1257 The Failure of the Gold Penny
2021 SOLD for $ 720K including premium
Other European countries want to follow the success of the florin. In England gold reserves begin to accumulate. In 1257 King Henry III commissions his goldsmith William of Gloucester to create a gold penny of 45 grains with an official value of 20 pence.
Arithmetic did not match : the gold penny was deliberately undervalued by about 20%. The London merchants represented by the Lord Mayor formally challenged this scam that threatened the silver coinage. King Henry was unpopular. His Lusignan advisers were hated. His foreign policy was indecisive and expensive. He had no choice but to give up. The acceptance of a gold penny by a creditor ceased to be mandatory a few months after its launch.
The following year is much worse, with catastrophic harvests. The coup of Simon de Montfort puts an end to the government of this incompetent king. This totally failed experiment for an English gold-silver bimetallism falls into complete oblivion within a few years.
Most of these gold penny coins, heavier than their official value and no more supported by the government, were very early melted. Eight pieces survived. One of them, close to perfection, graded MS63 by NGC, is estimated $ 250K for sale by Heritage in Dallas on January 21, 2021, lot 31154.
The tweets below were issued when this coin was listed by the same auction house for a sale in January 2018. It was withdrawn.
Happy Tuesday Twitter friends ~ We hope your 2018 is off to a good start. If you are a collector of coins, there's quite a few 'pretty pennies' or more accurately, rare pennies, up for bid this month through Heritage Auctions. Learn more: https://t.co/FtYfSzxTQL pic.twitter.com/f74NwWRDaG— Antique Trader (@AntiqueTrader) January 2, 2018
1621 The Ducats of King Sigismund
2018 SOLD for $ 2.16M including premium
The sharpness of the strike on such a large item is exceptional for its time. The rim circle and the centering of the unit for sale are almost perfect : 69.4 x 69.1 cm. It is 4.9 mm thick and weighs 349.49 grams. Tiny hairlines subsequent from handling are inevitable because of the malleability of gold. The coin is signed I.I. and S.A. It could only be used for presentation.
No previous edition is comparable. The 100 ducats coin issued in 1629 for King Ferdinand of Hungary and Bohemia, later the Emperor Ferdinand III, is of similar design with the portrait of the monarch on one side and royal shields on the other.
The coin lists the titles of Sigismund III Vasa as King of Poland and Sweden and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Russia, Prussia, Masuria, Samogitia and Livonia. The king is decorated with the Order of the Golden Fleece as a sign of allegiance to the Habsburgs.
Sigismund was a fervent Catholic born in a Protestant dynasty. He wanted to take over the throne of Sweden which he had lost for that reason in 1599 and was unpopular in Poland. At the beginning of the Thirty Years War, Poland was threatened with an invasion by the Turks but he did not participate directly in the resistance of the Khotyn Fortress in Moldavia against the Ottoman army in 1621. The conjunction of date of the 100 ducats coin with this heroic event is a mere coincidence or an opportunity.
Jacob Jacobson van Emden who signed with his Latinized initials I.I. was since 1616 the mint master in Bydgoszcz (Bromberg). The 100 ducats coin is a demonstration of his know-how which undoubtedly helped him to obtain from 1623 a direct or indirect responsibility over six other royal mints. The initials S.A. designate the engraver Samuel Ammon.
Exceedingly rare Poland commemorative 100 Dukat (349.49 grams) of Zygmunt III Wasa, celebrating 1621 victory over Ottomans, offered by CNG at 46th New York International Numismatic Convention, 10 January 2018, is one of the largest gold coins ever struck. https://t.co/I1Ad44EOqD pic.twitter.com/90dcByCj9A— Ancient Nomos (@ANAMCurator) December 8, 2017
1640 The Warin Gold
2019 SOLD for CHF 700K before fees
The circulation coins are the double-louis, the louis and the demi-louis. To launch this operation, coins of 10 louis, 8 louis and 4 louis are also released, in very small quantities. They enter into the category of 'pièces d'hommage' or 'pièces de plaisir'. They have not been documented in period and the only supposed use is at the king's gaming table. Such an operation will never be repeated and these coins are the most prestigious in the history of the French currency.
The cardinal de Richelieu, minister of Louis XIII, was the instigator of this reform. He took the opportunity to skilfully reduce the gold content from 0.958 to 0.917.
They display on one side the portrait of Louis XIII in profile and the date 1640. The bust is naked for the 4 and 8 louis and draped for the 10 louis. The other side shows the attributes of royalty, crowns, fleurs-de-lis, intertwined L's which form a cross, and the letter A which designates the Paris workshop.
An 8 louis weighing 53.68 g was sold for € 210K including premium by Rouillac on June 11, 2017. A 4 louis weighing 26.86 g was sold for € 290K including premium by Briscadieu on September 20, 2019.
