It was always expected that a superb, gold, five guineas of Charles II would sweep the floor at Spink’s March 29 London sale of “Ancient, British and Foreign Coins and Commemorative Medals.” This indeed proved to be the case. However, it was results from several copper novodels of Catherine II, Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias, that provided the show stoppers. Two of these coins sold for over 100 times upper estimates.
Five guinea pieces of the Stuart monarchs are among the most popular British coins on the current market. Commonly they fetch five-figure sums. That of Charles II in the Spink sale was truly exceptional. Dated 1679 it came edge-marked TRICESIMO PRIMO (S-3331, KM-444.1). Graded lustrous EF it raced away to realize $223,200 [£180,000] on a £40,000-50,000 estimate.
But long before Charles went to the block Catherine’s coins, along with other Russian items, had mesmerized the auction room.
There were four copper novodels: two of 5 kopeks (KM-N274) and two of 10 kopeks (KM-N276). All were dated 1796. All reverses showed the denomination and the date. The obverse bore a crown over an ornate “C II” cipher along with five (or ten) pellets around the rim. The difference within each pair was grade.
One 5 and one 10 kopeks had both been graded “extremely fine with lustre”. Both were bid up to $126,480 [£102,000] on estimates of £1,000-1,200 (10 kopeks) and £800-1,000 (5 kopeks).
The second 10 kopeks was an unqualified VF. It fetched $104,160 [£84,000] on a £600-800 estimate. The remaining 5 kopeks was described as showing “patches of discoloration but still extremely fine.” It took $119,040 [£96,000] and had carried a £800-1,000 estimate.
Pre-sale publicity had highlighted a Nicholas I gold novodel medal celebrating the 1841 marriage of Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich and Princess Maria Alexandrowna of Hesse-Darmstadt. It was a large piece, 41 mm in diameter and weighing 52.53 g. Graded gEF the catalog described it as, “of the highest rarity.” All of which may explain why it was bid up to $62,498 [£50,400] on its £15,000-25,000 estimate.
The coins of Britain eventually managed to get a second look-in among top results via a couple of Commonwealth unites, KM-395.1. That of 1651 showed splendid detail and was graded aEF. It sold for $20,832 [£16,800]. The second came dated 1653 but bore just an aVF grade. It realized $8,184 [£6,600].
A gold aureus of Hadrian struck in Rome, 128-132 showing the emperor on horseback, BMC 503, made $8,184 [£6,600] on a £6,500-8,500 estimate in EF.
It was matched by a Sasanian imperial dinar of Shapur I. In a lustrous EF is sold for $5,952 [£4,800] on an estimate of £5,000-6,000.
The total realized was $1,113,617 including buyers’ premium. Full auction details and prices-realized are available from Spink’s website: www.spink.com.
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