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Lot 2079
BRITISH COINS, MILLED GOLD SOVEREIGNS, Edward VIII (acceded 20 January, abdicated 10 December 1936, died 25 May 1972), Gold Proof Sovereign, 1937, bare head of King facing left, HP initials below for engraver Thomas Humphrey Paget, legend surrounding reads EDWARDVS VIII D: G: BR: OMN: REX F: D: IND: IMP:, finely toothed border within twin concentric circles and raised rim both sides, rev struck en médaille, St George with flowing cloak and helmet with streamer, slaying dragon with sword, broken lance on ground to lower left, date in exergue, engraver initials B.P. to upper right for late Benedetto Pistrucci, edge finely milled, 8.04g (Bentley -; Marsh -; Dyer p.23-24 and plate D; WR 434 R6; Giordano P11; cf S.4063 p.506). Light hairlines peppering field on both sides, deeper hairline from bridge of nose into field, cloudy patch on the reverse field in front of horse’s head with short scratch within, further light scratch in field above lance, otherwise brilliant with a frosted cameo design and lettering, practically as struck and of the highest rarity, the only solo example currently available to collectors and the first opportunity to obtain this coin in a London sale in nearly 30 years. ex Spink, bought privately, October 1981 ex Professor R E Gibson, Collection of Sovereigns and Half-Sovereigns, Spink Auction 40, 6-7 December 1984, lot 640 and inside front cover illustration, sold for £40,000 hammer, by far the highest price in the sale ex “100 Choice Coins”, Ginza Coin 20th Anniversary Auction, Tokyo, Japan, 22 November 2008, lot 949 For further specific reading please see: The Proposed Coinage of King Edward VIII, by G P Dyer, published 1973 Portraits of a Prince – Coins Medals and Banknotes of Edward VIII, by Joseph S Giordano Jr, published 2009 A King’s Story, The Memoirs of HRH The Duke of Windsor KG, published 1951 Of the greatest rarity in the modern Proof Sovereign series, Edward VIII who controversially abdicated his throne for the woman he loved, was about to authorise a new coinage to be ready in time for his Coronation in 1937, and subsequently no British currency coin was issued for use by the public. This example of his proof Sovereign is the only single coin available to collectors. There being only one other example in private hands as an integral part of a complete set of the proposed coinage of King Edward VIII. Notably the recent Bentley Collection did not possess an example. This is only the third time this actual coin has ever been publicly auctioned, and the first time it has been seen for sale in the UK since its first auction outing in 1984. The coinage was controversial from Edward’s refusal to follow coinage tradition in facing in the opposite direction to his predecessor, his father King George V who had faced left. This tradition started with King Charles II who wished to face the opposite way to Oliver Cromwell, and has been followed ever since, except for Edward VIII who preferred his left facing profile. An account of the King’s own discussions with the Deputy Master, Sir Robert Johnson is detailed in his memoirs (pp.293-294), and reveals that the mint went as far as instructing the artist in favour, T H Paget, to transfer the King’s left side facial features to a right facing portrait (the hair was not included in this swap) before the King had to insist on his left portrait only for coins and stamps, as was his privilege. These meetings, portrait sittings and presentation of plaster models occurred between 21 February and 28 April 1936 (Dyer pp.2-4), at which point the Deputy Master had to report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the King insisted on facing left, which was approved. Looking back at contemporary reports about a proposed new coinage for King Edward VIII, it is interesting to quote one of the earliest announcements by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons from the 9 July 1936, where “in accordance with custom” specimen sets, of the first issue of coins of King Edward VIII would be issued to collectors and others requiring them. Sets of gold coins would be available at special prices to all who applied. Full details would be publicly announced and the issue would be available to applicants both at home and overseas. Most significantly the report ends with news that “A Coronation set of gold coins consists of four pieces - £5, £2, £1 and a half-sovereign” (reported in the Daily Telegraph, 10 July 1936, repeated in the Spink Numismatic Circular August 1936, p.283). Within the miniscule number of existing proof sets of Edward VIII’s coinage (only one of which is in private hands), there is of course no physical Half-Sovereign, none ever being struck, but this announcement