On November 19 in Geneva, NGSA (Numismatica Genevensis) sells an example of the heaviest French gold coin, a 10 louis weighing 67.49 g, with a starting bid of CHF 500K, lot 657 here linked on the Biddr auction platform.
1652 The First Coins of New England
2014 SOLD 650 K$ including premium
In 1652, the government establishes a mint in Boston in charge of producing coins for the entire New England consisting in the colonies of Masathusets (spelling of the time), Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven. Three denominations are created: 3, 6 and 12 pence, the latter being also a shilling.
This social progress responds primarily to a need for regulation. The new coins are worth less than their face value when they leave the American territory, and no effort is made to make them pleasant.
The faces are pewter gray without any figure, just punched on one side by the letters NE for New England and on the other side by the monetary value in Roman numerals. The very first emission has deep marks. In the next issues the punching is soft.
This very rudimentary coinage is in regression against the currencies issued two millennia earlier, and calls to counterfeiting. Very soon a figure is created. The first one is a willow, followed by other trees from 1660.
Coins with deep punching have certainly been made in the first year of the plant. A shilling graded AU50 by PCGS was sold for $ 417K including premium by Heritage on 11 August 2010.
On May 16 in New York, Heritage sells the best known example of the 6 pence coin, graded AU58 by NGC, lot 30258 in the catalog. It comes from the Newman collection.
POST SALE COMMENT
This piece of history was sold for $ 650K including premium. It is in a remarkable condition for its category.
1657 Cromwell Gold Coin
2021 SOLD for £ 470K including premium by Dix Noonan Webb
narrated post sale
The team is highly experienced. The medalist Thomas Simon was chief engraver for the late King Charles I. The engineer Pierre Blondeau came from Paris to London in 1649 at the request of the Commonwealth to implement Warin's modern striking techniques. In order for his coins to look magnificent, Cromwell asks to use a screw press.
The half-crown is in silver, and the 20 shillings named the broad is in gold. The values are not marked, which suggests that they are pattern coins.
The illustration responds to Cromwell's megalomania. The Lord Protector is in profile in the laureate bust of a Roman Emperor. The inscriptions are in Latin, including the motto Pax quaeritur bello (seeking peace by waging war). The reverse is a crowned coat of arms, testifying to the monarchical ambition of the new master.
The 50 shilling dated 1656 is the only case of this denomination in British coinage. This pattern or presentation coin was undoubtedly made in a single production batch as a piedfort from the broad with the same dies but thicker planchets. The edge is inscribed unlike that of the broad which is grained, both as a precaution against clipping. It weighs 22.7 g for a diameter of 30 mm. About twelve units have survived.
One of them, in extremely fine condition except for a few minor marks, was sold by Dix Noonan Webb on January 21, 2021 for £ 470K including premium from a lower estimate of £ 100K, lot 1142. The link to the catalog is in the tweet below. The plan for a circulation release of Cromwell's gold and silver coins was canceled upon his death in 1658.
The extremely fine + rare 1656 gold Oliver Cromwell 50 shilling by Thomas Simon sold for a World Record Price of £471,200 yesterday!— Dix Noonan Webb (@DixNoonanWebb) January 22, 2021
“This is the best collection of Cromwellania and the prices in the sale reflected the importance of these coins”https://t.co/GSHxmIPhaw pic.twitter.com/ZmtnmQUEak
1663 Petition against Coin Clipping
2018 SOLD for $ 550K before fees
To replace hammering, the use of the mechanical press is tempting. For a long time its profitability is doubtful and the workers fearing for their employment oppose it with violence.
At the fall of King Charles I, an engineer from the Paris Mint named Pierre Blondeau is invited to install his machines at the Tower of London. Assisted by the English medalist Thomas Simon, he realizes a superb silver coin with the figure of Oliver Cromwell.
When the Stuart dynasty was restored in 1660, the problem of currency control remained crucial. In 1661 King Charles II decreed that the use of the screw press is mandatory for all his gold and silver coins. Blondeau returns to England. To compare between his competing Mint engravers Simon and the Roettier brothers, the king asks for silver pattern coins. In 1662 he chose Roettier.
Simon does not accept his defeat against a foreign engraver. The king's political preference for Roettier was obvious, but it must also be admitted that Simon's splendid relief was difficult to industrialize.
Meanwhile Blondeau develops a decisive invention that will finally end the clipping : the machine that hits the coin onto its circumference. In a vain hope that the king changes his decision, Simon realizes in 1663 two sets of the silver crown worth 5 shillings, with a text of supplication readably printed within the small width to demonstrate his know-how. These variants are identified by numismatists from the first word on the edge : Petition and Reddite. The Reddite's edge also includes the tiny figure of a sun rising from behind a cloud.
