Australia’s First Coins Were Holey Dollars

The first official currency was made from 40,000 Spanish coins.

When the British first colonised Australia, they though there would be no need for a currency, as convicts didn’t earn a salary and soldiers were paid in promissory or paymaster notes.

But twenty years into the settlement, the need for an official money system became clear.

In 1813, with some settlers taking to making their own money or importing foreign notes and coins, governor Lachlan Macquarie decided to ship in 40,000 Spanish dollars to begin the first official currency system in New South Wales.

The “holey dollar”

The “holey dollar” which became the first distinct currency [Image: Creative Commons]

A hole was punched in the middle of each coin to double the number of coins available for circulation. The punched hole was worth one shilling and three pence (or fifteen pence), while the “holey dollar” was the equivalent of five shillings.

Each coin was stamped with its denomination, the colony’s name and the year.

The “dump” coin

The “dump” coin taken “holey dollar” which became the first distinct currency [Image: Creative Commons]

When the holey dollar currency was replaced with Britain’s Sterling currency in 1829, the “holey dollar” coins were sent back to England to be melted down.

Last year, one of the six remaining coins sold for the record-breaking price of $550,000. In 2014, another “holey dollar” was stolen from the New South Wales State Library.

EXPLORE FOR MORE: The Woman On The Aussie $20 Note Was A Cross-Dressing, Horse-Stealing Violent Convict

The first banknotes sanctioned by the government were released by the Bank of New South Wales in 1816. Once other colonies created their own banks, they too began issuing notes.

The First Australian Banknote (1913)

After federation in 1901, the government passed the Australian Notes Act in 1910 and issued the first national banknote in 1913.

The note featured the Commonwealth Coat Of Arms and the Goulburn Weir in Victoria.

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay