Sydney Police are hunting for a man who stole 12 rare coins, valued at nearly $1 million, including an 1813 ‘Holey Dollar’ worth around $500,000, from the State Library of New South Wales on Wednesday afternoon.
The theft occurred around 3.40pm and was captured on CCTV in the Macquarie Street library, which is also a museum for much of the state’s early history. The thief broke into a locked armoured glass display case to take 12 Australian coins dating from between 1810 and the 1920s.
Police also believe a second smash and grab theft about two hours later may be connected.
A man has entered the hotel on George Street, around 5.20pm and took four sets of diamond earrings, three diamond rings and a gold pendant, with a total value of $75,000, from a display cabinet.
The ‘holey dollar’ was the first currency minted in Australia, created by Governor Lachlan Macquarie from 40,000 Spanish reales (the coin known as ‘pieces of eight’), as a solution to the colony’s coin shortage. The coin owned by the State Library was made from an 1810 Lima
Macquarie ordered one of his convicts, a forger, to cut the centre out of each Spanish coin, then restamped both the outer ring and the leftover dump with NSW insignias, setting the value of the holey dollar at five shillings at 15 pence.
They became official currently in 1813 and went into circulation in 1814. The started to be replaced from 1822 and were finally withdrawn in 1829. A holey dollar sold at auction last year for $495,000, the bicentenary of its minting.
An estimated 300 holey dollars and 1000 dumps survive today.
NSW State Librarian Dr Alex Byrne said staff are devastated by the theft.
“We are deeply disappointed by this callous act of public vandalism,” he said.
The other coins stolen include WWI-era sixpences, 1857 sovereigns and 1853 gold ounces – Gold Rush-era coins and a 1924 florin.
Dr Byrne said it was just a small part of the Library’s collection, but illustrated the development of coinage in Australia.
“This is the heritage of our country and a crime against the community,” he said.
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