The Hannibal Head Holey Dollar is a numismatic superstar. One of the rarest types, representing the reign of Joseph Bonaparte, only two examples are available to private collectors.


Throughout history, extraordinary events have impacted on a nation’s currency.

Triggering ad hoc measures to supplement a medium of exchange. Affecting mintages or inspiring new designs. The events create an environment that spawns numismatic superstars.

The Hannibal Head Holey Dollar is one such numismatic super-star.

Historically significant and exceedingly rare, only two Hannibal Head Holey Dollars are held by private collectors.

The Holey Dollar is the nation’s first coinage, introduced by Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

It is the 'coin with the hole', cut from an imported Spanish Silver Dollar into a donut form. And over stamped around the inner edge of the hole with the date 1813 to signify its year of issue.

Forty thousand Spanish Silver Dollars were imported to create forty thousand Holey Dollars, the nation's first circulating currency.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie wasn’t fussy about the dollar's quality. Nor did he care about the date, the reigning monarch or the mint at which the dollars were struck. Some dates were more available than others. The Mexico Mint was prolific in its silver coin production. The mints at Lima or Potosi were modest producers by comparison.

Thirty-nine thousand, nine hundred and ten Holey Dollars were delivered to Governor Macquarie. Spoilage and the despatch of samples back to Britain accounting for the missing ninety coins.

Today only two hundred Holey Dollars are held in private hands. Those surviving examples are classified into types based on the legend and portrait of the Spanish monarch depicted on the original Spanish Silver Dollar.

The monarchs cover the spectrum from Ferdinand VI, Charles III, Charles IV, Joseph Bonaparte and Ferdinand VII. 

There are seven distinct types of Holey Dollars, the most readily available type offering collectors a pool of one hundred and eighteen Holey Dollars, each coin depicting the legend and portrait of King Charles IV of Spain.

The Hannibal Head Holey Dollar is one of the rarest types, representing the reign of Joseph Bonaparte, with only two examples available to private collectors. 


The Hannibal Head Holey Dollar was created from a Spanish Silver Dollar minted in 1810 and features an imaginary portrait of the monarch. William Henshall did an outstanding job in cutting out the hole from the Spanish Silver Dollar ... the monarch's eye is visible.


 The distinctive mint mark 'LMAE' of the Lima Mint is featured in the legend on the left hand side of this Holey Dollar.

The ceding of the Spanish throne to Napoleon Bonaparte's brother, Joseph Bonaparte, became the catalyst for issuing a new silver coinage at the Lima Mint, an event that underpins the numismatic superstar status of the Hannibal Head Holey Dollar.

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, an ally of France.

In 1807, Bonaparte’s armies marched through Spain and invaded Portugal. The Spanish monarchy co-operating because it had hoped to secure Southern Portugal for itself.

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.

In March 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte pressured King Charles IV to abdicate the Spanish throne to his son Ferdinand VII. Ferdinand's reign was short and lasted less than two months.

Napoleon Bonaparte duped both Charles IV and Ferdinand VII 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 Spanish colonial mint of Lima refused to acknowledge Bonaparte as the Spanish King and embarked upon a numismatic protest.

The mint continued to strike their silver dollars with the legend of the imprisoned Ferdinand VII. The mint also refused to depict Bonaparte's portrait on their coinage, instead using an ‘imaginary’ portrait said to be extremely unflattering! The portrait is universally referred to as the ‘Hannibal Head’ portrait.

enquire now

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.

Valuing a Holey Dollar is therefore a three-part process.

Step 1 - What is the date of the Spanish Silver Dollar and who is the reigning monarch depicted on the coin, for some monarchs appear more frequently than others.

For collectors, Holey Dollars featuring the portrait of Charles IV are the most readily available, followed by Charles III and Ferdinand VII.  Joseph Bonaparte's time on the throne was represented by an 'imaginary' portrait  on the Lima Mint's silver dollars and is noted on only two Holey Dollars. The Holey Dollar depicting the portrait of Ferdinand VI is unique.

Step 2 - Where was the Spanish Silver Dollar struck for some mints were prolific producers of silver dollars, while others were lean on production.

For collectors, Holey Dollars created from silver dollars sourced from the Mexico Mint are the most readily available, followed by the Lima Mint in Peru and Potosi Mint in Bolivia with almost equal numbers. With the Madrid Mint unique in private hands.

Step 3 - Lastly is the issue of quality.

For collectors, a Holey Dollar - in any quality - is a prized acquisition.

The chart below details the seven types of Holey Dollars, and the protocols for their classification based on the legend and portrait of the ruling Spanish monarch. The availability to collectors of each type is also shown.

The extreme rarity of the Hannibal Head Holey Dollar is noted.

types & availability

How a Spanish Silver Dollar became the 1813 Holey Dollar.

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 man skilled in coin techniques to carry out his 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.

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. The term ‘dump’ was applied officially right from the beginning; a name that continues to this day.

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 the coins. 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 New South Wales colonial administration began recalling Holey Dollars and Dumps and replacing them with sterling coinage from 1822.

The Holey Dollar and Dump 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 approximately 300 Holey Dollars exist today of which a third are held in public institutions with the balance owned by private collectors. 



PO Box 1060 Hawksburn Victoria Australia 3142

© Copyright: Coinworks 


Discover new coins and collections added weekly.
Please provide your first name
Please provide your last name
You must provide an email address
I am not a robot is required