1839 Rupee Breaks Record Becoming the First Silver British Indian Coin to Sell for a Six Figure Sum

A packed auction room and sixty one online bidders competed to buy a piece of numismatic history last Friday, in the second of three auctions that see the David Fore Collection of coins of British India going under the hammer. The auction totalled a fantastic £1,317,600 (inclusive of Buyer’s Premium) and takes the total of the 1092 lots sold far to £2,181,365, with a further 1200 lots to be sold in the third and final part of the collection.

The jewel in the crown of the David Fore collection was lot 796, which sold through this auction.  The exquisite 1839 silver pattern Rupee was the first Indian Rupee with a ForeCollection 1839 Rupee Breaks Record Becoming the First Silver British Indian Coin to Sell for a Six Figure Sumportrait made by an Indian engraver and was crafted at the Bombay Mint.  Very little is known about the coin, with Pridmore only able to add that it was submitted to the Supreme Government in 1839, but rejected. The only additional information that can be derived from his writings on the History of the East India Company is that the engraver at the Bombay mint in 1838 was Jewram Shamji.  An early 20th  century catalogue of the coins in the Calcutta mint states that two of these patterns reside there, but it is unknown if they are still in-situ at the museum. This wonderful piece was the first silver British Indian coin to sell for a six figure sum and it made £132,000 against an estimate of £60,000.

Baldwin’s British Indian coin consultant and principal cataloguer of the David Fore Collection, Randy Weir, commented after the auction: “Steady growth in the Indian economy has produced a buoyant market of new collectors willing to pay top prices for rare and quality items and Baldwin’s are uniquely positioned to offer them, having operated at the forefront of this emerging market for the last twenty years. I put estimates on these coins that reflect the rarity of the pieces with items being one of fewer than ten known examples and, knowing the strength of the market, I felt justified in putting estimates on coins significantly higher than they have sold for in the past. The 1839 Rupee is one of those coins that just speaks to the collector. We had three or four buyers we knew would be prepared to pay a six figure sum for this coin.

Our top estimate of £1,000,000 for this sale was still exceeded by some £300,000, confirming the strength in the market that I felt would be there. Coins sold to collectors around the world, and I am convinced that the items these collectors bought from this collection will seem like bargains in the years to come as the Indian market really starts to mature.”

The internet proved to be an invaluable tool providing bidders from all over the world with a platform to logon and bid live using the service provided by www.the-saleoom.com. 37% of the total lots were purchased online, contributing 23% of the total hammer price. Lot 795, an 1835C gold proof set of the currency coins (the Rupee, ½ Rupee and ¼ Rupee) sold online to a European buyer for a staggering £80,000.

The third part of this fabulous collection will go under the hammer on the 25th September as part of Baldwin’s three days of official Coinex auctions. It will be closely followed by the auction of the first of two parts of The Arielle Collection of British Colonial Coins on the 26th September. More details of all Baldwin’s forthcoming auctions can be found online at www.baldwin.co.uk

HIGHLIGHTS

748 †   Copper Pattern ½-Anna, 1904, on the same size planchets as the 1862-1877 circulating ½-Anna coinage, 31mm (SW 7.153).  In NGC holder, graded PF63BN.

Estimate:  £20,000-30,000

ex G Hearn collection
ex F Steinberg
ex Kaslove collection, sold to David Fore in private trade for US$30,000

There are only three of these coins known to exist, of which only two are available to private collectors (this and the example in the Jacobs collection), the third is in the Calcutta Museum. Clearly the mintmaster was thinking “outside of the box” when he decided to strike a few of these. Yes, the Rupee die was available as the obverse, but a fresh reverse die was made to strike this 31mm coin I have seen one of the other coins in an NGC holder, graded PF63, and there is no doubt that the Fore piece here is more attractive. It should really be graded PF65.

776 †   Brass Pattern 2-Annas, 1917, die axis  (SW 8.193, this coin illustrated, where it is listed as copper-nickel; Pr 1078, where it is listed as nickel).  In NGC holder, graded PF62.

Estimate: £20,000-30,000

It is a shame that something so rare and important was improperly stored for some time, but that is what we are left with today.  An important coin nonetheless.

795 †   Gold Proof Set of the Currency Coins, Rupee, ½-Rupee and ¼-Rupee, 1835C (SW 1.44, 1.56, 1.67). First in NGC holder, graded PF61, the other two in NGC holders, graded PF63. (3)

Estimate: £50,000-80,000

It is believed that this set was known about as far back as the 19th century, although probably later in the century due to the die rust on the Rupee. Records indicate that Spink sold one of these sets in the early 1980s, but we are unsure if this is the same set.

