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  • 1813 Holey Dollar, Australian’s most desired coin

  • Australia’s first coin

  • World renowned numismatic iconic ​

 1813 Holey Dollar

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El Cazador Shipwreck Coin


The colony of New South Wales received little coinage from Britain, and the coinage that made its way here in the pockets of merchant seamen often made their way back out of the colony as payment for goods that had been on board ship. In an effort to alleviate the situation Governor Lachlan Macquarie purchased a consignment of £10,000 worth of Spanish silver dollars (40,000 coins) which arrived in November 1812 on board the sloop of war Samarang.

Had he merely released them into circulation the coins would quickly have been spent on imports and left the colony again. Instead, he had the centre of the coins punched out, creating two coins from one. 

The outer ‘ring’ was counter-stamped around the centre of the hole on one side with NEW SOUTH WALES and on the other side with its value of five shillings. This is known today as the Holey Dollar. 

The central piece was over-stamped completely. One side bore NEW SOUTH WALES with a crown, and the other side featured its value of fifteen pence. This is known today as the Dump. 

Although 40,000 host coins entered production, only 39,908 were eventually released into circulation, the rest presumably were spoiled in production. The coins were in use from 1813 until 1823, when they were withdrawn from circulation. Their precise fate is unknown after withdrawal, however it is believed they were melted down for their silver content and added to government revenue. 

That the local design was overstruck onto an existing coin, along with the fact that they were struck by hand in a colony with very few metal working tools, means their striking was quite rudimentary. This ‘rough and ready’ style is visible on almost all of the surviving coins.

Another interesting fact around their creation is that the person in the colony best suited to the work was a former convict William Henshall (sometimes recorded as Hersell). At any one time he was entrusted with up to £1000 of government money!

Today, around 300 Holey Dollars are known to survive. A study of them published in 1988 recorded 276 different coins known at that time. Around 100 of them were in museums or other Public Collections. The remainder were in private hands, tracked by this study through their periodic appearances at auction. Since then, around 30 further coins have made an appearance. 

The 1813 Holey Dollar acquired by The Bradford Mint is a King Charles IIII (of Spain) Silver 8 Reales coin, minted at the Mexico City Mint in 1806. 

The Holey Dollar is of great significance locally and internationally: a coin of necessity, it sits at the very beginning of our nation’s coinage. As such rarities such as this are highly sought-after by private collectors, museums and other institutions.

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