World Record Prices Realized for Historic Australian Coins

The following appeared on the CoinWorks website in Recent News:

Three rare Australian coins fetched almost $900,000 at Coinworks Eminent Colonials Auction – taking out two world records in the process.

The Auction conducted on 27 August 2012 was aptly named “Eminent Colonials”.

It would be impossible to find a more celebrated example of Australia’s first colonial coin, the 1810 Hannibal Head Holey Dollar, offered as lot 1.

The coin lived up to its ‘star status’ selling for $410,000: a world record price.

The highest price previously paid for a Holey Dollar was in 2008, when a high quality Potosi Mint example sold for $267,950

Known as the ‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar, it was created in New South Wales in 1813 from an 1810 Silver Dollar that had been minted at the Lima Mint in Peru.

This coin is the only example of its type in private hands. The only other known example is housed in the State Library of New South Wales.

Also offered at the Coinworks Eminent Colonials Auction one of the finest 1813 Colonial Dumps and the finest example of Australia’s first gold coin, the 1852 Adelaide Pound.

The ‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar is rich in history. In 1808, while Napoleon was invading Spain after defeating the Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, mints in Mexico and Lima were still busily turning out Spanish silver dollars.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie made the most of Spanish spare change by acquiring 40,000 silver dollars to alleviate Australia’s coin shortage.

Macquarie enlisted the services of a convicted forger, William Henshall, to cut a hole in the centre of each silver dollar. The resulting ‘donut form’ was over-stamped with the words New South Wales, the value Five Shillings and the date 1813 to create Australia’s very first coin, the 1813 Holey Dollar. The centrepiece that fell out of the hole wasn’t discarded. Over-stamped it became the 1813 Colonial Dump: the diminutive partner to the Holey Dollar with a value of fifteen pence.

What makes the ‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar so special is that the original Spanish Dollar ‘holed’ by William Henshall had been minted in 1810 at the Lima Mint in Peru with a portrait design that protested Joseph Bonaparte’s ascension to the Spanish throne. And it is the only example privately held.

Discovered in Tasmania in 1881 near Hobart, the coin was subsequently presented to Sir John Henry Lefroy, Governor of Van Diemen’s Land 1880 – 1881.

Approved Valuer of Australian coins under the Commonwealth Government’s Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme and Professional Numismatist (now retired), Barrie Winsor stated, “It’s Australia’s very first coin. And this is the most famous of them all with only one example available to buyers. Let’s not forget that next year is the 200th anniversary of its striking.”

“This is a coin that will attract worldwide interest”.

“That the Macquarie Bank chose as its logo a stylised version of the Holey Dollar reflects the respect with which this coin is held”.
Fact Sheet

‘Hannibal Head’ Holey Dollar

  • Unique in private hands. The only other known example is housed in the State Library of New South Wales
  • One of the finest known of all the surviving Holey Dollars
  • Discovered in 1881, 20km north of Hobart in what was believed to be a ‘Bushrangers’ hoard and presented to General Sir J H Lefroy, the then Governor of Tasmania
  • The coin’s discovery was written up in several newspaper articles published in the early 1880s: the Hobart Mercury (1883) and the Sydney Morning Herald (1884)
  • First offered at an Australian public auction in March 1988. The coin was passed in and sold after the auction for $39,000
  • Held from 1988 to 2007 by a Queensland collector

1813 Colonial Dump

  • One of the finest Colonial Dumps … in the top six of the known surviving specimens
  • Acquired by renowned collector H M Lingford in 1934 from Spink London
  • First publicly offered in Australia in 1985, Spink Auctions, selling for $13,200
  • Offered a decade later at Auction selling for $25,300

1852 Adelaide Pound

  • Finest known example of Australia’s very first gold coin
  • Purchased in 1962 by Harold Hastings Deering for £80 (Deering owned Sydney’s first franchise for Ford Motor vehicles in 1935)

The Mystery of the Holey Dollar

The Macquarie heritage – the Holey Dollar

The Holey Dollar is a complicated coin, and there are many instances where I think it is just plain misunderstood.

Coins are struck from blank pieces of metal cut to the required shape. The Holey Dollar on the other hand was created from another coin, a Spanish Silver Dollar.

In 1812 Governor Lachlan Macquarie imported 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars. He engaged a convicted forger to cut small circle from the middle of each silver dollar with a machine.

The resulting Holey Dollar rim – shaped like a donut – was re-stamped with a value of five shillings, the year 1813, and the issuing authority of New South Wales to become Australia’s first currency, the 1813 Holey Dollar.

Our research has shown that the original coin, the Spanish Dollar, is the prime influence on the ultimate value of a Holey Dollar.

First step in valuing a Holey Dollar – What is the Type?

There are eight distinctly different types of Holey Dollars, defined by the date of the original Spanish Dollar and the design details depicted on it (the legend and the portrait). Rarer types are highly prized.

 Type  Monarch  Portrait  Legend  Date  Number
 1  Ferdinand VI  no portrait  FERDND  1757  1
 2  Charles III  Charles III  CARLOUS III 1773 – 1788  22
 3  Charles IIII  Charles III  CARLOUS III  1789  2
 4  Charles IIII  Charles III  CARLOUS IV  1789 – 1790  8
 5  Charles IIII  Charles IIII  CARLOUS IIII  1791 – 1808  129
 6  Charles IIII  Continental Charles IIII  CARLOUS IIII  1793 – 1805  1
 7  Joseph Bonaparte  Ferdinand VII  FERDIN VII  1808 – 1810  12
 8  Joseph Bonaparte  Imaginary  FERDIN VII  1810  1
Classification by Type of known surviving Holey Dollars held in private hands

Second step – what is the quality of the original coin?

Quality is an important consideration in determining the value of any coin, Holey Dollar or otherwise.

The quality of the original Spanish Dollar has to be considered in relation to the date. The earlier the date the greater chance of wide circulation before it was holed in 1813.

So a Type 2 Holey Dollar, (dated let’s say 1788) and presented in good Very Fine will be a far more valuable piece than a Type 5 Holey Dollar (let’s say dated 1805) in comparable quality. The reason is simply that the 1788 Spanish Dollar had potentially 25 years of circulation before it was holed, the 1805 only 8 years of potential wear.

Third step – What is the Mint?

The Spanish Dollar was the world’s greatest trading coin in the late 18th and 19th centuries and was struck at the Spanish Mints operating in Mexico, Lima, Madrid, Seville, Potosi, Guatemala, Santiago in Chile and Santa Fe de Bogota in Colombia.

The Mexico Mint was a prolific producer of silver coinage. Holey Dollars converted from Mexico Mint Silver Dollars are, as a consequence, reasonably readily available and are found in 81 per cent of examples.

Holey Dollars with ties to other mints are highly prized. To this day no Holey Dollars have been found with ties to Chile and Columbia and only one piece to Guatemala, held in the Montreal Museum. Four examples have ties to the Madrid Mint and two to the Mint in Seville.

Of the remaining mints, 10 per cent pertain to Lima and 8 per cent to Potosi.

Step Four – What is the quality of the countermarks and how are they stamped?

The final assessment of the value of a Holey Dollar means looking at the extent of its circulation after it was created in 1813. This means looking at the countermarks, the details New South Wales, the date 1813 and the denomination five shillings stamped around the inner circular edge of the Holey Dollar.

Examining the countermarks of the known surviving Holey Dollars clearly shows the haphazard way in which they were stamped.

A handful of Holey Dollars have been found in which the countermarks are vertically aligned. There is some suggestion that they may have been especially struck.

We hope that we have cleared up some of the mysteries surrounding this remarkable piece of Australiana.

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