Jan 042013

It is 200 years since 40,000 Spanish silver dollars were cut and counter-stamped to create the first distinctive Australian coins. To mark this important anniversary, we’ve issued a commemorative Holey Dollar & Dump Set in pure silver.

Take a close look at the new coins in this video, which briefly re-tells the story of the original Holey Dollar & Dump. Then check below for some incredible facts about the first coins struck in Australia.

  • The NSW colonial government’s official coiner in 1813 was William Henshall, a former convict who had been transported from England having been found guilty of counterfeiting “Bank of England dollars”.
  • Instead of three months originally envisaged by Governor Macquarie, the project to convert the 40,000 Spanish dollars took more than a year to complete. Although dated 1813, the new coins did not go into circulation until the following year.
  • Henshall had to make machinery to cut and stamp the coins, which broke down several times. These failures help explain why about 90 of the original coins were spoiled during re-striking and never issued, and why the protracted manufacturing task was not finished until August 1814.
  • Macquarie was no doubt aware of earlier holey, ring or pierced dollars developed in other cash-strapped British colonies. Coincidentally, just as Henshall was labouring in Sydney, Prince Edward Island (Canada) was making its own Holey Dollar & Dumps.
  • The administration of NSW began recalling Holey Dollars and Dumps and replacing them with sterling coinage from 1822. They were finally ‘demonetised’ in 1829, then melted down and sold to the Bank of England as bullion.
  • A few managed to avoid the smelter. Today, some 300 Holey Dollars are known to have survived and about  800 Dumps.


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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