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The 1813 Holey Dollar is the nation's first coin and was created from a Spanish Silver Dollar. Coinworks 'How-To' Guide for Buying Holey Dollars.


CharlesIII-1777-Spanish-Silver-Dollar-OBV-28583-December-2021
- it started as a spanish silver dollar -
1813-Holey-Dollar-Struck-from-1777-Spanish-Silver-Dollar-OBV-28583-December-2021
- holed and over stamped it became the holey dollar -
CharlesIII-1777-Spanish-Silver-Dollar-REV-28583-December-2021
- it started as a spanish silver dollar -
1813-Holey-Dollar-Struck-from-1777-Spanish-Silver-Dollar-REV-28583-December-2021
- holed and over stamped it became the holey dollar -

The Holey Dollar is the nation’s first coin, minted in 1813 by order of Governor Lachlan Macquarie to provide a medium of exchange in the penal colony of New South Wales. The coin is a national treasure and is revered and sought after by collectors the world over.

As Macquarie had no access to metal coin blanks to create his currency, he improvised and acquired 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars as a substitute for blanks. To make his new coinage unique to the colony he employed emancipated convict William Henshall to cut a hole in each silver dollar, over-stamping each piece around the edge of the hole with the date 1813, the value Five Shillings and the issuing authority of New South Wales.

That's the point at which the holed silver dollar became the 1813 Holey Dollar, the nation's first circulating coin.

While the original intention was to create 40,000 Holey Dollars from 40,000 silver dollars, spoilage and the despatch of samples back to Great Britain saw a slightly reduced number of Holey Dollars - 39,910 - released into circulation.

Today there are approximately 200 Holey Dollars held by private collectors with perhaps 100 held in museums. The best thing about the Holey Dollar is that each and every coin is different. No two coins are the same.

Each Holey Dollar therefore, has its own story to tell.

  1. What was the date on the Spanish Silver Dollar? Who was the Spanish King at the time?
  2. And where was the dollar minted? In Spain or one of the Spanish colonies in South America, Mexico, Peru or Bolivia?
  3. And was it well used or did it arrive in the colony relatively unscathed?
  4. And how do you rate William Henshall's job of cutting and over-stamping the holed silver dollar? Is the hole centered and are the counter-stamps 'all over the shop' or uniform? 

The above four points ultimately determine the value of a Holey Dollar.

Such is the demand for Holey Dollars, that a well worn example, one that resembles a washer, is worth upwards of $50,000. The finest and rarest Holey Dollars will command in excess of $400,000 with the most important Holey Dollar, the Madrid Holey Dollar, selling for $550,000 in 2015!

As each Holey Dollar is different, do you as a collector just wait for an example to come along? Or are there other elements that you can consider when selecting a Holey Dollar?

For most coins, its quality, quality, quality. But, if you are thinking about acquiring a Holey Dollar, quality is but one of three issues that need to be considered. The other two issues relate to the original Spanish Dollar. Where was the dollar minted? And who was the reigning monarch when the dollar was struck?


Points to consider when acquiring a Holey Dollar

1. Set your budget.

Setting a budget is the first step in the task of acquiring a Holey Dollar.

The coins are available at prices across a broad dollar range, starting at $50,000 for a heavily circulated example up to the very best examples that will command around the $500,000 mark.

The Madrid Holey Dollar was sold by Coinworks in 2015 and takes the prize for the most valuable Holey Dollar with a record breaking price of $550,000. And that was 2015!

Quality is one of the forces that determines the value of a Holey Dollar, but it is not the only force. And herein lies the intrigue of the coin.  

2. Mint. Monarch. And Quality. Three factors that influence the value of a Holey Dollar.

Lachlan Macquarie imported 40,000 Spanish Silver dollars to create Australia’s first coins. The order was not date specific, so any date would do. Any monarch would suffice, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VI or Ferdinand VII.

Nor did Macquarie purchase the coins direct from a particular mint. The shipment was ordered from the East India Company and came from Madras comprised of coins struck in the Spanish colonies of Mexico, Peru and Bolivia with some even sourced from the motherland, Spain.

And the dollars all came at different quality levels, with the vast majority well worn.

