The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has
acquired a rare 1813 New South Wales ‘Holey dollar’ – the
first currency minted in Australia.
In the early days of New South Wales, the colony
faced a shortage of currency and in 1812 Governor Lachlan Macquarie imported
40,000 Spanish dollars, called ‘pieces of eight’, and had William
Hensell, a convicted forger,
cut the centre out of each coin.
The outer ring became known as a ‘Holey
dollar’ and the centre was called a dump.
Governor Macquarie set their value at five shillings for the Holey dollar and
15 pence for the dump. The coins went into circulation in 1814 and, in doing so, Macquarie created the first currency minted in
“Holey dollars speak eloquently of the
creative and improvisatory attempts to create an orderly administration in
colonial Australia. The holey dollar we have acquired for the National Museum
is a finely preserved example of this iconic object from the era of
Macquarie,” said Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia.
Picture courtesy of National Museum of
The Holey dollars were recalled from 1822 and
replaced with sterling coinage. By 1829 most of the 40,000 coins in
circulation had been exchanged for legal tender. The coins were then melted
down into bullion. Experts estimate that around 300 Holey dollars and just
over 1,000 dumps remain in circulation today.
The National Museum of Australia acquired the Holey
dollar at auction for a total price of $129,315. It will go on display in the
National Museum’s Landmarks gallery.