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Blog post from Wednesday, 30 September, 2015

Holey dollar and dump, first distinct coinage of New South Wales, 1813

On this day, the first official currency produced specifically for circulation in Australia, “holey dollars” and “dumps”, were circulated in New South Wales in September, 1813.

The colony of NSW quickly ran into the problem of a lack of coinage, with most of the foreign coins leaving the colony by way of trade with merchant ships. To combat this, Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered £10,000 in Spanish dollars from the British government, and had a convicted forger cut the centres out of the coins and counter stamp them.

The centre pieces or “dumps”, stamped with a crown on one side and the denomination on the other, were worth 15 pence while the outside ring or “holey dollar” were worth 5 shillings and were stamped with “New South Wales 1813”.

From 1822, the government began to recall the coins and replace them with sterling coinage. By the time they were finally deemed worthless in 1829, most of the coins had been exchanged for legal tender and melted down.

There had been 40,000 and now, experts estimated that only 350 Holey dollars and 1500 dumps remain. This rarity means that even those in poor condition can be valuable.

Sources: Oxford Reference Online and Wikipedia.

See our holdings of books on the history of currency in Australia in our catalogue or look up pictures and historical documents in our catalogue of manuscripts.

The photos above are of a holey dollar and a dump. These coins are held in the collections of the Mitchell Library and were bequeathed by Sir William Dixson, one of the Library’s most prominent benefactors.