So, if you are trying to work out why some Holey Dollars are valued far in excess of others you have to consider the date of the silver dollar and who was the reigning monarch that appears on the coin, because some monarchs appear more frequently than others.

You also have to consider the mint at which the dollar was struck for some mints were prolific producers of silver dollars, while others were lean on production.

  • Holey Dollars featuring the portrait of Charles IV are the most readily available, followed by Charles III, Ferdinand VII with the Ferdinand VI Holey Dollar unique.
  • Holey Dollars created from silver dollars sourced from the Mexico Mint are the most readily available, followed by the Lima Mint in Peru, Potosi Mint in Bolivia, with the Madrid Mint unique in private hands.

And lastly, there is the issue of quality.

3. Quality and price go hand-in-hand.

The Holey Dollar is Australia's most desirable coin. 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.

Of the 200 Holey Dollars that are available to collectors, the chart 'Availability of Holey Dollars at various quality levels' indicates the percentage of Holey Dollars found at each quality level.

It is noted that 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 silver dollar as an international trading coin meant that most of the coins imported by Macquarie were well worn.

As you would expect, a reduced availability correlates to an increase in price. The very reason why examples in the upper quality levels of Extremely Fine to Uncirculated are a $400,000-plus item.

The best of the best! As a Charles III Holey Dollar this coin is of the highest rarity. At Extremely Fine it is of the highest quality and is the finest Charles III Holey Dollar available to collectors. 

Of the highest rarity, an 1813 Holey Dollar created from a Ferdinand VII Spanish Silver Dollar that was struck at the Mexico Mint in 1809.

Holey-dollar-chart-March-2020
i am looking to invest in an 1813 holey dollar

THE HISTORY OF THE HOLEY DOLLAR.

Our first coins and our first mint master

The British Government had no capacity to supply Governor Lachlan Macquarie with metal blanks to create Australia’s first coinage so, he improvised and ordered 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars - foreign coinage - to use as his substitute for blanks.

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.

While some history buffs may laud Macquarie for his brilliance in creating the nation's first coin from another coin ... it was an extension of a practice of ‘cutting’ coins into segments, widely used throughout the British colonies of the Caribbean and several African nation’s including Sierra Leone.

Macquarie needed a skilled coiner to carry out his project and he appointed an emancipated convict, William Henshall to the task. Henshall had been apprehended in 1805 for forgery, counterfeiting Bank of England Dollars, and sentenced for seven years in the penal colony of New South Wales.

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. Perfect qualifications for the role of Australia's first Mint Master!

A crude process but it worked ...

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.

The donut shaped silver piece, with the hole in the middle, was over stamped around the edge of the hole with the date 1813 and New South Wales and became the Holey Dollar with a monetary value of five shillings.

The small disc that fell out of the centre of the silver dollar was not wasted but was over stamped with the date 1813, New South Wales and a crown and became the Dump. Its monetary value was fifteen pence.

The origin of the names - Holey Dollar and Dump

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.

The term ‘Dump’ was applied officially right from the outset and is a name that continues to this day.

The shipment of 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars was converted into 39,910 Holey Dollars and 39,910 Dumps. Spoilage, mishaps during the minting process, and specimens sent to Great Britain as an official record of the strike account for the balance of the coins.

In creating two coins out of one, Macquarie effectively doubled the money supply. And increased the total worth of the shipment of 40,000 coins by 25 per cent.

Recall of Australia's first coins

The Holey Dollar and Dump remained as currency within the colony until 1829. The colony had by then reverted to a sterling standard and a general order was issued by Governor Darling to withdraw and demonetise the nation's first coins. The recalled specie were eventually shipped off to the Royal Mint London, melted down and sold off to the Bank of England for £5044.

1757-Ferdinand-VI-date-side-SQ-December-2021

SOLD IN 1997 FOR $37,000 & NOW VALUED AT $500,000.
Created from a Spanish Silver Dollar that was struck at the Mexico Mint in 1757, the coin is unique. It is the only Holey Dollar created from a dollar struck during the reign of Ferdinand VI. No other privately held examples exist. Nor is an example held by a museum or institution anywhere in the world. It was acquired in 1997 for $37,000 by a Melbourne collector. Where it currently remains.

