The fundamentals of this Holey Dollar
When William Henshall created this Holey Dollar, he grabbed a Spanish Silver Dollar that had been struck in 1809 at the Mexico Mint and that depicted the legend and portrait of King Ferdinand VII of Spain.
Had Henshall been an avid historian he might have realised that Joseph Bonaparte was King of Spain in 1809 - not Ferdinand - and that the dollar he was about to deface had an extreme historical peculiarity and rarity that made it worth holding onto.
But Henshall was an emancipated convict and our first mint master and using crude equipment, he cut a hole in it.
The Ferdinand VII silver dollar that Henshall was handling was one of 40,000 coins that he would eventually deface in his quest to create the nation's first coin.
Henshall then continued the minting process by over-stamping the inner circular edge of the hole with the words New South Wales, the date '1813' and the value of five shillings.
That’s the point at which the holed silver dollar became the 1813 New South Wales Five Shillings, better known as the 1813 Holey Dollar.
A Holey Dollar that is defined by the monarch Ferdinand VII
While it is acknowledged that quality is the prime force in determining the value of a Holey Dollar, it is not the only force.
Lachlan Macquarie's shipment of 40,000 Spanish Silver dollars was not specific, so any date would do. And any monarch would suffice, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VI or Ferdinand VII.
And herein lies the key! For some monarchs appear more frequently than others.
Holey Dollars featuring the portrait of Charles IV are the most readily available, followed by Charles III, and Ferdinand VII. A Ferdinand VI Holey Dollar does exist but it is unique and is definitely not for sale. So the rarest monarch from a collector's perspective is Ferdinand VII.
A Holey Dollar that has quality
The original 1809 Spanish Silver Dollar from which this Holey Dollar was created is graded in the premium quality levels of Extremely Fine indicating that it underwent slight circulation before the hole was cut into it in 1813.
The surfaces are glossy and highly reflective. Remarkable when you consider that Spanish Silver Dollar was at the time the world’s greatest trading coin.
The extent of usage of the Holey Dollar after it was released into circulation is evidenced by the wear to the counter-stamps, the over-stamping around the inner circular edge … New South Wales, 1813 and Five Shillings.
The counter-stamps of this Holey Dollar are also graded in the premium quality levels of Extremely Fine, which indicates that as a Holey Dollar, the coin underwent minimal usage.
In summary, this Holey Dollar was created in 1813 by mint-master William Henshall. Officially demonetised in 1829 when most of the coins were sent to the melting pot. So by some fluke, this Holey Dollar avoided the melting pot and was barely used in the interim.
And doesn't it show? We rate this coin as being in the top five of the twelve surviving privately owned Ferdinand VII Holey Dollars.
The chart attached clearly shows the spread of Holey Dollars based on quality. And the relative ready availability of low-quality examples. The chart also confirms the extreme rarity of high-quality specimens.
A Holey Dollar with a Bonaparte connection
Napoleon Bonaparte emerged as the strongman of Europe in 1799 leading his armies across Europe deposing monarchs and dominating the entire continent.
At the time Spain was ruled by King Charles IV and Spain was an ally of France.
In 1807, Bonaparte’s armies marched through Spain and invaded Portugal.
The alliance between France under Bonaparte and Spain under Charles IV disintegrated the following year when on February 16, 1808, under the pretext of sending reinforcements to the French army occupying Portugal, the French invaded northern Spain.
King Charles IV was pressured into abdicating the Spanish throne in March 1808 to his son Ferdinand VII. The son reigned for less than two months.
Both Charles IV and Ferdinand VII were duped by Napoleon Bonaparte into ceding the Spanish throne to Bonaparte’s older brother Joseph who assumed rule of the Spanish kingdom on 6 June 1808.
And while the upper echelons of the Spanish Government accepted Ferdinand's abdication and Napoleon's choice of Joseph as King of Spain, the Spanish people did not. Uprisings broke out throughout the country.
The Mexico Mint refused to acknowledge Bonaparte as the Spanish King and protested by continuing to strike their silver dollars with the legend and portrait of the exiled Ferdinand VII.
It’s politics 101. Played out in the nineteenth century.
By 1813 the French position in Spain became untenable and Napoleon withdrew his troops and released Ferdinand VII from Valencay, France, where he had been imprisoned.
Ferdinand VII returned triumphantly to Madrid and re-claimed the Spanish crown early in 1814.