These pattern coins are extremely rare. One of them considered as the finest surviving Reddite was sold for £ 396K including premium by Spink on March 27, 2014. On January 10 in New York, Goldberg sells two Simon coins. Lot 1103 is a Petition graded SP 53 by PCGS, estimated $ 550K. It is illustrated in the post shared by DailyMail. Lot 1104 is a Reddite graded SP 35 by PCGS, estimated $ 95K.
Petition SP 53 SOLD for $ 550K before fees
Reddite SP 35 Unsold
1703 Vigo Five guineas
2019 SOLD for $ 1.08M including premium by Baldwin's of Saint James's
narrated in 2020
Gold is rare in England. In 1703 the metal seized in Vigo is used to mint coins with the effigy of Queen Anne. The largest denomination is the five guineas, a superb achievement weighing more than 40 grams. Its total population is estimated at 20 units in two basic variants differentiated by the position of the word VIGO centered under the bust or offset under the shoulder. The VIGO beneath shoulder is the rarer.
On February 9, 2016, St. James's sold for £ 275K before fees an example in very good condition of the VIGO beneath shoulder, graded AU55 by PCGS.
Another VIGO beneath shoulder was sold for £ 280K including premium by Boningtons on Novemner 16, 2016. It had just been resurfaced by the consignor from a "pirate treasure" that had been constituted for him many years earlier by his grandfather who had been a lover of travels and coins.
On January 13, 2019, Baldwin's of Saint James's, successor to St. James's, sold another example for $ 1.08M including premium. This VIGO beneath shoulder has a slightly different position of the VIGO hallmark. It may have been a prototype whose irregular letter height in that mark was not acceptable for the rest of the production. This coin is graded Mint State 62 by PCGS and is perfectly centered.
1740 The Ioann Ruble
2012 SOLD 3.6 MCHF before fees by Sincona
narrated in 2020
The Saint-Petersburg mint prepares the coins for the future reign. The pattern silver rubles dated 1740 bear on the obverse the Cyrillic inscription Ioann III by the grace of God Emperor and Autocrat of All Russia. On the same side, the traditional imperial effigy is replaced by a large 3 interlaced with two I. The reverse is illustrated with the two-headed eagle with its attributes : the crown, the shield, the scepter and the orb.
This design is immediately obsolete : the child's reign name is not Ioann III but Ivan VI. Only five units have been identified. One of them was sold for CHF 3.6M before fees by Sincona on October 9, 2012, lot 227 here linked on the NumisBids auction platform. The location of the other four has not been established.
In 1741 the child grew up and the new rubles are minted with his effigy at one year old. His father overthrew the regent. The Russians fear the return of the German influence and overthrow the child and his mother by a coup d'état in December 1741. Ivan VI's coins are redeemed and their possession is made illegal.
Another difficult succession will generate in 1825 the other top rarity of the Romanov numismatics, the pattern ruble prepared in the name and effigy of Grand Duke Constantine before he formally refuses to ascend the throne. Eight units are known.
1741 The 20 Ducat Gold Coin of Basel
2014 SOLD for CHF 800K before fees
On November 25 in Geneva, Numismatica Genevensis sells a presentation specimen of this coin in a stunning condition, lot 581 estimated CHF 500K. Here is the link to the site of the auction house.
The engraving is very sharp and very attractive, with Basel symbols including a spectacular basilisk with outspread wings, the coat of arms of the city and the arms of the eight associated municipalities, plus a cornucopia. One side displays a wide panoramic view of Basel with the houses over the Rhine, a bridge and two boats.
The only other surviving copy, in poorer condition, is preserved in the museum of Zurich.
I invite you to play the video shared by Numismatica Genevensis showing the great quality of carving of the Basel cityscape :
1755 Gold 20 roubles coin of Elizabeth
2008 SOLD for £ 1.86M including premium by St. James's
1766 The Early Maturity of Catherine the Great
2012 SOLD 800 K$ before fees
The first coins depicting the new Empress showed the face of a young woman.
This ambitious certainly wished offering another figure of herself to better enforce her authority. In 1763, her enthroned portrait by Rokotov flatters the maturity of this 34 year old woman, already imposing and ruling.
In 1766, a new rouble is prepared, with a bust profiled to the right which may have been inspired by the painting of Rokotov. The engraving is very sharp compared to the regular Russian coinage of the time. A few specimens are made, but this pattern coin will never be released.
One of three known pieces is estimated $ 1M, for sale by Baldwin's in New York on January 5. The estimate may seem high, but Russian art collectors often outbid for imperial rarities.
This coin is illustrated in the release shared by CoinWeek. The other side shows a two-headed eagle. I complete the iconography of this article by inviting you to view on Wikipedia the portrait of Catherine the Great by Rokotov.
POST SALE COMMENT
I feared that this lot would be difficult to sell. Although it remained below the estimate, I consider that the price, $ 800K before fees, is excellent.