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Holey dollar dump of New South Wales - Fifteen Pence

Date: 1813
Overall: 19 mm
Medium: Silver
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from the Department of Transport and Communications
Classification:Coins and medals
Object Name: Coin
Object No: 00015975
Place Manufactured:México

User Terms

    This 'dump' was found with a Holey dollar under the foundation stone of the original 'Macquarie Tower' - the colony's first lighthouse - indicating that both coins most probably had been put there by Governor Macquarie on 11th July 1816 during the foundation stone-laying ceremony he performed while the colony's first lighthouse was being built.

    In his diary Govenor Macquarie did not specifically mention placing these coins under the foundation stone at Macquarie Tower; his diary merely records that as far as ceremony was concerned, a toast of cherry brandy was made by the assembled guests to the success of the building.

    However, elsewhere in his diary he does refer to placing a 'Holey' dollar and a 15-penny 'silver piece' during a foundation stone-laying ceremony he performed at St Matthew's Church in Windsor in 1817 and at a foundation ceremony for the female factory at Parramatta in 1813.

    Evidently then, the cultural practice of including coins among objects laid for 'good luck' under a building's foundation stone was a tradition that also came to Australia with British colonisation. A similar ceremony was performed on 1 March 1880 by Sir Henry Parkes, who laid the foundation stone for the new 'Macquarie' lighthouse at Outer South Head (the current structure) that replaced 'Macquarie Tower'. Newspapers of the day listed the objects, including one of each 'coin of the realm', in one of four bottles placed as a time-capsule under the foundation stone.

    SignificanceThese coins were transferred to the National Maritime Collection by gift from the Department of Transport. The Department had kept these coins separately, making special note of the fact that they were recovered from under the foundation stone of 'Macquarie Tower' - the original Outer South Head lighthouse.

    These coins are unique, not in the sense that they vary from other known examples, but because of their physical association with Governor Macquarie, who is believed to have placed them under the foundation stone during the ceremony he officiated at on 11 July 1816.

    Of the initial number of nearly 40,000 Holey dollars that came to NSW in 1813, less than 280 have survived; approximately 1000 'dumps' remain. They are therefore scarce, numismatically extremely valuable and keenly sought-after by collectors.

    HistoryHoley dollars and 'dumps' were produced in New South Wales (NSW) in 1813 by Governor Macquarie's order to alleviate a shortage of British currency in the colony. Spanish silver dollars, also known as a 'piece of eight' or a 'pillar dollar', were used for this purpose.

    Nearly forty thousand Spanish silver dollars were holed in 1813 by having their centre cut out. Subsequently referred to as a 'Holey' dollar - for evident reason - its value was determined at five shillings, whereas the small, round, punched-out centrepiece (with a diameter of ca 19mm) which came to be known as a 'dump' and was filed smooth, was stamped with the value of 15 (fifteen) pence on one side and the other side sporting a crown and the words New South Wales.

    Thus both coins were intended only for use within the colony; they circulated in colonial commerce until 1829 when Holey dollars and 'dumps' lost their status as legal tender within the Colony. Approximately 27,000 Holey dollars and 10,000 dumps were recalled by the Treasury in 1829 and melted down.

    By striking these coins Macquarie had succeeded in solving several pressing financial problems the Colony was facing: at a stroke, the number of coins in circulation was doubled and the likelihood that they would be traded abroad was significantly reduced as overseas' merchants and traders would not be interested in accumulating a debased coin which nominally, but not intrinsically, was valued at 5 shillings.

    Thus, Macquarie's proclamation regarding the holey dollar and its 'dump' actually created Australia's first own coin. The job was carried out by a man called William Henshall who, ironically, had been transported to the Colony having been sentenced for coin forgery!

    Unlike the 'dump', the Holey dollar's surfaces were not filed smooth but over-stamped around the inner rim, one side bearing the words 'New South Wales' and the year 1813; the reverse side displayed a spray of leaves with the words 'Five Shillings'

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