1813 Holey Dollar

1813 HD - 1805 Charles IIII Unc rev LARGE
1813 Holey Dollar
1813 Holey Dollar
Howard D Gibbs Collection, sold in New York by Hans Schulman. Arthur Chesser Collection sold in London, Dix Noonan Webb London. Private Collection Melbourne.
The Holey Dollar is the jewel in the crown of the Australian coin industry. It is the nation’s very first coin. The characteristics that define this coin are as ‘simple as it gets’ for this Holey Dollar is the absolute finest of the surviving examples and unique as such. There are no complications with this coin. It is the very best. If perfection is to be had in a Holey Dollar then this coin is it.
1813 HD - 1805 Charles IIII Unc obv LARGE
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The original silver dollar from which this Holey Dollar was created is Uncirculated, there are no signs of it ever having been used. Miraculous.

The details stamped around the inner circular edge of the central hole in 1813 by William Henshall also are Uncirculated. So this coin was never used even after it was transformed into a Holey Dollar.

If perfection is to be had in a Holey Dollar then this coin is it.

The conundrum of this Holey Dollar is how it became to be presented in such a miraculous state.

It raises more questions than we can ever possibly answer and only adds to the intrigue and the mystery of this superb colonial gem.

The Holey Dollar began its life as a Spanish Silver Dollar. In the case of this Holey Dollar it began its life as a Spanish Silver Dollar that was minted at the Spanish colonial mint of Mexico, in 1805.

The coin was one of 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars acquired by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1812, and that were destined to be converted into Holey Dollars and Dumps.

Given that the Spanish Silver Dollar was the most widely used, and accepted, coin in the world we ask the question.

How did an 1805 Spanish Silver Dollar retain its pristine state during the seven years up until its arrival in the colony of NSW?

Mint Master, William Henshall used a punch to cut out a disc from an 1805 Spanish Silver Dollar as the first step in creating this coin.

Henshall then placed the holed coin between two dies.

One die contained the elements ‘New South Wales’ and ‘1813’. The other die contained the denomination of ‘Five Shillings’ , a fleur de lis, a double twig of leaves , and an ‘H’ for Henshall.

Using the gravitational force of a simple drop hammer system, the design elements of the dies were stamped onto both sides of the holed silver dollar around the inner circular edge of the hole.

And it is at this point – and this point only – that the ‘holed’ silver dollar became the 1813 New South Wales Five Shillings (or Holey Dollar).

This coin was never used after it was transformed into a Holey Dollar.

The inner denticles, the lettering ‘ Five Shillings’ and ‘ New South Wales’ , date ‘1813’ , the fleur de lis , double twig of leaves and tiny ‘ H’ are as struck and fully detailed.  

We know the process of striking the Holey Dollars was haphazard but was there a controlled hand in the minting of this coin? Was it especially selected?

The circular hole cut out by Henshall is beautifully centred. The edges, the denticles are pristine. As struck.

How soon into its life did this Holey Dollar become a collectable?

The coin was identified as belonging to Howard Gibbs, an active American collector in the 1920s. The same collector owned the world renowned Madrid Holey Dollar.

It is a statement of fact that the majority of high calibre Holey Dollars were originally held by collectors residing overseas, the United Kingdom and America in particular.

It is noted that Britain and America already had a sophisticated collector market in the nineteenth century that saw top rarities move between the two continents.

Was this Holey Dollar taken back to England early on in its life by free settlers returning home?

There is no doubt that the gentry would have had the financial capacity to hold their five shillings as a collectable. And would seek out a prime example to hold as part of their personal collection.

We have no answers to these questions.

All that we can say is that this is an exceptional Holey Dollar, and an heirloom without parallel.

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