HOLEY dollars take centre stage in the Royal Australian Mint’s new display, “All that is Holey: The First Minted Coins of Australia”.
The display, devised in partnership with Melbourne’s Coinworks, showcases 11 “holey” dollars and 11 “dumps”, of the estimated 300 holey dollars and 1000 dumps currently in existence.
In 1812, Governor Lachlan Macquarie imported 40,000 Spanish silver dollars (pieces of eight) to relieve a currency crisis in the colony of NSW.
To ensure these coins stayed in the colony, Macquarie had a hole cut from the centre of each dollar, creating two coins out of one, a “ring” dollar and a disc, giving rise to the holey dollar and the dump’ – the first circulating coins of Australia.
In creating two coins from one Spanish silver dollar, Macquarie not only doubled the money supply, but also made the coins unattractive to overseas merchants and traders who, he believed, would not be interested in a coin now missing 25 per cent of its silver.
The holey dollar and dump remained as currency within the colony until 1829, when a law passed in England returned NSW to the sterling standard. This prompted then-Governor Darling to withdraw the dollars and dumps from circulation.
Mint staff say a collection this size has never been showcased for the general public and the exclusive display features coins from around the world dating back to the 18th century.
Visitors will be able to see coins including from the Mexico Mint, Lima Mint in Peru, Madrid Mint and Potosi Mint in Bolivia and read the stories of the coins as well as their discovery in interesting and unusual places around the world, from a footpath in Bermuda to a Hills Hoist Clothesline.