May 142012

On the morning of 4 June 1629, the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia was wrecked on Morning Reef in the Abrolhos Islands, off the coast of Western Australia. It was the prelude to an extraordinary tragedy laced with depravity and barbarity.

Commander Francisco Pelsaert, the ship’s senior officers as well as some crew and passengers, deserted 268 survivors on two arid islands whilst they went in search of water. Abandoning their hunt on mainland Australia, the party instead made their way to Batavia (modern Jakarta), to obtain help. The journey took 33 days.

On arrival, the high boatswain was executed on Pelsaert’s indictment for outrageous behaviour before the loss of the ship. Skipper Adrien Jacobsz was arrested for negligence.

The Governor General of Batavia dispatched Pelsaert in the ‘jacht’ Sardam to rescue the survivors. With extraordinary bad luck, it took 63 days to find the wreck site, almost double the time it took the party to get to Batavia.

Once at the Abrolhos, Pelsaert discovered that mutiny had taken place. A small group of mutineers had massacred 125 men, women and children. Pelsaert arrested the mutineers and executed a number of them.

When the Sardam finally returned to Batavia, some of the lesser offenders, who had been flogged, keelhauled and dropped from the yard-arm as punishment on the voyage, were executed. Out of 316 people originally aboard the ship Batavia, only 116 survived.

The wreck of the Batavia was discovered some 300 years later in 1963. Around 9,000 coins were retrieved from the seabed, and only 1,442 (16%) of them are officially in private hands.

This coin from the wreck of the Batavia, which has been authenticated by and registered with the WA Museum, is available for purchase - visit for more details.

Consider the above statistics and you’ll see just how rare these coins truly are. This example of a silver rijksdaalder clearly has a porous planchet (with a crack redolent of the 17th century production process), however the flan is full and round, and all of the major design elements on the obverse remain clear.

For mine, the knight’s portrait, with the dress and regalia that is unique to the period, really is evocative of all of the history that this coin has.

The story of the Batavia is so compelling that it has inspired numerous books, documentaries and even scripts for a feature film or two.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video You may recall I featured a rijksdaalder in a short video recently entitled ‘What is Western Australia’s first coin?’


Andrew Crellin’s numismatic career began at The Perth Mint. Subsequently he spent over a decade in Sydney with two of Australia’s leading numismatic dealers. In that time he wrote two acclaimed books on Australian numismatics, appraised The Perth Mint’s archival collection and was nominated to the position of Secretary of the Australasian Numismatic Dealer’s Association. Back in Perth, his company Sterling and Currency specialises in Australian coins and banknotes, from the Holey Dollar of 1813 through to the modern coin sets.


  8 Responses to “A silver coin from the world’s bloodiest shipwreck”

  1. The Batavia seems to have had a tragic history 🙁

    The silver rijksdaalder in the picture is holding up well despite its tumultuous history.

  2. How much is the Batavia coin please


  3. Could you please tell me the value of the Batavia Coin

    • Hi William

      Andrew tells us that genuine coins that have been recovered from the shipwreck of the Batavia, that are accompanied by a certificate from the WA Maritime Museum, have been known to sell in recent years for between approximately $1,000 and $10,000.

      Coins that are in superior condition, or that were seldom seen within the Batavia’s contents, are worth considerably more than those that are heavily worn or sea-affected.


      Blog Team

  4. My grandads brother found the ship I have a mint coin with a document from western Australia saying that so how much is that worth ,sid liddon found it his brother Arthur was siver medal captain of dover lifeboat,sid gave me an one other person this coin ,,,

    • Hi Greg

      How interesting. We doubt we’ll be able to provide a valuation but would be very interested to see your coin if you’d like to post a picture.

      Kind regards

      Blog Team

  5. Hi, these rare coins have a certificate. Where can one check the authenticity of the certificates?

    • Hi Ronald

      The WA Maritime Museum retains the data on all of the ex-wreck coins currently held in private hands.

      The legitimate owner of any ex-wreck coin must have permission to sell before entering into any transaction.

      If a collector is looking to confirm that a potential acquisition is legally held, they can request permission to sight the letter from the WA Maritime Museum, under Section 15 of the Historic Shipwrecks Act.


      Andrew Crellin


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