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The Holey Dollar - immortalised in oil.

Coinworks launched an ambitious campaign to catalogue and photograph every one of the 300 known Holey Dollars at the ANDA Perth Money Expo held at Domain Stadium, Subiaco on February 27 and 28.   

The Coinworks campaign, known as the ‘Holey Dollar Pictorial History’, is the brainchild of Coinworks managing director - and now ANDA President - Belinda Downie. 

To mark the launch Coinworks displayed three of the very best Holey Dollars at the Perth Money Expo. Valued at $1.5 million they included the famous Pillar Dollar, the equally famous Hannibal Head Holey Dollar and an extremely rare, high quality 1808 Ferdinand VII Holey Dollar.

The Holey Dollar - Re-created On Canvas6002

To add a different nuance to the launch, Coinworks commissioned artist Sarah Braybrook to create an original oil painting of the Ferdinand VII Holey Dollar. Sarah worked in the numismatic industry decades ago with Belinda and both women are of the strong belief that rare coins reflect points in our history. And have an aesthetic appeal that can be translated to canvas.

The 1808 Ferdinand VII Holey Dollar and the painting were displayed at the expo with rapturous acclaim.

The Holey Dollar is Australia’s first coin and dates back to when Lachlan Macquarie was governor of the New South Wales colony between 1810 and 1821. Today the Holey Dollar is one of Australia’s most venerated coins.

To compile the Holey Dollar Pictorial History, the photograph, description, provenance, quality, weight and size of each Holey Dollar will be recorded and published on-line. And ultimately published in print.

The photograph will include shots of the original coin (both sides) and a close up of the countermarks (also both sides), of New South Wales, 1813 and Five Shillings.

Fifty of the 300 known Holey Dollars have already been catalogued. A major achievement given that the project has only just been announced.

Once details of the project filter further out into the market place, it will take on a life of its own with collectors eager to have their prized possessions included.

The exercise was previously undertaken in 1988 to coincide with Australia’s bicentennial celebrations: an era of ‘black and white’ photos and the ‘polaroid’. Re-production of many of the coins was poor. Weights and measurements were never obtained: nor quality assignations given.

As well, since that time, several new Holey dollars have been discovered and rightly deserve to take their place in Australia’s numismatic heritage as surviving examples of Lachlan Macquarie’s achievements.

Media coverage on the launch at the Perth Money expo was extensive and included:

  • Channel 10 news. (The video clip is up on our web site.) And an extensive interview on West TV.
  • Lead article in the Money Section of The West Australian on 22 February.
  • Three radio interviews on 6PR, ABC and Great Southern Radio.
  • Two web postings (see links below).


The coin and the painting

The coin chosen for the painting was an 1813 Holey Dollar struck on an 1808 Ferdinand VII, Mexico Mint Silver Dollar and is valued at $450,000.

It is a statement of fact that all Ferdinand VII Holey Dollars are extremely rare. (Thirteen are known.) Over and above its rarity, the coin is of such supreme quality that it belongs in the top five of the 300 surviving Holey Dollars. Furthermore, the coin’s provenance is impeccable.

You simply don’t need a magnifying glass to take in its quality or outstanding features. The original Spanish Silver Dollar from which this Holey Dollar was created is uniformly toned a beautiful gun metal blue grey colour. The surfaces are reflective and glossy. The countermarks are as struck, without wear and fully detailed as to the impression of the inner denticles, lettering Five Shillings and New South Wales, date 1813, fleur de lis, double twig of leaves and tiny H.

For Coinworks, rare coin history is a passion. Commissioning Sarah Braybrook to paint an oil of the Holey Dollar is intrinsic to the Holey Dollar Pictorial History project and the Coinworks attitude of breaking new ground.

Coinworks embraces change.

For Sarah, painting the Holey Dollar on canvas was a work that constantly challenged her during a process that involved 15 layers of oil and 120 hours of toil from start to finish.

Sarah’s experience from working in the numismatics industry was a distinct advantage when it came to painting the Holey Dollar. She knew what needed to be highlighted because, as an artist, she had been trained to see colours.

The first layer put the composition in place – the skeleton of the painting. The challenge was to bring out the colour and lustre in the coin. 

Sarah painted the Holey Dollar on canvas measuring 36 cm by 41 cm.

Every session was documented on video so Belinda could see how the painting was taking shape. Oils really worked well. They stayed wet for a long time, so they could be easily manipulated to look seamless.

Sarah commented that painting the Holey Dollar was particularly satisfying given the quality of the coin and its history dating back to Lachlan Macquarie’s reign as governor of the infant colony of New South Wales between 1810 and 1821.              

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