Coincraft have announced an extraordinary silver double penny of King Henry III for sale. It is one of the rarest English hammered coins ever minted and could well be unique.
The obverse depicts a front-facing crowned effigy of Henry III with sceptre accompanied by the legend HENRICUS REX III. The reverse shows the long cross introduced in 1247 as part of coinage reform. The moneyer’s name and location is given as WILLEMM ON CANTT [Canterbury].
The coin is first known to have been offered for sale at a Sotheby auction in 1920 when it sold for £250 as part of the Talbot Ready Collection. It was sold again in 1930, 1939, and 1950 before featuring in Spink auctions in 1978 and 1986.
The last time it went on the block was as part of Sotheby’s sale of the Stack Collection in 1999. Coincraft bought the piece and later sold it by private treaty.
The coin possibly originated as a pattern or test piece using ordinary penny dies rather than specially prepared ones. It could well date from the time when Henry III was considering introducing a larger denomination than the silver penny, which on its own was inconvenient when it came to handling large sums of money.
His attempt to launch a gold piece worth 20 pence was unsuccessful. The double silver penny may well be all that remains of a similar discounted experiment. There is, however, no official record for such a coin. It is not included in Spink’s Coins of England & the United Kingdom. Its existence does not appear to be acknowledged in Stewartby’s English Coins 1180-1551.
Its diameter is 22.3 mm, and it weighs in at 433.8 grains or 2.833 g, double that of a regular 13th century silver penny. Apart from its weight and slightly larger diameter, it would not have been easy to distinguish from standard-issue pennies of the time.
There are suggestions of contemporary gilding on both sides and traces of it having once been mounted. Otherwise it grades gVF, commensurate with its price tag of £24,500 [$32,120]. It can presently be viewed online at Coincraft’s website: https://www.coincraft.com/henry-iii-double-penny.
This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.
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