shows that it was at least proposed as of July of 1936, even though the final designs had not been approved at that date. As time was of the essence, trial strikes of proposed obverse portraits and reverse designs were shown to the King for final approval 24 July 1936, where he chose the bare head left facing effigy by T H Paget to represent him on the obverse of British coins, and a crowned bust by Percy Metcalfe for the Dominions. The classic St George and dragon design after Pistrucci was chosen for gold coinage reverses, and a series of heraldic designs for the reverses of the silver denominations by Kruger Gray. The new dodecagonal brass Threepence with a thrift plant design was by Madge Kitchener, the Penny by C W Coombes, the Halfpenny design was adapted from a Halfcrown proposal by T H Paget, and the Farthing with the wren by H Wilson Parker (Dyer pp.12-19). In the interim between the House of Commons announcement, and the manufacture of dies and striking of the extremely rare proof coins, the decision was made to omit the gold Half-Sovereign from the proposed Coronation gold sets, the denominations of which all have milled edges, and that the sets were to be priced high enough to keep orders at a modest level (Dyer pp.23-24) This decision to not have a Half-Sovereign was viewed as numismatically controversial of the mint, and the later Coronation gold sets issued by King George VI did include all four gold coins, albeit all with plain edge to emphasise that they were “patterns” and not meant to circulate. King Edward VIII abdicated 10 December, at which point in time a set of the new coins was almost ready for final approval (Dyer p.1) all with the portrait by T H Paget, who had so impressed the King previously with his left facing portrait on the Master Mariner medal (Giordano CM139) when Prince of Wales. The Royal Mint reports for 1935-1936 from Deputy Master Sir Robert Johnson (issued December 1937; reported in The Times 23 December 1937 and repeated in the Spink Numismatic Circular March 1938, pp.96-97), revealed that at the time of the abdication in December 1936, some 200 dies for coins, medals, and seals that had been prepared for use, had to be scrapped. The whole process of preparation for a new coinage, medals and seals, started all over again for King George VI, though the chosen artists for the obverse portraiture remained the same as for Edward VIII, being Mr Paget and Mr Metcalfe. In his publication, Giordano has tried to trace the whereabouts of all the sets and singles of the actual proof coins, and they are listed in a table on page 254. In relation to the gold Sovereign, Giordano gives a total of six examples in existence (with which we concur), two of which are held privately (one being an integral part of a complete set), the other four Sovereigns are all in institutions and integral parts of complete sets. The locations of the four sets in institutions are listed as Royal Family, British Museum and two in the Royal Mint. The Royal Family acquired their set as of 1 June 1938 (Giordano letter A, p.256). The Royal Collection Trust currently list an entry for their Sovereign on their website with identification number RCIN 443664, but an illustration is yet to appear in the public domain. The Royal Mint took an inventory of what they had 12 September 1950 after the discovery of a group of coins in a sealed box in the late Deputy Master’s safe, and found they had three complete sets, one of which later went to the British Museum (Giordano p.253 and letter B, p.257), and the Department of Coins and Medals there have so far listed online only the silver coins, again all yet to be illustrated in the public domain. An interesting epilogue revealed in the Giordano publication, is that the Duke of Windsor later tried to obtain a set of the proof coins for himself from the Royal Mint, as evidenced from a Deputy Master memorandum of 3 December 1951 (Giordano letter C, p.258), which eventually had to be deferred for an answer from the King himself, who said “no” to his elder brother’s request. The Duke died 25 May 1972, presumably having never owned or handled one of the finished coins depicting his left facing portrait, over which such great effort was expended. An unrivalled opportunity occurs now to bid for and own a piece of history that not even the Duke of Windsor had the privilege to own or handle. This is the only King Edward VIII gold Sovereign available that is not an integral component part of a proof set. £250,000-300,000

Starting Bid

£200,000.00

Buyer's Premium

  • 23%

BRITISH COINS, MILLED GOLD SOVEREIGNS, Edward VIII

Auction ended on Thu, May 8, 2014
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Estimate £250,000 - £300,000
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