796 †   Silver Pattern Rupee, 1839, prepared by an Indian engraver (possibly Jewran Shamji) at the Bombay mint, obv VICTORIA QUEEN, young head left, rev value within wreath, edge grained (SW 2.8; Pr 181; KM Pn14). Gem Proof, moderately toned.

Estimate: £60,000-80,000

ex Nobleman collection, March 1922, lot 581 (part)
ex Brand collection, 14 June 1985, lot 212
ex Sir John Wheeler collection, Baldwin’s Auction 22, 2 May 2000, lot 197

This is probably the most important coin in the Fore collection. Due to crossed wires between Dr Fore and myself we had to move heaven and earth to buy this from the Wheeler collection in 2000 for just under £30,000. Wheeler purchased it from Andre de Clermont who had bought it at the Brand auction for less than US$3,000.

There is a great deal still unknown about this coin. All Pridmore has to say is “Pattern prepared by a native at the Bombay Mint. Submitted to the Supreme Government in Feb., 1839 but rejected”, He does not add much in his writings on the History of the East India Company, except to say that the Bombay engraver of this coin is not named but that in 1838 the die cutter and engraver at the mint was one Jewram Shamji. An early 20th century catalogue of the coins in the Calcutta mint states that two of these reside there, but are they still there today? This piece is a joy to behold. The next owner will certainly go down into history as someone who owned one of the most important coins of British India.

844 †  Pattern Set 1949, Silver Rupee, ½-Rupee, ¼-Rupee, 2-Annas (3), Anna and Pice, by Patrick Brindley, for the new proposed coinage for the New Republic: Rupee, rev man winnowing wheat; ½-Rupee, rev type II, worker pouring metal in a foundry, the building behind; ¼-Rupee, rev miner holding pick inside a mine; 2-Annas, in nickel, rev type I, side view of peacock; 2-Annas, in brass, rev type I, side view of peacock, without the obverse stars at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock; 2-Annas, rev type II, facing peacock in full plumage; Anna, rev water buffalo; Pice, rev two sheafs of wheat; all obv GOVERNMENT OF INDIA around the lion capital of Asoka. All mint state Proofs that would probably grade at around “64” in American standards, the first two of the 2-Annas has a few handling marks.  (8)

Estimate: £30,000-40,000

A similar set (except with two different ½-Rupees, this has only one, but only one peacock standing 2-Annas) sold in Baldwin’s Auction 71, September 2011, lot 1609, for £52,000. It is generally considered that four sets were struck and a few of the 2-Annas have come to market since. These designs are far superior to that which was eventually used in India but this is one of the great joys of patterns – the what could have been of these coins.

846 †   Silver Original Pattern 10-Rupees, 1854, off-metal strike in silver, die axis  (SW 3.20; Pr 28). In NGC holder, graded PF64, dark grey tone.

Estimate: £20,000-30,000

Half of the coins of this set are in the Fore collection. It would be wonderful to see a full set put back together again.

849 †   Silver Original Pattern Dollar, 1941, a touch of die rust on the King’s neck which suggests a restrike, but under the attractive blue tone it has the surfaces of an original proof, they are so rare that the originals and restrikes have been priced the same in the SW book (SW 9.1, this coin illustrated; Pr 1088A). In NGC holder, graded PF66 and described as a c.1950 RESTRIKE PATTERN.

Estimate: £30,000-40,000

This is the pattern photographed in the Stevens & Weir book and is exciting just to look at. These were produced because of the shortage of silver due to the war and with thoughts of making commerce easier by producing a higher denomination coin. Also it was felt that they could get away with only putting in 2-Rupees worth of silver into a 2½-Rupee coin. Students of this period of economic history will know the story behind the silver that was sent from India to England for safekeeping. Needless to say, this coin did not get much further than a few patterns being made. It was around this time that the mint started to reduce the silver in their coins and maybe they thought this would be too much for the public to take.

David Fore and I spent 20 years chasing one of these, always being the underbidder. We both smiled for a week after finally buying this superb coin.

Posted in: Auctions, English Coins

About the Author:

Baldwin’s is a long-established company, with a history going back to the 1872. A.H. Baldwin and Sons Ltd offer coins for collectors, including Ancient, Mediaeval, British and Foreign Coins, Commemorative Medals, Tokens and Numismatic Books. Our stock is the largest in the UK. Baldwins also organise Auctions. We conduct regular auctions of all numismatic material; coins from all areas and historical periods but also Banknotes, Military Medals and Books. The Auctions are run worldwide : London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong.

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