Spink > Auction 22005Auction date: 4 May 2022
Lot number: 271

Price realized: 90,000 GBP   (Approx. 112,486 USD / 106,648 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


(g) George IV (1820-1830), Specimen Proof Set, 1826 (11) (Spink PS1), in unusual heart-shaped fitted case [possibly 1880s], including:, , i) Proof Five-Pounds, 1826 SEPTIMO, edge lettered downwards, 39.91g, 6h, lightly marked and wiped in otherwise brilliant obverse fields, the legends exhibiting ghosting of multiple strikes consistent with the proof finish, the reverse otherwise quite brilliant, extremely fine / much as struck; , ii) Proof Two-Pounds, 1826 SEPTIMO, 15.97g, 6h, superficial contact marks in otherwise brilliant fields, a deeped scratch above shield to reverse, otherwise the portrait with cameo definition, extremely fine; , iii) Proof Sovereign, 1826, rev. eight hearts, edge milled, 8.01g, 6h, some contact marks and hairlines in otherwise brilliant fields, some frosting to portrait, good extremely fine / practically as struck; , iv) Proof Half-Sovereign, 1826, 'extra tuft', edge milled, 4.00g, 6h, some superficial cabinet friction, otherwise a delightful and 'fresh' specimen, almost as struck with appealing cameo definition; , v) Pattern Proof Crown, 1826 SEPTIMO, edge lettered downwards, 28.28g, 7h, historic superficial scuffs on neck, and a trace of rub to hair perhaps from past wiping, otherwise richly cabinet toned overlying residually brilliant fields, a pleasing extremely fine; , vi) Proof Halfcrown, 1826, 14.06g, 6h, a gorgeous cabinet specimen with original mint bloom perfectly accentuated by playful petrol blue-red iridescence, near FDC; , vii), Proof Shilling, 1826, edge milled, 5.64g, 6h, a handsome, petrol-blue gem, choice, practically FDC; , viii), Proof Sixpence, 1826, edge milled, 2.82g, 6h, lightly wiped and retoned with underlying hairlines on residually brilliant surfaces, a bold extremely fine; , ix) Bronzed Proof Penny, 1826, rev. Rev. C, thick raised line on saltire, edge plain, 19.18g, 1h (Peck 1426), spotting by tie and on wreath, otherwise handsomely lustrous, good extremely fine, rare; , x) Bronzed Proof Halfpenny, 1826, rev. Rev. A, two incuse lines on saltire, edge plain, 9.21g, 1h (Peck 1434), carbon spot by arm and sporadically in obverse field, otherwise brilliant, good extremely fine; , xi) Bronzed Proof Farthing, 1826, edge plain, 4.88g, 12h (Peck 1440), some light handling marks in otherwise brilliant and toned fields, a striking proof of record, near mint state (11).
On 14 June 1825, by Order of Council, a new coinage of Five Pound pieces, Two Pound pieces, Sovereigns, Half-Sovereigns, Crowns, Half-Crowns, Shillings and Sixpences were authorised, shortly followed on 3 January 1826 by the Copper issues. Collectors of today are familiar with the currency strikings bearing the new 'Chantrey' portrait for the silver issues (Spink 3809 and 3812), as well as perhaps also the patterns and proofs for the Crown (Bull 2331-35) and gold specie (W&R 225; 235; 248). However besides 'Barton Metal' uniface strikings, no example of the 1825 Five Pounds is traceable today.
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Contemporary newspapers provide us the next clue. The Morning Post (27 October 1826), reports: 'A new coinage of gold, silver and copper has just been completed at the Mint. Four or Five of the principal bankers had each one set as a specimen, and no more. A set consists of one 5l. piece, one 2l. piece, a 1l. piece, and a 10s. piece (gold); a 5s. piece, a half-crown piece, a 1s and a 6d. (silver) ; a penny, a half-penny, and a farthing in copper. The 5l. piece bears on one side the arms of Great Britain engraved on drapery, with the motto DECUS ET TUTAMEN, and the date of the year : on the other side, the head of His Majesty, similar to the one on the new Sovereign. This piece is supposed to be taken from the forty Liri piece of Parma. The 2l. piece is the same as the above; the 1l. piece is also the same, but not engraved on drapery. The 5s. piece, the half-crown piece, the 1s. and 6d. bear the arms of Great Britain, the same as these already issued. The penny, half-penny and farthing, dated 1826.
