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Holey Dollar goes to auction in July

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The pierced five shilling coins issued in New South Wales in 1813 are an integral part of Australian history. They glory in the name “Holey Dollar.”

A Holey Dollar will be auctioned in July by Noble Numismatics.

A Holey Dollar will be auctioned in July by Noble Numismatics.

Less than 100 are believed to still exist. Most show their age. High grade examples are extremely rare; as-struck examples are scarcer than hens’ teeth. Consequently collectors with deep pockets and/or compliant bank managers are expected to be out inforce at Noble Numismatics’ July 28-30 sale. A superb, as-struck, and historically important Holey Dollar will go on the block for the first time.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie is believed to have sent this coin back to his family in Scotland shortly after the original 1813 striking. Macquarie was the instigator of the cutting and countermarking of 40,000 Spanish colonial 8 reales to provide coinage for his colony. Presumably he wished to show the folks back home an example of the work he was undertaking Down Under, or perhaps, he wished to preserve a superb specimen for posterity.

Whatever the reason, the piece is of specimen quality similar to a presentation piece. It is precisely struck with upright countermarks relative to the original design of the Charles IIII Mexico City Mint 8 reales dated 1792 FM. A similar style and quality specimen Holey Dollar was placed under the foundation stone of Macquarie Lighthouse on South Head in Sydney in 1816.

The known provenance of the present coin starts some years back when a Scottish family connected to Macquarie sold the coin to Spink & Son’s Douglas Liddell. Liddell resold it to John (Jack) Ahbe of New York from whom it was purchased by William Barrett of Montreal. It was from Barrett that the present New South Wales owner acquired it in 1974.

The late Philip Spalding, author of The World of the Holey Dollar wrote in a letter to the owner, “I think Macquarie may have sent a few more pieces back to influential friends in the Mother Country than have so far come back home”.

The present coin will go to the auction block with an estimate AUD350,000 [U.S. $274,000]. An EF example sold at auction in London in September 2013 for 160,000 pounds sterling [U.S. $243,653].

In the fullness of time full details of the sale lots can be viewed at

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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