During the 1960s and 70s, the Top End had its own alternate currency, designed to circumvent liquor licensing laws. Meet the Stubloon
AFTER the Second World War, the cattle industry in Northern Australia was growing.
Transporting cattle from inaccessible regions to markets far away in the south meant days of driving on rough roads, and this took a toll on cattle condition and welfare, and the trucks themselves.
To address the problem, Federal Government funding was provided to build Northern Territory ‘beef roads’ to link producers with major centres.
Beginning in 1960, and continuing through into the 1970s, a massive road construction program was undertaken in some of the remotest parts of outback Australia.
Road-building is thirsty work.
Over the years of construction thousands of workers lived in remote camps in the NT with few facilities.
Social clubs ran canteens for the workers, but liquor licensing laws meant that these canteens could not sell alcohol and thus a system of exchanging tickets and tokens for beer was used to get around the problem.
Project clerk Peter Snel later recounted the genesis of a new kind of token, the Stubloon: “No money could actually change hands at the camps under the liquor ordinance,” he recalled.
“At the beginning I tried introducing beer tickets and a variety of tokens. But these ideas weren’t satisfactory, so I had a long discussion with the regional engineer in Katherine, Don Darben, about an alternate currency based on the value of one stubby of beer.”
The result was the Stubloon, a word derived from the old Spanish coin the doubloon and, naturally, the good old Australian stubby.
In 1970 when the idea of a brass token for the Northern Territory communities was raised, a competition was held to design it. The winning design featured on one side the word STUBLOON superimposed over the numeral ‘1’, and on the other side was an image of a stubby bottle and the date 1970 in the centre, with the words NORTHERN TERRITORY BEEF ROADS around the circumference.
The token was slightly larger than a twenty-cent piece. The first Stubloons were manufactured in Adelaide, and between 1970 and 1973 some 4000 were produced.
In no time at all, the Stubloon was the only currency of any consequence in the road camps. It was even accepted by many pubs in the Territory
Immediately on its introduction, the Stubloon revolutionised social trade at the Territory’s road camps. Men cashed their pay cheques for the coins, which were pegged in value to the cost of a stubby of beer.
In no time at all, the Stubloon was the only currency of any consequence in the road camps. It was even accepted by many pubs in the Territory by cunning barmen who willingly gave away a 28-cent stubby for a coin they could sell to a tourist for as much as $1.50. (Australasian Post, 27 October 1983).
A truck-driver of the period remembers that it was common for workers ‘to ask for a number of Stubloon tokens to form part of their pay-packet each week’, and that they would ‘take these to their drinking hole and stack them on the bar to pay for their drinks during the night’ (D.R. Barrie, Brass for Beer, 2012). Other reports suggest they were used as gambling chips in casual poker games.
The road camps closed with the completion of the Beef Roads Program.
With the closure of the camps, Stubloons were no longer needed, although a number of similar tokens, called ‘The Territory Stubloon’, were issued as tourist souvenirs in 1982 by the Darwin Tourist Promotion Association.
Today the original Stubloons are a collector’s item and can sometimes be found for sale online. Katherine museum curator Simmone Croft said original Stubloons could now fetch up to a thousand dollars.
They are significant relics of life in the Northern Territory during a period of economic expansion and opportunity.
Source: Dave Nolan – Katherine & Region Photos, People and History
My grandchildren made me aware that Stubloons were for sale on the web, supported by historic material, most of which is correct. However I would like to make some factual corrections:
* the stubloon was designed by Peter Snel (project clerk) and Eddie Wheeler (engineer) in the Banana Springs camp located west of the intersection of the Jaspers Gorge Road,now the Buchanan Highway and the Willeroo/Timber Creek Beef Road, now part of the Victoria Highway in March/April 1970.
* The Social Club sought quotes from K G Luke in Melbourne (NOT ADELAIDE). The quote was 3.8 cents per coin and an order for 10 gross (1440) was placed in 1970.
* When they were delivered they invoice at 38 cents each. We paid at the quoted rate.
* The second strike was ordered from the Top Springs/ Wave Hill Beef Road part of the Buntine Highway , the 1973 version and cost 38 cents each.
*The Stubloons were only used on the two mentioned Beef Roads- not on all NT Beef Roads.
*On completion of the Top Springs/ Wave Hill Beef Road a small number of Stubloons remained on the project. I gave them to Don Darben the Regional Engineer in Katherine. Don had them gold plated and a loop was added to make them into pendants. He gave one to my wife Ruth as a momento.
* I was the Senior Project Engineer on these projects Frank Vroombout also known as Zoomboots
I have 2 original stubloons for sale, one 1970 and one 1973. What are the going price for these.
Dear Phil May,
I bid $280 for the 1970 one or $240.00 for the 1973 one.
Regards, Alf Campbell firstname.lastname@example.org 0419 047 036
I have a 1973
Can you please let me know how much is a 1982 stubloon is weath and a Darwin stubby
Hi what is a 1982 stubloon worth
I did a small amount of research after reading the article above.
I think depending on quality they can range between $50-$120
How are you going I have had this coin for over 10 years now and was wondering if anyone was interested in buying it it is a 1970 stubloon pleas contact me through my email cheers
If this is still for sale I would like to buy it please.
John Ballantine 0488222284
Hi, I have a 1973 if interested.
Make an offer.
I have one of these?
Hi, I am interested in buying this coin. How much please?
Look me up on facebook- Gemma Schultz (of the NHVR).