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Dr. Miller’s 37 Crowns realize $606,728

In an apt piece of historic irony Charles II beat-out Cromwell’s Commonwealth at Spink’s late March sale of the fabled Miller Collection of English silver crowns.

Mere adjectives do not do justice to the collection of Dr. Erik Miller. Clichés are certainly inappropriate. The assemblage of coins on offer was far more than simply remarkable. Many of the crowns are the finest pieces available of their types today. Many are important historically and come with legendary provenances. Many have not seen a public saleroom for over half-a-century. And this March sale constituted but Part I of his collection.

The results are the stuff of auction house dreams. Just 37 lots were involved. All sold. The total realized was $606,728 [£464,640]. That sum represents $16,398 [£12,578] per lot.

The arrival of Lot 23 on the block was the high-point of the day. It was eagerly awaited: a magnificent Charles II crown of 1662.

Top-selling, proof-like Charles II crown of 1662 (S-3350; KM-417.1). In EF it realized $50,400 in the Spink sale of the Dr. Erik Miller collection. Images courtesy and © Spink.

The coin is the first type of Charles’ milled crowns with rose below laureate and draped bust and dot above, ten strings to harp, and dot after HIB but not GRA. The lettered edge reads • DECVS • ET • TVTAMEN (S-3350; KM-417.1; cf. ESC-341 {15B}).

The Spink catalog describes the quality of the strike as “equal to a proof”. Similar descriptions have been applied to this coin in previous auction catalogs. Otherwise, it grades EF with just a fine scratch on the reverse.

For numismatic historians, the provenance makes fascinating reading. Spink have handled the coin several times. In 1892 they sold it for £28.10.0; in 1903 for £8.10.0; in 1906 for £10.0.0; and in 1948 for £75.0.0.

In August 1961 Miller purchased it from Baldwin for £150.0.0. This Spink sale saw it realize $50,400 [£42,000].

Prior to the sale of Charles’ crown those of The Commonwealth had dominated the sale. Top-priced here was a 1652 example with a large ‘2’ in the date (S-3214; KM-392; ESC-5 {5}). The cataloger described it simply as, “possibly the finest known for date, brilliantly choice and extremely rare thus”. It had been purchased by Miller at the Whetmore sale in July 1961 for £125.0.0.

Likely the finest known Commonwealth crown of 1652 (S-3214; KM-392) that was bid-up to $50,120. Images courtesy and © Spink.

It was the utter quality of this piece that saw it make a price of $50,120 [£38,400]. Not only was this nearly four times upper estimate but considerably more than the price fetched by a much rarer first issue 1649 Commonwealth crown.

That 1649 crown was certainly an object of great desire (S-3214; KM-392; ESC-1 {1}). Just thirteen specimens are known of this date, five of which are in museums. In VF that on offer is the finest available to collectors. It provenance includes the Duchess of Beaufort collection – described as “the property of a celebrated nobleman” in the Christie, Manson and Woods sale of May 1890 when it fetched £19.0.0, a record price at the time.

It now sold for a most comfortable $43,855 [£33,600] on a £8,000-10,000 estimate.

Among the high rollers George I proved the foremost representative of the House of Hanover. He led with a very rare 1726 DECIMO TERTIO crown (S.3639A; KM-545.1; ESC 1548 {115A}) – yet another exceptional coin likely the finest known for type. It had cost Miller £24.0.0 in 1959 but this year took $37,593 [£28,800].

The finest known VIGO crown of Queen Anne featured in Lot 31 (S-3576; KM-519.1; ESC-1340). For Miller, it had been another Whetmore sale purchase in 1961, this time for £135.0.0.

The Spink catalog notes the coin was once accompanied by an envelope that simply said, “From Aunt, 1703” i.e. the date on this coin. It would seem likely its current appearance at auction is only the second in its 316-year history. This time around it realized $ 36,023 [£27,600].

Full catalog details are available from www.spink.com. The pdf of the catalog is worth downloading. It contains an informative introduction to the Miller collection along with an excellent summary of various Duchess of Beaufort items including a history of the 1649 crown.

Parts II and III of the Miller coin are to be offered in subsequent Spink sales.


This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.



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