Jul 252012

The most famous example of Australia’s first coin is known as the ‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar.

It was created in New South Wales in 1813 from a Spanish silver dollar, one of 40,000 such coins procured by Governor Lachlan Macquarie to help alleviate the young colony’s lack of coinage.

Macquarie directed convicted forger William Henshell to remove the centre of the coins that arrived in Sydney in November 1812. The two ‘new’ coins created from each dollar were overstamped – in the case of the outer ring with the words NEW SOUTH WALES 1813 (obverse) and FIVE SHILLINGS (reverse).

Image courtesy ‘The Holey Dollars of NSW’ by WJD Mira and WJ Noble.

According to rare coin dealer Coinworks, the ‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar was originally “minted in 1810 at the Lima Mint in Peru with a portrait design that protested Joseph Bonaparte’s ascension to the Spanish throne.” Joseph was the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who appointed him King of Naples and Sicily (1806–1808), and later King of Spain (1808–1813).

Coinworks is offering one of only two known examples of the ‘Hannibal Head’ at the forthcoming Eminent Colonials Auction in Melbourne. Discovered in Tasmania in 1881 near Hobart in what could have been a bushrangers hoard, the coin was presented to Sir John Henry Lefroy, Governor of Tasmania at that time, and has subsequently been held by just two private collectors since 1988.

More details at Coinworks.


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