Tale of two Holey dollars sold at auction in February

Condition, rarity of undertype coin explain vast value difference
By , Coin World
Published : 03/08/16
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Australia’s Holey dollar is the most iconic piece of coinage from the land down under.

Two examples of the important artifact from early Australian history sold at auction in February, illustrating the varied tiers of the market for the famous rarity.

At least 275 (and perhaps as many as 300) examples of the stopgap coinage manufactured in 1813 from older Spanish silver “dollars” (8-real coins) of varying years are known today. The coins were counterstamped and turned into two different coins, a tangible example of the maxim “it takes money to make money.” 

The Holey dollar, valued at 5 shillings, and its complement, the round center of the coin called the “Dump,” which was valued at 15 pence, were intended to alleviate a void of coinage in the nascent British property. Australia had just been established as a penal colony 25 years before, in 1788.

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Holey dollars and dumps were demonetized in 1829. 

Comparing examples

One example of the Holey dollar sold Feb. 9 in St. James’s Auction in London, realizing a hammer price of £33,000 (about $47,739 U.S.). The buyer’s fee and taxes range from 20 to 29 percent, depending on bidder location.

This coin contrasts sharply with the Holey dollar sold Feb. 4 during Fritz Rudolph Künker’s auction No. 271, in Berlin, for a hammer price of €230,000 ($252,140 U.S.). The buyer’s fee and Value Added Tax of 20 to 23 percent applies variably depending on bidder location.

Why such an enormous spread?

The example sold in the London auction was struck on one of the more common undertype (or host) coins, an 1807 Carlos IV silver 8-real coin. 

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