbed SP64, 1965 10-cent trial sold for US$440. If you know of any other TRIAL specimen please E-mail me.

In August 2005 the IMI-Birmingham Mint coin collection was gifted to the Birmingham Museum after being sorted and valued by Format Coins. Duplicates in that collection were sold in the late 1960's. I need to check if that collection has a specimen of the Ceylon 1965 10-cent TRIAL.

Since the TRIALs were made to check on a subcontract, none would have been sent to Ceylon and explains why there is no record of this TRIAL in the Central Bank of Ceylon and could not be a source. The Royal Mint does not send specimens of TRIAL coins to anyone else not even to the British Museum.

By an amazing coincidence less than 2-days after I requested the TRIALs above on approval, a 1971 Chromarized Steel TRIAL of 10 cents coin was listed for the first time on ebay by a collector in Belgium. On 2002 Sept 11, I won this TRIAL and the seller said
I purchased the trial coin 15 or maybe 20 years ago from a person who worked at a Belgian factory of non-ferro metals. The factory often melted coins for recycling the metals and got the coins from a Mint house to re-melt, I suppose . This coin was a part of a group of normal and common minor coins in different metals. So the worker saved the coin from melting and I was lucky that I saw the word TRIAL and the used metal.

When I inquired about the Royal Mint recycling on southasia-coins group I was told that
Royal Mint practices did vary and scrap did go out of the mint - their main problem was that they used quite a few different alloys (for coins of 50+ medals etc) and when making blanks they needed predictable raw materials to start with. The containers of odd bits, floor sweepings miss-struck coins etc. were not of a predictable metal content and so could not be easily recycled internally and so were sold to outside contractors. Occasionally the mint did and does buy in blanks - I think thus is for simple commercial or logistic reasons.

They two above must have escaped to the numismatic market via the same old lapse in security of the metal recycling.

The BU TRIAL pieces were scanned at 600 dpi and the images are displayed at 300dpi. The coin can be seen at full resolution using view image option of browser. The two rare TRIAL pieces were obtained from Larry Van Huss of Phoenix Enterprises, TN. USA, who had purchased them many years previously from Paul Bickerman of Coin Trends in Australia, who unfortunately does not remember their source.

I thank Paul Baker, Graham Dyer, Larry Van Huss, Ed Krivoniak, Gust Sels, and Howard Simmons who contributed significantly to information on this page.