This autumn, Spink has put together a very impressive array of items for the sale of Ancient, Islamic, British and Foreign Coins and Commemorative Medals taking place between September 22 and 23, 2015 in London. The sale includes the Andy Scot Collection of Copper and Bronze Pennies, a selection of Constantius and Constantine from the London Mint (from the Lee Toone Collection), and a large collection of excellent Abbasid Coins.
However, amongst this fine assortment one particular item stands out. Lot 400 is a recently discovered gold Half-Florin or ‘Helm’ of Edward III (1327-77); an excessively rare coin of national importance. Many will recollect that Spink handled the last specimen to be unearthed in March 2013, which sold for £90,000 (incl. buyer’s premium). These two examples of this excessively rare denomination comprise 100% of the known specimens that are available to the collectibles market. There are just three others known to exist: two in the British Museum and one in the Hunterian in Glasgow.
In his English Coins 1180-1551 (2009), Lord Stewartby comments on Edward III’s Florin gold as being “among the most attractive of any in the whole of English coinage.” This experimental issue was conceived and executed during the ‘high summer’ of gothic art. The coinage was a worthy medium for conveying this artistic vibrancy and the skills innately required in its production. Using continental gold issues for inspiration and utilising aspects of Edward’s III’s own great seal, the designs are imbued with Edward’s desire to stake his claim to the French throne. Here we see the first instance whereby the French royal title is assumed on the obverse of a British coin. Surrounding the helm and dappling the fields are fleur-de-lis, an allusion to Edward’s French lineage through his mother, Isabella of France. It was here at the outset of the Hundred Years War in the context of disputed lines of succession and with King Edward’s claim to the French crown that the rest of British late medieval history was to be shaped. A highly important piece for which production lasted just six months between January and July 1344 and for which a parallel has not since been seen in the British coinage.
Of course, one has to mention in the same breath the Double-Florin also known as the Double-Leopard, issued contemporaneously with the Helm, which Spink handled in June 2006. It realised £480,000 (incl. buyer’s premium) and set a new world record for the highest price ever reached for a British Coin. To complete Spink’s hat-trick of Double-Florin, Florin and Half-Florin we have the Florin that Spink sold in 2003 for £5,680 (including buyer’s premium). Therefore Spink is the only auction house to have handled all three denominations of Edward III’ s iconic ‘Leopard’ coinage.
The sale also contains a stunning Collection of Abbasid Coins. The Abbasid Caliphate was in existence from the mid eighth century until it was finally overcome by the Mongol invasion of 1258. At its height it covered much of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and all of present-day Iran and Iraq. As it extended ever eastwards it became difficult to control and real power was vested in various lesser dynasties, such as the Samanids and Buyids. However these always paid tribute to the nominal Abbasid Caliph by naming him on their coins.
Although this collection contains many coins of al-Rashid, one of the most famous Caliphs, one of the most exciting was actually issued by his son al-Ma’mun (810-33). During his reign the coinage was reformed and an extra line of legend taken from the Koran appeared around the edge of each coin. It also became standard to put both the mint and the date on each coin, as before this time only the date appeared on coins issued in the capital. Until recently it was thought that the earliest new-style coins bearing the mint name Madinat al-Salam were dated AH212, then a single coin was recorded bearing the date AH210. Lot 147 contains only the second known coin of this type, and we are sure it will be hotly contested among collectors as the previous example is housed in a museum and is unlikely to be sold.
Over the years many caliphs struck special coins designed to be given at ceremonies or to VIP visitors to court. They were usually carefully struck on very wide flans. This collection contains two such donative Dinars, from the time of caliph al-Muqtadir (908-32) (Lots 221 & 230). As these were often prized gifts the recipients tended to have the coins mounted so they could be worn close to their hearts, and this was the fate of these two Dinars. Unfortunately, collectors today value coins that have not been tampered with in any way, so these Dinars may sell for only a couple of thousand pounds, whereas–had they been perfect–they could have achieved a price of up to £7,000.
Another rarity is lot 251, which has the distinction of being one of the last coins struck by the Abbasids before their power became nominal only. It names the caliph, al-Mustakfi (944-46), as the “true iman,” a sure sign that his legitimacy was under attack, as for previous caliphs their name had been enough.
For further details of this remarkable auction please contact Richard Bishop at +44 (0)20 7563 4053, or email at [email protected].
Spink is the world’s leading auctioneer of stamps, coins, banknotes, medals, bonds & shares, autographs, books and wine. Since its foundation in 1666, the Spink name has become synonymous with tradition, experience and integrity. Holder of royal warrants and numerous records for prices achieved at auction, Spink offers an unparalleled range of services to collectors worldwide. Headquartered in London, with offices in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland, Spink holds over 70 auctions a year. Catalogues can be accessed through the Spink website (www.spink.com) or via the Spink App for iPhone and iPad.