By Kerry Rodgers
Spink London’s fall sale catalog included several impressive collections. There was Andy Scot’s extensive hoard of copper and bonze pennies, a delightful selection of London Mint strikings of Constantius and Constantine from the Lee Toone Collection, and a substantial number of high-grade Abbasid Caliphate coins. Yet one coin ruled them all: a recently discovered gold half-florin or helm of Edward III.
Any helm is an excessively rare coin and of national importance. In March 2013 Spink handled the previous specimen to be unearthed. It fetched $135,900 [£90,000]. It and the present example comprise 100 percent of the known specimens available to collectors. Two others are held in the British Museum and one in the Hunterian in Glasgow.
The example on offer had been found in Devon in April this year. It was full and well-rounded piece, carefully and centrally struck. All obverse devices are in good relief enabling it to be graded good very fine. When the dust settled around the auction hammer it had sold for $90,600 [£60,000] (including commission) on a £30,000-40,000 estimate.
This coin is suffused with history, not only in its existence but also its design. It is an example of England’s first substantive gold coinage – that lasted less than a year before being replaced by Edward’s nobles.
Importantly its striking came shortly after the start of the Hundred Years’ War. Symbols in the design highlight Edward’s claim to the French throne that was the cause of the war. For the first time the French royal title is attributed to a British monarch on a coin – a claim abandoned only in 1801 by George III. French fleur-de-lis crowd the fields of the obverse, stressing the legitimacy of Edward’s claim via his mother, Isabella of France.
Unusually, a second 2015 gold coin discovery appeared on the block for the first time. This was an EF aureus of Vitellius recovered near Wymondham in Norfolk. It quickly raced up to a most comfortable if somewhat unexpected $30,804 [£20,400].
A James II guinea of 1687 proved popular. It was a choice example of the second draped and laureate bust, S-3402. It came graded EF and it was presumably its condition that drove its price up to $20,838 [£13,800], although that price is more than twice that given for this coin in this grade in several recent catalogs.
Full catalog details and prices realized can be obtained from the Spink website: www.spink.com.
A 20 percent buyers’ premium is included in the prices cited with an exchange rate of 1GBP = 1.51USD used to convert the original sterling prices.