7 Historically Significant Coins of the Commonwealth

Lot 704: The "Charlotte" Medal, 1788. Sold for AUD750,000 via Noble Numismatics (July 2008).

Most record-breaking coins have distinct characteristics that make them desirable as collector’s items. The 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, a pristine example of the first silver dollar disseminated by the United States Mint, set the record for most expensive coin sold at auction when it was purchased at Stack’s Bowers Galleries for $10,016,875 in 2013. Across the pond, Baldwins made history with the 2016 sale of the 1933 Lavrillier Pattern Penny, one of only 4 made, for £72,000 ($94,885).

Coins that possess unique physical properties or a link to an important historical event are often in high demand. Our editors spoke to Melbourne-based coin specialists Noble Numismatics to uncover the stories behind some of the most important coins and medals to pass through their doors. Rooted in British history, these 7 examples represent the wide variety available for discerning collectors.


The Charlotte Medal, 1788

Lot 704: The “Charlotte” Medal, 1788. Sold for AUD750,000 via Noble Numismatics (July 2008).

This thin silver disc is widely believed to be the first Colonial Australian work of art. The medal, engraved by hand on both sides, describes the full voyage of the Charlotte. The ship was one of eleven known as the First Fleet, which left England in 1787 to found the penal colony that eventually became the first European settlement in Australia. The coin was engraved by Thomas Barrett, one of the convicts on board the Charlotte, when the ship anchored in Botany Bay in January 1788.


Medals awarded to William Bligh, 1794 & 1797

Left: Royal Society of Arts Medal, 1794. Sold for AUD116,000 via Noble Numismatics (July 2011) & Right: Naval Gold Medal, 1797. Sold for AUD216,000 via Noble Numismatics (July 2011).

The medal on the left was awarded to Captain William Bligh in 1794 by the Royal Society of Arts for his heroic action during a mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty in 1789. Bligh, the ship’s Lieutenant, was transporting breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies but was forced off the ship by his crew. He was later appointed the Governor of New South Wales in 1806.

This Naval medal (right) was also awarded to Bligh for actions taken in command of the H.M.S. Director during the Battle of Camperdown on October 11th, 1797. The battle was a major naval action fought between the Royal Navy fleet and the Dutch Navy fleet, during which the British captured eleven Dutch ships without any losses of their own. At the time, it was considered the greatest victory by a British fleet over an equal fighting force.

The Victoria Cross

Lot 3985: A group of medals including the Victoria Cross. Sold for AUD1,002,000 via Noble Numismatics (July 2011).

The Victoria Cross is considered the premier award for gallantry in the British Commonwealth. This particular medal was awarded to Private Edward Kenna for “magnificent courage and complete disregard for his own safety” during the attack on the Wirui Mission in the South West Pacific on May 15, 1945.


A Holey Dollar

Lot 1382: A Holey Dollar. Sold for AUD400,000 via Noble Numismatics (July 2015).

A coin known as the holey dollar was introduced by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1813 to alleviate the shortage of coinage in the colony of New South Wales. Macquarie directed a convicted forger named William Henshell to cut a circular piece from the center of 40,000 Spanish dollars, thus producing two coins from each. The outer ring, or the holey dollar, had a value equivalent to five shillings. It was counterstamped around the inner rim with the date and the words “New South Wales” on one side and its value on the other side.  


A Fifteen Pence Coin (Dump), 1813

Lot 1385: A fifteen pence coin known as a dump, 1813. Sold for AUD43,000 via Noble Numismatics (July 2015).

The inner part of the holey dollar, also known as the “dump,” had a value equivalent to fifteen pence. After the dumps were filed smooth, they were restruck with a crown and the words “New South Wales” on one side and the value on the other.


A Bank of New South Wales Ten Shilling Note, 1817

Lot 2799: A ten shilling bank note, 1817. Sold for AUD280.000 via Noble Numismatics (March 2014).

This is the only known example of Australia’s first Colonial banknote, issued on the opening day of the Bank of New South Wales in Sydney on April 8, 1817. It was signed by J. Harris and R. Jenkins, two of the seven elected directors of the bank.

To see more important and collectibles coins being offered at auction, visit Noble Numismatics on Invaluable.