The Royal Australian Mint launches the Batavia – the first triangular bullion coin

Well, here is something unusual and unexpected. The Royal Australian Mint has shown some increased activity in the bullion coin market of late, with their recent Bottlenose Dolphin coin being a fine example. Their latest release doesn’t showcase Australian wildlife, but heads back into the past to remember the dark and tragic tale of one the countries earliest shipwrecks – the Batavia.

The choice of a triangular shape for the coin is quite unexpected for a mint like the RAM, and makes an intriguing change from the norm. The reverse design carries an image of the Batavia at its centre, surrounded by design elements from the ship itself. The ships name is inscribed inverted, as a nod to its sinking.

The obverse ramps the oddness up a notch, with the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II placed on the coin at the top and in tiny form for a mint that usually doesn’t tinker with this face. We love the change (sorry Liz!), as it has given designer Adam Ball the opportunity to provide a second piece of artwork. A depiction of the sinking and the battle on land is done well and quite reminiscent of the mints Mutiny & Rebellion series.

Two formats are available, both a troy ounce in weight. The 0.999 silver coin has a pretty tight mintage of 20,000 units, while the gold is positively rare at just 250 pieces. Both are provided encapsulated, so you don’t have to tear your hair out trying to find a capsule for them at least. A very welcome change from the usual Antipodean bullion coin with a very cool design. Available today, exclusively from Hong Kong based dealer, LPM Group.

Built in Amsterdam in 1628 and sailing from Texel to the Dutch East Indies later that year, on the surface the Batavia was just another merchant ship heading east. What followed was a horrifying story of brutality in the name of self interest that is still remembered almost four centuries later. Commanded by Francisco Pelsaert and captained by Ariaen Jacobsz, the ship carried a huge supply of trade gold and silver, and a junior merchant named Jeronimus Cornelisz, a bankrupt pharmacist from Haarlem who was fleeing the Netherlands.

During the voyage, Jacobsz and Cornelisz conceived a plan to take the ship. On 4 June 1629 the ship struck Morning Reef near Beacon Island off the Western Australian coast. Most of the passengers and crew managed to get ashore on an island but 40 people drowned of the 322 aboard. After realising there was no fresh water and limited food on the islands, Pelsaert headed to the mainland in a 9.1m longboat, only to discover it was also without fresh water. In what is considered one of the greatest feats of navigation in open boats, Pelsaert, Jacobsz and some others took a 33 day voyage to Batavia, now Jakarta in which all survived. Batavia’s Governor General, Jan Coen, immediately gave Pelsaert command of the Sardam to rescue the other survivors, as well as to attempt to salvage riches from the Batavia’s wreck.

Arriving two months after leaving the wreck of the Batavia, what he discovered was horrifying. Cornelisz, left in charge of the survivors, realised that should the party going to the city of Batavia succeed the discovery of the planned mutiny would lead to possible executions, so he planned to hijack any rescue ship and try to find shelter somewhere remote, using the gold and silver to start a new kingdom. Opponents would need to be eliminated, however. After gaining control by sending the soldiers to nearby West Wallabi Island, under the false pretence of searching for water and then abandoning them there, Cornelisz took complete control. Over the next two months, “With a dedicated band of murderous young men, Cornelisz began to systematically kill anyone he believed would be a problem to his reign of terror, or a burden on their limited resources. The mutineers became intoxicated with killing, and no one could stop them. They needed only the smallest of excuses to drown, bash, strangle or stab to death any of their victims, including women and children”. In total, his followers murdered at least 110 men, women, and children.

The soldiers Cornelisz thought he had abandoned had in fact found good food and water supplies, and learning of what Cornelisz had done they fabricated some weapons and built a small fort. After several battles with musket-armed men sent by Cornelisz, they prevailed until Pelsaert arrived with reinforcements which together soon captured all the mutineers.

Pelsaert held trials on the islands and the worst offenders were hanged after having their hands cut off. Others were punished in Batavia, even Pelsaert not escaping as a board of inquiry decided that Pelsaert had exercised a lack of authority and was therefore partly responsible for what had happened.

MINTS DESCRIPTION

The ill-fated Batavia, one of Australia’s oldest shipwrecks, is depicted on these magnificent gold and silver triangular investment coins, proudly presented by the Royal Australian Mint. The design depicts the harrowing story of the Batavia’s wreck and the events that followed. These exclusive products are both a stunning investment and a commemoration of Australia’s maritime heritage. Available exclusively through LPM Group Limited.

In June 1629, the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) vessel, Batavia, was sailing from the Netherlands to Batavia (Jakarta), when it struck a reef off the coast of Western Australia and was wrecked. Most survivors were able to swim to nearby Beacon Island, and the ship’s Commander Francisco Pelsaert took 47 crew and a longboat on a gruelling journey to Batavia to seek help.

Unknown to Pelseart, the Batavia had been threatened with a mutinous plot led by Undermerchant Jeronimus Cornelisz. Assuming leadership, Cornelisz and his supporters set about eliminating any opposition. A total of 125 men, women and children were killed. On Pelsaert’s return the mutineers were arrested: seven were hanged and two marooned on the mainland, making them Australia’s first recorded European settlers.

The wreck of the Batavia was discovered in 1963 and sections of its hull and other artefacts are on display at the Western Australian Maritime Museum. The Batavia, Australia’s second-oldest shipwreck, is an unparalleled tale of the darkest side of human nature.

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SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $1 Australia $100 Australia
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.9999 gold
WEIGHT 31.1 grams 31.1 grams
DIMENSIONS 33.9 mm 33.9 mm
FINISH Bullion Bullion
MODIFICATIONS None None
MINTAGE 20,000 250
BOX / C.O.A. No / No No / No