1813 Holey Dollar struck from an 1805 Mexico Mint Silver Dollar

1813 Holey Dollar struck from an 1805 Mexico Mint Silver Dollar
1813 Holey Dollar struck from an 1805 Mexico Mint Silver Dollar
Good Very Fine / Extremely Fine
Maurice Eschwege, Captain H. Paget, Albert Bagnall, Philip Spalding.
There is an immeasurable pride in owning an example of Australia’s first coin, the Holey Dollar. And if you can open not one, but TWO, of the most respected books on Holey Dollars and see your coin detailed and illustrated, then the feelings go even deeper. It is an affirmation of the proud history that accompanies your coin. And so it is with this Holey Dollar. It is illustrated in Philip Spalding's esteemed book, “The World of the Holey Dollar”. And the internationally respected “Holey Dollars of New South Wales” by Messrs. Mira & Noble. And it is true that only a handful of collectors can ever lay claim to having their Holey Dollars in both books.
Sold February 2020
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The fundamentals of this Holey Dollar.

This Holey Dollar was created from a Spanish Silver Dollar that was struck at the Mexico Mint in 1805 and features the legend and portrait of Charles IV.

The original silver dollar is graded in the upper quality levels of Good Very Fine and has toned to a glorious, soft gun-metal grey.

What we know is that once converted to a Holey Dollar in 1813 the coin underwent minimal circulation for the counter-stamps are graded higher again at Extremely Fine. 

A well documented provenance. 

The coin is featured on page 195 and 196 of  Philip Spalding's book, "The World of the Holey Dollar": a compliment in itself.

Published in 1973 this book is still to this day a major reference on the Holey Dollar. (A copy of Spalding’s book will be provided with this coin.)

It is also featured on page 51 the "Holey Dollars of New South Wales" by Messrs. Mira and Noble. 

Only a handful of collectors can ever lay claim to having their Holey Dollars in both books.

The Holey Dollar is respected and sought after worldwide, and that has been the case for more than a century. As this coin illustrates.   

Its first recorded owner was British collector Maurice Eschwege, jeweller and pawnbroker, located at 47 Lime Street, Liverpool. His collection was sold by Sotheby’s London, 30 March 1931, the Holey Dollar offered as lot 116.

The next recorded owner was British Royal Naval Officer, Captain H. E. G. Paget. His collection was sold at Glendining’s London, June 1944, the Holey Dollar appearing as lot 144.

The coin traversed the globe when it was acquired by American collector Albert E. Bagnall whose collection was sold in 1964 by Spink London.

Renowned British collectors and a renowned American collector and then eventually back to Australia through the illustrious hands of its fourth recorded owner, Philip Spalding.

That the coin has attracted sustained buyer interest right across the globe for nearly a century in Britain, the U.S. and Australia is testimony to the international appeal of the Holey Dollar.   

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The Holey Dollar is one of Australia's most desirable coins.

Talk to those fortunate enough to own one, either private collectors or institutions such as Macquarie Bank, National Museum of Australia and the Mitchell Library, and they will tell you that the Holey Dollar is viewed as the jewel in their collection.

And that statement is made irrespective of the quality level.

Most Holey Dollars are today found well worn with many looking like a tap washer.

The reason is simply that no quality parameters were set on Macquarie’s shipment of 40,000 silver dollars. That and the extensive use of the dollar as an international trading coin meant that most of the coins imported by Macquarie were well worn.

Once you move from the well circulated Good to Good Fine quality levels up to the Very Fine and Good Very Fine echelons, the differences in quality are marked and noticeable, clearly visible to the naked eye.

It is the details in the hair, the robes and the overall state of the fields.

The price of this Holey Dollar reflects its outstanding quality attributes.

The Holey Dollar is a coin that is held in the utmost respect. It is history. And yet it is refreshingly current.

The ingenuity of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in creating our first coin is reflected in the naming of the Macquarie Bank and the bank’s ultimate adoption of the Holey Dollar as its logo.

Philip Spalding front cover
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The history of the Holey Dollar.

1788 - 1813. From penal colony to commercial hub.

That Australia was settled in 1788, and the Holey Dollar and Dump not struck until 1813, raises the question about the medium of currency operating in the intervening years.

No consideration had been given to the monetary needs of the penal settlement of New South Wales. It was planned on the assumption that it would be self-supporting, with no apparent need for hard cash for either internal or external purposes.

Even if it had been theoretically planned for, it would have been physically impossible for the British Government to fund this new venture. Britain’s own currency was in a deplorable state and the Royal Mint’s priorities were clearly set at making improvements on the home front, not diverting hard cash off-shore.