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This enlightening report provides further background to a contemporary fiscal policy to withdraw the Bank of England's circulation of one and two pound bank notes by April 1829. However, opponents at the time feared a rush to gold requiring an extra 5 million gold pounds to cover the promissory short fall explaining the subsequent upsurge in mint productions of Sovereigns for 1825 and 1826.
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The Globe continues (Friday, 27 October 1826): 'We yesterday announced the completion of a new coinage. As these new coinages are frequently made at some expence to the public, we are at a loss to know why the larger gold coins (the 5l. and 2l. coins) are not put into circulation? In some cases these coins would be convenient as currency, and like crowns and half-crowns in silver, would save trouble in counting. At any rate, if the expence of making the dies be incurred, as many of them should be put into circulation as the public demand, instead of making them, as at present, artificially scarce, for the purpose of apparently giving them a value in the absurd estimation of collectors. Even these worthies might be satisfied, if there were proof impressions exclusively for them.
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On Thursday 11 January 1827, the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette ran the story of a break in at Chilton Lodge, the dwelling house of one John Pearse MP. 'During the night of Saturday the 30th of Dec. 1826, thieves forced the locks and ransacked the drawers of the principal rooms of the ground floor and stole the following articles....a silver inkstand, a French Gold repeating watch and proof Impressions of the Coin of the Present reign, George the 4th. IN GOLD - A Five Sovereign ; a Two Sovereign ; a Sovereign and a Half-Sovereign. IN SILVER - A Five Shilling Piece ; a Half-Crown ; a Shilling ; a Sixpence. IN COPPER - a Penny ; a Halfpenny ; a Farthing.' Besides serving his Hungerford parliamentary constituency for over a decade, he would also occupy the seat of Director of the Bank of England (1812-1828), and was therefore evidently one of our original four of five recipients of the October 1826 strikings.
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For collectors however the wait would be rather longer to legitimately obtain examples. The dispersals of Mr Ralph Willett (Sotheby's, 15 March 1827) and Royal Mint Engraver John Milton (Sotheby's, 23 April 1827) did not offer the new proofs, despite both gentleman clearly having the means and the access to them. In fact it is not until the sale of the appropriately named Mr Rich (Sotheby's, 7 July 1828, lot 189), that a similarly designed 1825 Proof Halfcrown appears at public auction, with examples of the specimen copper specie following with the sale of the late Joseph Miller of Barnard's Inn, Holborn (Sotheby's, 25 February 1829, lot 180).
, , The death of William Simonds Higgs afforded the market the earliest auction record this cataloguer can trace for the offering of a full set (Sotheby, 29 April 1830, lot 313), wherein the description simply states: 'His present Majesty's Proof Coins, from the Five Sovereign Piece to the Farthing', by. W. Wyon, in a morocco case' - £4.13.6 [Higgs]. This would suggest the lot was bought in by the estate, having extraordinarily failed to reach even its face value. The following year the result would not be replicated with the sale of esteemed collection of Mr Barclay's cabinet in Sotheby's rooms (21-23 March 1831). His 1826 Proof set would be split up into a group lot of the silver pieces (lot 321 - £1.14.0) and individual and paired lots for the gold (£5 - lot 364 - £8.10.6; £2 - lot 365 - £4.0.0; £1 and Half-Sovereign - lot 366 - £2.2.0). Most interestingly of all is the description for the subsequent lot 367 which alludes directly to the Globe's earlier commentary: 'George IV. UNIQUE PATTERNS with plain edges. IN FINE GOLD, of the beautiful FIVE-SOVEREIGN and TWO SOVEREIGN PIECES, 1826, by William Wyon; weight 1oz. 8 dwt. 12grs and 13 dwt. 18gr. - Struck by order of the Right Honourable T. Wallace for this collection. - £21.18.0 (W&R 214)
Estimate: £80,000.00 - £100,000.00