Oxfam volunteer and coin enthusiast John Turner looked through the bag of coins and spotted a possible rare coin.
After research it was taken to Noonans Mayfair for a second opinion where it was confirmed that it was an early 19th century Australian New South Wales Fifteen Pence or Dump.
Turner said: “I started collecting British coins when I was a teenager (some time ago now!) and more latterly also British Empire money, so I had some knowledge to build on, but I have learned a lot from volunteering!”
In April last year he was asked to sort donations of loose material in bags at the Orpington shop. Most of the objects were what he described as holiday money but a few items required some research. However, he did not at first recognise one small silver-grey coloured example which was inscribed New South Wales 1813 Fifteen Pence.
He researched online and found that it was likely to be one of the earliest Australian coins.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie of the New South Wales Penal Colony bought 40,000 Spanish Silver Dollars in 1812 to solve a currency shortage.
Convicted forger William Henshall was hired to make the coins and cut a hole in the centre of each one to prevent them leaving the colony.
The resulting 'donut' was then stamped with the words New South Wales, the value Five Shillings and the date 1813 to create Australia's first coin.
The disc removed from the centre became known as the 1813 Colonial Dump, with a value of 15 pence (of which Oxfam’s coin is an example).
Withdrawn from circulation in 1829, most 'Holey Dollars' and 'Dumps' were sold as bullion and melted down.
A great discovery
Shelley Hitch, valuer at Oxfam, said: “The Orpington area manager passed the coin to me as she knew I had a relationship with several auction houses and Noonans kindly don’t charge Oxfam any commission. Volunteers like John are so valuable to Oxfam, and this is a great discovery. It means even more to know that the money raised will go towards vital funds to help tackle poverty across the globe.”
The bags from Orpington had not been marked as eligible for Gift Aid, so Oxfam had no way of tracing the donor.
The coin is now estimated at £5000-7000 and will be offered at Noonans two-day sale of Coins and Historical Medals February 6-7.
A number of Holey Dollars have come to auction over the years. Read about ATG’s report on Australian Holey Dollars here.