Foreign coins arrived haphazardly in trade, and acquired local acceptability and brief legal recognition, but what was received quickly left the colony to pay for imports.
The essence of all business is a medium of exchange. Having very little hard cash, the inhabitants, from governor to free settlers and convicts, improvised by issuing hand-written promissory notes, in denominations as low as 3d, to settle their debts.

Commercial transactions were also facilitated through barter of goods and services. Liquor was the prime commercial force and medium for barter in the colony and for almost forty years was part of the wages received by a considerable section of the population.

By 1812 the social fabric of Sydney as a community was emerging. It was no longer a redistribution point for convicts, with only the military as permanent residents.
Streets were being named. Macquarie, Phillip, Elizabeth, Castlereagh, Pitt and George Street. A post office was established and the common had been christened Hyde Park.

Houses had to be aligned and numbered and heavy industry was being re-located out of the city centre to the suburbs. 

Despite the social improvements, there was no bank and liquor remained the most commonly negotiated medium of currency exchange.

Rum, which cost 7/6 a gallon was being sold for up to £8 and its use as a negotiating medium was utilized by all sections of the community, including government.
And the highest levels of Government at that. Even Lachlan Macquarie used rum to buy a house. The cost? 200 gallons.

By 1812, the penal colony of New South Wales had shaken off the shackles of being a receptacle for convicts.

It was no longer a ‘jail’. And was emerging as a structured society and a commercial hub.

The stage was set for Governor Lachlan Macquarie to introduce Australia’s first currency.

1813. A coinage is conceived from Spanish Silver Dollars.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie etched his name into numismatic history forever when in 1812 he imported 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars to alleviate a currency crisis in the infant colony of New South Wales.

Macquarie’s order for Silver Dollars did not specify dates. Any date would do. He wasn’t concerned about the various mints at which they were struck. Nor was he fussy about the quality of the coins. The extensive use of the Spanish Silver Dollar as an international trading coin meant that most were well worn.

Concluding that the shipment of 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars would not suffice, Macquarie decided to cut a hole in the centre of each dollar, thereby creating two coins out of one, a ring dollar and a disc. It was an extension of a practice of ‘cutting’ coins into segments, widespread at the time.

Macquarie needed a skilled coiner to carry out his coining project. William Henshall, acquired his skills as an engraver in Birmingham, where the major portion of his apprenticeship consisted of mastering the art of die sinking and die stamping for the shoe buckle and engraved button trades.

In the same year as the Spanish Silver Dollar was minted - 1805 - he was apprehended for forgery, faking Bank of England Dollars, and sentenced to the penal colony of New South Wales for seven years.

Enlisted by Lachlan Macquarie as the colony’s first mint master, Henshall commenced the coining process by cutting out a disc from each silver dollar using a hand-lever punch.

He then proceeded to re-stamp both sides of the holed dollar around the inner circular edge with the value of five shillings, the date 1813 and the issuing authority of New South Wales.

Other design elements in this re-stamping process included a fleur de lis, a twig of two leaves and a tiny ‘H’ for Henshall. 

The holed coins were officially known as ring, pierced or colonial dollars and although ‘holey’ was undoubtedly applied to them from the outset, the actual term ‘holey’ dollar did not appear in print until the 1820s.

We refer to the coins today as the 1813 New South Wales Five Shillings (or Holey Dollar).
The silver disc that fell out of the hole wasn’t wasted. Henshall restamped the disc with a crown, the issuing authority of New South Wales and the lesser value of 15 pence and it became known as the Dump.

In creating two coins out of one, Macquarie effectively doubled the money supply. And increased their total worth by 25 per cent.

Anyone counterfeiting ring dollars or dumps were liable to a seven-year prison term; the same penalty applied for melting down. Jewellers were said to be particularly suspect. To prevent export, masters of ships were required to enter into a bond of £200 not to carry the coin away.

Of the 40,000 silver dollars imported by Macquarie, records indicate that 39,910 of each coin were delivered to the Deputy Commissary General’s Office by January 1814 with several despatched back to Britain as specimens, the balance assumed spoiled during production.

The Holey Dollar and Dumps remained as currency within the colony until 1829. The colony had by then reverted to a standard based on sterling and a general order was issued by Governor Darling to withdraw and demonetise the dollars and dumps.

The recalled specie was eventually shipped off to the Royal Mint London, melted down and sold off to the Bank of England for £5044.

It is estimated that 300 Holey Dollars exist today of which a third are held in public institutions with the balance owned by private collectors.

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