New book details Canada's holey dollars, dumps

Reference explores a historic rarity of Canadian numismatics
Published : 10/25/12
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A new book exploring a historic rarity of Canadian numismatics was released in September.

The Holey Dollars and Dumps of Prince Edward Island, by Christopher Faulkner, is now available. The work is the first book-length study devoted to Canada’s most exotic and celebrated colonial-era coin, the “Holey dollar” of Prince Edward Island and its accompanying “Dump.”

The Holey dollar and Dump in Canada should not be confused with the similarly styled and named examples from Australia.

Faulkner spent 20 years researching the book in international archives, libraries, and private and institutional collections, from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to Puerto Rico, Vancouver and London, unlocking the mystery that has surrounded these coins for some 200 years.

According to authorities on Canadian coinage, the Prince Edward Island “Holey dollar” pieces are among the most renowned Canadian colonial coins, and represent a unique instance in the whole of British North America of the cutting and countermarking of a coin so that its parts might pass as legal tender.

“Because they were made from Spanish-American Dollars, the most widely circulated coin of its day and a standard of value throughout the entire world, these coins have a legitimate place in many different sorts of collections: the Spanish American series; crown-sized coins of the world; cut and countermarked coins; emergency or proclamation coinage; semi-official colonial issues; and, finally, private merchants’ tokens. There is no other Canadian coin or token that can claim to be so many things to so many interests at once,” according to a press release announcing the book’s impending publication.

The book’s introduction elaborates the monetary and commercial circumstances, as well as the political and economic conditions, that led to the initial production of these unusual coins in 1813 and to their eventual disappearance over the ensuing years.

To that end, the book addresses a number of provocative questions: Who made the Holey dollars and dumps? How were they made? How long did they circulate? What could they buy? What were their precedents? Can we distinguish a government issue dollar or dump from contemporary merchant counterfeits? What motivated the counterfeiters?

While addressing these questions, the book presents collectors and bystanders, merchants and government officials involved and places touched, as each relates to the story of the holey dollar and dump. In addition, the book lists a census of all known examples of the dollars and Dumps with provenance and pedigree, a photographic record of each example, auction results from 1888 to 2010, a compilation of forgeries and a crossover index of coins and tokens with counterstamps bearing similarities to the marks on legitimate Holey dollars.

Faulkner, a fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society (membership by invitation only), is distinguished research professor and professor emeritus at Carleton University, Ottawa.

The book is published by Spink, London, with the financial support of the J. Douglas Ferguson Historical Research Foundation. About 400 examples of the book were printed.

It is available in Canada from Svetolik Kovacevic at Ancient Numismatic Enterprise of Toronto, for $115 U.S.

For more information or to order the book, telephone Ancient Numismatic Enterprise at 416-686-8019 or visit its website, ■

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