 

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SOLD BY COINWORKS IN 2018 FOR $500,000
The famous Hannibal Head Holey Dollar struck on a Spanish Silver Dollar that was struck at the Lima Mint in Peru in 1810. The portrait that appears on the Silver Dollar was imaginary ... no such monarch existed. It was the Lima Mint's way of protesting the ascension of Joseph Bonaparte to the Spanish throne. 


SOLD BY COINWORKS IN 2020 FOR $95,000
This Holey Dollar was struck on a Silver Dollar that was produced at the Lima Mint in Peru in 1810. It is the second only known privately held example of the famous Hannibal Head Holey Dollar.

SOLD BY COINWORKS IN 2020 for $480,000
Perfection in a coin ... and the ultimate Holey Dollar. Struck on a Silver Dollar that was produced at the Mexico Mint in 1805. We refer to it as the 'ultimate' because the original silver dollar has never been used. And once the silver dollar was converted into a Holey Dollar it was not even used then. A miracle coin in the truest sense.

THE 1813 HOLEY DOLLAR - FAQS

I have a Holey Dollar. I would like to know what it is worth.

First up, take photographs of both sides of the coin.

Email them to info@coinworks.com.au for an initial assessment and valuation. 

Alternatively, you can call 03 9642 3133 and make an appointment with one of the Coinworks team. 

I am confused. The coin is always referred to as the 1813 Holey Dollar, but I cannot see the date 1813. I only see another date. An earlier date.

Australia’s first coin, the Holey Dollar was created from a Spanish Silver Dollar. And the date you see is the year in which that original Spanish Dollar was created.

History tells us that Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars to convert into Australia’s first local currency. Macquarie’s order was not date specific so any date would do. 

He then enlisted the services of a convicted forger to cut a hole in each silver dollar, thereby creating two coins out of one.

The first coin was shaped like a donut, the second a small inner circular disc that fell out of the centre of the donut. 

The donut was over stamped with the date 1813 and the value and became the Holey Dollar, the stamping occurring around the inner circular edge of the hole.

The 1813 is discrete but look closely and it is visible.

Can I sell my Holey Dollar through Coinworks?

Absolutely.

Coinworks can offer you two options here. We can purchase the coin outright. Or sell the coin on your behalf on a consignment basis at a fixed commission rate. 

Either way we will have to physically sight the coin. And we will require background information as to where it was obtained.

Please Contact us for more details. 
 

Should I clean my Holey Dollar to make it look brand new?

Rule of thumb. Do not touch your coins! Cleaning can impact very heavily on the potential value of any coin.

Coins are best left in their original unaltered state. 

My Holey Dollar is worn. Does a worn Holey Dollar have any value?

Yes. Even a well-worn 1813 Holey Dollar has value, upwards of $50,000. 

Contact us for more information. 

I want to buy a Holey Dollar. What advice can you give me.

The first decision for Holey Dollar buyers is to set your budget. Holey Dollars start from about $50,000 and can move up to $400,000-plus. 

Once you have set your budget you can consider the options that are available to Holey Dollar buyers.

Macquarie’s order for 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars did not specify dates. Any date would do. It did not specify quality. Nor did Macquarie care at which mint it was produced. 

Spain had colonised South and Central America and built mints in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala.

Holey Dollars come with variations in the date, the quality and the mint with some combinations far rarer than others. And hence more valuable.

I am considering buying a Holey Dollar. Should I wait for an Uncirculated one?

The majority of Holey Dollars come well-worn and the reason is simply that the coin from which they were created, the Spanish Silver Dollar, was at the time the world’s greatest trading coin.

So, the majority of dollars imported by Macquarie would have been well worn.

There is an Uncirculated 1813 Holey Dollar and that particular example resides with a Coinworks client. It is in every respect a miracle coin and we do not expect to see it back on the market for several decades, if ever. 

Contact us for more information.
 

How many Holey Dollars were struck and how many survive today?

Although 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars were imported and converted into Holey Dollars, 90 were spoiled during production. The balance of 39,910 were released to be used.

The Holey Dollar was withdrawn and demonetised in 1829, with many shipped off to London and melted down. 

Today there are approximately 200 Holey Dollars held by private collectors with perhaps 100 held in museums.

The figure ‘200’ is the critical one for collectors. 


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