World Coins

Mapping Australia’s history: medal in auction shows ‘New Holland’

With the advent of digital technology like GPS and smartphones, maps may be more ubiquitous than ever, even if lacking physical substance.

But in more durable formats, besides being printed on paper or other materials, maps can take other forms.

Look no further than a medal being offered in A.H. Baldwin & Sons, Ltd.’s May 5 auction in London. 

The white metal medal is believed to have been issued circa 1820, late during the reign of England’s King George IV. 

It shows a map of the Eastern Hemisphere, with continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, and New Holland on the obverse, and North America and various islands representing the Western Hemisphere on the reverse.

Where is ‘New Holland’?

Today you won’t find New Holland on a map, even if you look Down Under — New Holland was the name given to mainland Australia by Abel Tasman in 1644, a Dutch explorer. 

The name came to be applied to whole “Southern Land” or Terra Australis, until British settlement began in 1788 in the region Britain called New South Wales, located not far from modern-day Sydney. The western part continued to be known as New Holland. 

“New Holland” also continued in popular use as the name for the whole continent until at least the mid-1850s, so its appearance on a circa 1820 medal could be expected. 

The piece offered is the larger of two sizes recorded by Christopher Eimer in British Commemorative Medals And Their Values, measuring 74 millimeters in diameter. The other size issued measures 51 millimeters in diameter. Both white metal and bronze examples in both sizes exist, according to Eimer.

The larger size of this medal allows the detailed cartography to be on full display. 

Eimer suggests that the medal may have been struck by Edward Thomason and issued by a firm or person named T. Halladay. 

The auction house calls the medal “very rare.” The firm notes “only a few signs of porosity” and grades the piece Extremely Fine.

The medal is estimated to sell for £300 to £500 (about $447 to $745 in U.S. funds at current exchange rates). 

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