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Holey Dollar and Dump - Australian Rarity

Rare Error Dump 15 Pence on Market


A few days ago I got a call from M.R. Roberts, long time Austarlian coin dealer of Wynyard Coin Center fame. Roberts remains in the thick of the Australian coin market, although many things have changed over the years. His shop at 7 Hunter Arcade in Sydney, NSW is a must for most numismatists in the area or passing through.

Roberts called to relay some key information for the Standard Catalog of World Coins 1901-2000 edition and also to let me know about a special Dump coin that had surfaced. 

A 15 Pence, nicknamed a Dump, is one of the earliest of Australian circulating coins. It is a circular center cut from a Spanish or Spanish Colonial eight reales, which has been countermarked with the legend: NEW SOUTH WALES/1813 with a crown in the center on the obverse, plus denomination FIFTEEN PENCE seperated by a dot on the reverse.


The remaining outer circle of the eight reales was also countermarked and circulated as a 5 Shilling, nicknamed a Holey Dollar. These two coin types were the first circulating coins specifically produced for Australian circulation. Before the Holey Dollar and Dump were instituted in New South Wales, Australia used various Spanish silver and just about anything that came their way. Keeping coins in circulation was near to impossible, as good silver usually made it's way to better markets.

In 1812, Governor Lachlan Macquarie found an opportunity in a shipment of some 40,000 Spainsh eight reales. He used the cut and countermarking method, which was gaining popularity as a way to keep coins in circulation within area. By uniformly mutilating the well accepted Spanish eight reales and tying them to a specific region, cut and countermarked coins simply became less attractive to shipping merchants, allowing them to remain in the area, promoting better internal commerce and exchange.


The success of Macquarie's plan was immediately evident and the Holey Dollar and Dump remained a mainstay of Australian circulating coinage until 1829, when British coinage was generally adopted and the cut and countermarked coins were quickly removed from circulation by revoking their former legal tender status. For the next 20 years, about the only place you could find a Holey Dollar or Dump was in Tasmania, where they remained popular.


Survival rate on the 15 Pence or Dump is a bit better than the Holey Dollars, but both types and most all hosts are considered quite rare today. An average Dump retails near $30,000, with Holey Dollars going for upwards of three times that.

Roberts special Dump, which surfaced recently, is a error piece struck 15% off center. This kind of mistrike is quite unusual and a arre find for the specialist. Roberts is offering the coin for sale at $75,000.

For more information on Holey Dollars and Dumps check out the various books by Dr. W. J. D. Mira, including The Holey Dollars of New South Wales and Coinage and Currency in New South Wales 1788-1829.