All That Glitters is Gold
As the Great British summer and all the Olympic celebrations draw to a close Baldwin’s will be busily preparing to sell part two of the landmark Bentley Collection, the ultimate collection of British gold Sovereigns. Due to be held on the 27th September in London the second part of the collection will comprise approximately 540 Sovereigns (the largest part) including the most complete date runs of all the colonial mints. Part two of this staggering collection contains some of the rarest of all the colonial mint sovereigns including the key coin in the collection, the fabled 1920 Sydney mint sovereign.
The collector began the collection with the prime focus of attaining a complete date run of the London mint series but, quickly began to develop an interest in the colonial mint issues. Sovereigns that carry a small letter either under the bust or shield, or on the ground-line under St. George are colonial issues and the type of letter denotes which mint the coin derives from. His interest awakened, the collector proceeded on a quest to find and purchase as many coins as he could from the Sydney, Melbourne and Perth mints in Australia; the Ottowa mint in Canada; Bombay in India and the Pretoria mint in South Africa. In keeping with the rest of this collection only the finest examples of the coins were obtained by a collector with a keen eye for quality.
The 1920 sovereign is one of the rarest Australian coins ever to be auctioned and is one of only four known to exist. Most specimens are housed in institutions and so this auction offers a very rare opportunity to own one of the worlds’ most sought after coins. Estimated to sell for between £300,000 and £400,000 this piece was sold to the vendor at public auction in 2006 for the then record of AUD$582,500. Although Mint record shows 360,000 Sovereigns were struck in the year 1920 it is a matter of conjecture as to how many were actually dated 1920 and, therefore, why so few remain. Some believe that many must have been melted down; others think that 1919 dated coins are included in this calendar mintage figure. Either way it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that collectors began to discover how rare the coin was. Strong pre-sale interest from the Australian market could likely see this piece go back to the homeland.
Of the 540 lots in this sale, 250 were minted in Australia and include a complete date run of 115 Sydney mint coins, every year that they were active (1855-1926) is covered. The most interesting of all the lots is the Adelaide token. The one included in this collection is the 1852 type 2 engraved by Joshua Payne. In the 1840’s there was very little cash in Australia and the population of 50,000 people were forced to trade in gold dust. Pressure was mounting to establish a mint and begin production of coinage. His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor was so convinced of the need for currency that he signed an Act allowing the coins to be minted without following the legal regulations. These intriguing coin-tokens were never officially given the Royal seal of approval to circulate as a coin and were therefore only circulated for a short time as a gold token. While these were similar to Sovereigns in all but name they did not depict the St. George and the Dragon, nor the queen’s head. As soon as the powers in London became aware of what had happened 40,000 British currency sovereigns were dispatched and quickly put in to circulation, bringing an end to the Assay office coining their own tokens which ceased on 17th February 1853. It is thought that this example will achieve in the region of £20,000 – 25,000.
Other highlights from the Sydney mint selection include an 1855 Victoria Gold Sovereign, minted in the initial year of production this is one of the hardest specimens to find in a high grade of preservation; and an 1887 Victoria Proof Gold Sovereign depicting the Jubilee type bust of the Queen which is the rarest Jubilee style coin from the Sydney mint.
The Melbourne and Perth mints are also well covered with 100 pieces from Melbourne and 34 from Perth. Of which, the 1887 Victoria Melbourne mint gold sovereign, the rarest Victorian shield reverse type coin as it was the final issue before the Jubilee issue of 1887. The Australian Mints continued with the shield reverse long after the London Royal Mint ceased, as they were more readily accepted in trade with Asia over the St. George reverse piece. The 1926 George V Perth mint gold sovereign is the rarest currency from the mint and is represented in the collection by a superb quality piece. The coin
depicts the King’s portrait on the obverse and carries the iconic St. George and the dragon reverse. It is remarked by the cataloguer that the coin seems to have become rarer over time; this therefore presents a rare opportunity to purchase what may well become one of the rarest of the sovereign series.
The Canadian mint in Ottawa did not produce coins every year due to lack of demand. As such, this collection contains coins from every year that the mint was active. Amongst the highlights in this section is the 1916 C George V, Ottawa Mint, Imperial type. This coin is the rarest Canadian currency sovereign in commerce today. Representing the pinnacle of the series it presents the biggest challenge for any collector to obtain. Another opportunity to purchase a rare and interesting coin from the Ottawa mint comes in the form of the 1908 C Edward VII Specimen Proof Gold Sovereign. The coin comes
from the first batch of sovereigns issued by the mint and is one of only 646 struck. This ultra low mintage makes the coin incredibly scarce and highly desirable. The initial coins issued by the mint were all struck to a satin finish and this example has been fantastically preserved. Finally the 1911 C George V specimen strike Gold Sovereign, Imperial type included here is the finest known specimen in private hands. Struck to a specimen finish this highly prized and very rare coin was undoubtedly produced as a presentation piece for the Coronation year of George V, making it a rather special coin and a must have for the serious collector.
On to India and South Africa and of the five lots from the Bombay Mint the 1918 I George V, specimen Gold Sovereign of the Imperial type is without doubt the highlight. One of the most interesting and unusual pieces in the collection the coin itself cannot be found in any of the standard reference works on the subject. Struck to a specimen finish it is highly likely that the was produced as a presentation piece for the establishment of the Imperial Bombay Mint. From the South African selection two sovereigns from the initial mintage in 1874 depict President Burgers. The first of the coins from the Republic of South Africa, the 1874 Proof Gold Een Pond is the rarer of the two and referred to as the coarse beard variety. This particular coin is a superb example of the coin which was struck at the Heaton mint and displays the Arms of the Republic on the reverse. The second of the two, also an 1874 Proof Gold Een Pond is the more frequently encountered fine beard variety. Nevertheless it is still a major rarity and not many have survived in the pristine condition that we find this one in.
Also present in the collection is the 1898 Republic of South Africa Gold Een Pond, depicturing the bust of President Kruger. This particular example is one of only 130 coins that were counter-stamped with the date ‘99’under the bust. Very few of these coins survived, making this extremely fine coin a true rarity. The final highlight from the South Africa section comes in the form of the George V 1923 SA, Gold Sovereign, Imperial type from the Pretoria mint. The 1923 is the rarest example of the initial striking from the Pretoria mint. As sovereigns were only struck on demand, from gold brought in to the mint, only 406 of these coins were ever struck for currency. This sought-after piece is, of course, one of the best extant. The first part of the Bentley Collection sold in May 2012 for £899,346 (including Buyer’s Premium.) The remaining two parts will be sold on 27th September 2012 in conjunction with Coinex, the UK’s largest numismatic convention and May 2013. Both are estimated to exceed the total for part one.
Bidders are strongly encouraged to attend these landmark auctions where possible, although the sale will be broadcast over the internet using the services of www.the-saleroom.com. Catalogues will be available online at www.baldwin.co.uk and can also be purchased through our website. A hard-bound edition of all three catalogues will be available soon after the final event in May 2013.