1813 Holey Dollar struck on a Charles IIII, 1798, Mexico Mint Spanish Silver Dollar

1813 Holey Dollar 1798 Charles IIII good EF OBV March 2018
1813 Holey Dollar 1798 Charles IIII good EF REV Large SEO March 2018
1813 Holey Dollar struck on a Charles IIII, 1798, Mexico Mint Spanish Silver Dollar
1813 Holey Dollar struck on a Charles IIII, 1798, Mexico Mint Spanish Silver Dollar
Good Extremely Fine and one of the finest known.
W B Thorpe Collection sold Glendinings London March 1918, S A H Whetmore, Foley, Jewell and Spalding
$ 495,000
When William Henshall created this Holey Dollar in 1813, he grabbed a 1798 Spanish Silver Dollar that had been struck at the Mexico Mint. If William Henshall had been a numismatist he would have marvelled that the 1798 Spanish Silver Dollar that he was now handling showed virtually no signs of circulation and retained its original silver lustre. A miracle given that the coin had been struck 15 years earlier. Committed to the task of creating holey dollars from silver dollars, he cut a hole in the coin and 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, thereby creating an 1813 Holey Dollar. Ownership of this outstanding quality Holey Dollar can be traced back to 1918 when it was sold at auction by Glendinings, London in the sale of the W. B. Thorpe Collection. Subsequent owners include revered collectors, A. H. Whetmore, Ray Jewell and Philip Spalding.
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1813 Holey Dollar 1798 Charles IIII good EF REV Large SEO March 2018
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1798 Holey Dollar Tech shot OBV SEO

Notice the fine detail in the hair and the robes. Also note the strength of the edges and the date 1798. A superb Holey Dollar, with original silver lustre.

1798 Holey Dollar Tech shot REV SEO

The counter stamps are a supreme quality Good Extremely Fine on both obverse and reverse and also have original silver lustre.

It is a statement of fact that most Holey Dollars are today found well worn. No quality parameters were set on Macquarie’s shipment of 40,000 silver dollars.

This Holey Dollar is the exception.

The original 1798 Spanish Silver Dollar from which this Holey Dollar was created is graded in the absolute premium quality levels of Good Extremely Fine indicating that it underwent minimal circulation before the hole was cut into it in 1813. The coin has original silver lustre and light toning and is very attractive. And this is a point worth pursuing.

The earlier the date of the silver dollar, the greater the potential for circulation before the nation’s first mint-master, William Henshall, got his hands on it. In the case of this Holey Dollar the silver dollar had 15 years of potential circulation before it was holed.

Its state of preservation is therefore remarkable.

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 Good Extremely Fine and retain their original silver lustre.

Created in 1813 by mint-master William Henshall, circulated in the colony for 16 years when it was eventually demonetised with minimal usage in between.

That this coin has survived in this state is simply a miracle.

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.

The coin is rare. And the coin is steeped in history. 

A Holey Dollar can resemble a washer if it is well circulated. Or it can reach the heady quality heights of this coin. No matter the quality, the pleasure of ownership is immeasurable.

Once you move from the well circulated Fine and Good Fine quality levels up to the Extremely Fine and Good Extremely Fine echelons, the differences in quality are marked and noticeable and clearly visible to the naked eye. It is the detail in the hair, the robes and the overall state of the fields as evidenced in this Holey Dollar.

The status of the Holey Dollar as Australia’s first coin ensures that it will never be forgotten and, as time passes, its historical value can only increase.

No other coin has had so many books written about it.

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.

A provenance of note.

This Holey Dollar coin has changed hands a few times over the last century and always into esteemed collector hands … S. A. H. Whetmore, Ray Jewell, Philip Spalding, to name but three. The provenance is detailed below.

  • Glendinings London March 1918, in the sale of the W. B. Thorpe Collection
  • Glendinings London April 1961, in the sale of S. A. H. Whetmore Collection
  • Foley Collection (USA)
  • Ray Jewell (Australia) by private treaty
  • Philip Spalding (Australia) by private treaty

Renowned British collectors. Revered US collectors. And then eventually back to where it all began in Australia.

That the coin has attracted sustained buyer interest right across the globe for more than a century, in London and New York, reflects the international appeal of the Holey Dollar. And the resounding appeal of this particular coin.

This Holey Dollar is featured in 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.)

Spalding book March 2018

The history of the Holey Dollar.
Holey Dollar Boats SF September 2017

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. The turning point. And a coinage is conceived from imported 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. He was apprehended in 1805 for forgery (forging 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. 

Holey dollar close up 2 Five shilling
Holey dollar close up 2 NSW

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 were 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.

So let’s consider the 200 Holey Dollars held by private collectors. Are any identical?

The 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars imported by Macquarie were all different. Different dates, different monarchs, different mints and with a huge variance in quality. Furthermore, the application of the counter stamps by William Henshall was haphazard.

By default therefore, each Holey Dollar is different. No two are the same. Each is unique.

Quality is an obvious influence on the rarity, and hence the price structure, of a Holey Dollar.

It is a statement of fact that most Holey Dollars are today found well worn. No quality parameters were set on Macquarie's shipment of 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars .

Key to the chart at right

  1. Fair – Good. Heavily circulated, and akin to a washer. $25,000 - $35,000.
  2. About Fine – Good Fine. Well circulated, knocked around and design details partially worn away. $45,000 - $75,000
  3. About Very Fine to Very Fine. Circulated with some elements of the design worn down. $100,000 - $165,000.
  4. Good Very Fine. Circulated with design details slightly worn. $175,000 - $250,000.
  5. About Extremely Fine – Extremely Fine. Slight wear. Design details intact. $250,000 - $400,000.
  6. Good Extremely Fine. Well preserved and the slightest hint of wear. $450,000 - $550,000.
  7. Uncirculated. The coin has not undergone any circulation. $650,000.
Holey dollar graph 2

The chart above details the quality variance of the 200 surviving Holey Dollars held in collector’s hands. Prices shown are for Mexico Mint Holey Dollars.

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