The discovery of gold in the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria caused heavy migration from the other colonies and the rest of the world, with individuals pursuing the chance of achieving great wealth through the discovery of gold. This migration had caused voids in their home economies with reductions in workers, jobs and of course they had withdrew their savings in gold coin, causing a number of problems for banks (as they could no longer keep their banknotes in circulation as they required gold reserves). South Australia was hit particularly hard by this with an estimated 16,000 people, half the male population of South Australia having left for the gold fields, and by 1852 it had seemed that total economic collapse was unavoidable.
While gold could be transported to the Royal Mint in London and exchanged with gold coin, the urgency of the problem called for an urgent solution and it would be another 3 years before a branch of the Royal Mint would be opened in Australia. The South Australian government therefore authorised the Adelaide Assay Office to produce, from Victorian gold, initially ingots, and thereafter tokens, both of which were authorised to be held as reserves by banks thereby saving the local banks from withdrawing their banknotes.
This move would not be considered legal until they had approval from the British government but the urgency of the situation saw them start the operation while approval was requested. The British government declined the request but by the time this message was received, the Adelaide Assay Office had already struck almost 25,000 tokens, each with the face value of 1 pound, after which the assay office was shut down, having saved the local economy.
While dies used to strike sovereigns and half sovereigns were made in London and then later in Melbourne, due to the urgency of the situation, the dies for the Adelaide assay tokens were prepared locally by Joshua Payne. Dies were prepared for the One Pound token and the Five Pound token though no original Five Pound specimens are known.