Auction 156 Highlights

Welcome to Smalls Auctions Sale 156

In this Sale we are celebrating Australia and its rich Colonial History.

We begin with a variety of Dumps struck in the Colony of New South Wales in 1813 on the imprimatur of Governor Macquarie. Macquarie knew of the practice of mutilating silver Spanish 8 Reales to produce two coins for local use and so adopted the idea to provide much needed currency for the fledgling colony. The centre plug, the Dump, held a value of Fifteen Pence while the outer ring known as the Holey Dollar was valued at Five Shillings.

Of course, it stands to reason that a penal colony heavily populated by convicts would throw up recidivists who would embark on knocking out fake coins - and this is exactly what occurred. In our Sale we have three examples of ‘Copper Dumps’ unearthed during the Pitt Street Excavations of the 1920s when the streets of Sydney were ripped up to build the subterranean City Circle train line. It was thought at the time that the convict William Henshall, who had been employed by Macquarie to strike the silver Holey Dollars and Dumps, used his inside knowledge to produce the counterfeits. Macquarie had him flogged for a public disturbance, but more probably to warn him off, and he left the Colony soon after.

Three of the more intriguing ‘Dumps” on offer are the two copper trials of Dumps and the sectioned Holey Dollar. The copper trial for the ‘E3’ type is the only example to have survived and was likely made to help preserve silver while the coining press was being calibrated. The other copper trial which we have badged the ‘B6’ is a unique type that never made it to circulation. Similarly, the quarter section of a Holey dollar in the Sale was once in the collection the esteemed politician Henry Dangar and is also the sole surviving example. It was cut from a contemporary forgery of a Holey Dollar and was probably thrown into the back of the drawer by a dudded trader and hence the reason it survived. These three unique coins are museum standard additions for the serious collector.

Of course, the Sale also includes a Holey Dollar which is perhaps the most coveted item in Australian numismatics. There are approximately three hundred that have survived of which a third are closeted away in institutional collections. This coin provides the opportunity to secure a most affordable example.

The Sale continues with a select group of Sydney Mint Half Sovereigns and Sovereigns, Australia’s first official gold coins. A few of the coins are in superior condition and on appearances are likely to prove a close match for the finest known.

The gold for the coins came from the newly discovered goldfields around Bathurst and some of the Sydney Morning Herald newspapers from 1858 that appear in the Sale make mention of the numbers of coins struck that week at the Sydney Mint. This information is also found in the 1867 & 1867-8 Reports of the Sydney Branch (of the) Royal Mint to both houses of the N.S.W. Government. The Sydney Gazette newspapers from the 1820s also provide intriguing insights into the politics, commerce and society of New South Wales.

In the paper currency we have examples of notes that have survived in extremely small numbers. The 1862 'South Australian Banking Company' £1 is the sole surviving circulation note of this issuer -  and like the early colonial coins there were also the obligatory forgeries and spurious issues that made their way into circulation. The Bank of Newcastle for which there is a £10 note in the Sale, can with a starting date of 1828, lay claim to being Australia’s earliest regional bank. However, it is doubtful that it ever successfully traded. Its notes like the notes for the spurious ‘Austilin Bank’ were produced by the same printer ‘Wilson’ who is mentioned in the celebrated fraud case against the nefarious ‘Tommy the Banker.’

Some of the more intricate items in the Sale are the early Promissory notes from New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. These were produced and honored by local traders in Colonial Australia as a means of circumventing the dearth of circulating currency. Most were secured from the Wright collection when it was sold in 2008 and many are rare or unique varieties that were studiously collected by the previous owners. They do not look like much, but these notes were pivotal to Australia’s early survival and are a highly collectable souvenir of our past.

We hope that you find something of interest in the selection of items on offer.

Smalls Auctions