An extremely rare English gold penny struck more than 750 years ago realized an impressive $720,000 at a Heritage Auction sale of world and ancient coins that was held January 21-22, 2021.
Graded NGC MS 63, the gold penny of King Henry III is just one of seven known examples, including four in museums. Its hammer price far exceeded the pre-auction estimate of $250,000 to $500,000.
The gold penny shows the king seated in robes, wearing a crown and holding an orb and scepter. This motif marks the first time an enthroned ruler was shown on a gold coin of medieval Western Europe. For a variety of reasons, the gold pennies were not embraced in English commerce and the ambitious experiment in coinage failed. Nevertheless, they represent a turning point in numismatics and are highly valued today.
“The historic Henry III Penny represents a rebirth of gold coinage that took place over 750 years ago,” said Ben Wengel, the senior grading finalizer of world coins at NGC.
The second-highest price realized in the auction was for a modern British coin that also surpassed expectations. A Great Britain 2019 Una and the Lion Gold 2000 Pounds graded NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo realized $360,000, well above its pre-auction estimate of $150,000 to $200,000.
The coin, struck with 2 kilograms of gold, pays tribute to the iconic 1839 Una and the Lion design created for a young Queen Victoria. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is depicted on the other side.
Another gold rarity, a Mexico 1715MO J "Royal" 8 Escudos graded NGC MS 63, realized $234,000. Pedigreed to the Isaac Rudman Collection, the coin originated from a mint in Spanish Mexico. The coin's dies and strike show it is an example of Royal Coinage — struck as presentation pieces that are easily distinguishable from the cruder and more common cob 8 Escudos. This particular example is an extremely rare variety.
"We are elated that this sale once again affirmed the strength of the marketplace for world and ancient coins," said Cris Bierrenbach, executive vice president of international numismatics for Heritage Auctions.