Coinworks has just sold an 1813 Holey Dollar, Australia’s first domestic coin, to a new owner for close to half a million dollars. The price of $485,000 is a world record.
While the buyer, a high profile Melbourne Graphic designer, appreciated the coin’s exquisite detail and beauty, his eye was firmly focused on its investment potential; particularly with the 200th anniversary of its striking coming up in 2013.
Belinda Downie, managing director of Coinworks says the coin is one of the best preserved of the 200 remaining in private collections.
"It's probably in the top 10 of those holey dollars you could lay your hands on," she said.
"What's the probability that a coin struck in 1789, which was a great international trading coin, would circulate for 24 years beforehand, and virtually not have a mark on it (today)?"
The purchase comes almost 200 years after Governor Lachlan Macquarie bought 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars to solve a currency shortage in its fledgling penal colony of New South Wales.
Macquarie enlisted the services of a convicted forger to cut a small hole in the middle of each Spanish Silver Dollar. The resulting coin – 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 coin, the 1813 Holey Dollar.
The circular inner disc cut out of the centre was re-stamped with a crown, the year 1813, the issuing authority and the value of fifteen pence and became the 1813 Dump.
This clever measure provided an immediate 25 per cent profit on the purchase of the coins, doubled the number of new coins and drastically reduced the likelihood of their being taken out of the colony.
Withdrawn from circulation in 1829, the majority of Holey Dollars and Dumps were shipped to London and melted down, sold off as bullion silver. Of those that didn’t go to the smelter, there are now only some 300 known surviving Holey Dollars (around 200 of them in private hands) and about 800 Dumps.
There are eight distinctly different types of Holey Dollars, defined by the date, the design details of the original Spanish coin and the portrait of the reigning Spanish monarch.
This record breaking Holey Dollar is one of the rarest types - the Type 3 - so defined because it was converted from a Spanish Dollar bearing the legend and portrait of the deceased monarch, Charles III of Spain. (Charles III died on December 14, 1788)
Only two Type 3 examples are known to exist. (This coin is one of them.)
Not only is it the finest of the two for quality (by far) it also is recognised as one of the finest of all known surviving Holey Dollars, one of perhaps ten (out of the 300 known) acknowledged as having supreme quality attributes.
Furthermore it is clear that this Holey Dollar had virtually no circulation after it was issued. The state of the countermarks – that is the markings that were stamped around the inner edge when the coin was converted into a Holey Dollar (1813, New South Wales and Five Shillings) – are virtually as struck. It is as though they were stamped yesterday.