By Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
In the late 15th century, the vast silver deposits in the Austrian realm of Tirol contributed to the need for a broader, thicker silver coin than had been produced in the past. This gave rise to the crown-sized issues that would become ubiquitous in the centuries to follow.
As minting techniques progressed during the early modern period, scenery-rich designs could be executed, especially given this broad canvas. One of the driving factors—if not the driving factor—in western European life at this time was the Christian Bible and the passages contained therein. Though few were educated enough to read such passages, many were familiar with these stories, as well as the tales surrounding the early church. They would instantly recognize Biblical depictions in various forms of art, including on coinage, with crown-sized coins and medals providing the perfect medium.
The Stack’s Bowers January 2021 World and Ancient coin auction—an officially sanctioned auction of the NYINC—will feature an incredibly artistic, religious-themed issue: a 1516 gold Real from the German city of Cologne.
This exceptional specimen features a rather seasonally appropriate design, as the “three wise men” or the Biblical magi take center stage. Their names—Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar—are conveyed in the outer legend, while the gifts presented to the infant Jesus are respectively held in their hands: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The reverse design, however, may be somewhat more obscure, as it recounts the tale of the martyrdom of St. Ursula along with 11,000 virgins. Alleged to have occurred during the late fourth century, Ursula was leading an overwhelming number of virgins with her on a pilgrimage to Rome when they were ambushed by the Huns near Cologne. The virgins were beheaded, and Ursula herself was fatally struck by an arrow. Given the local nature of this story, it served as the perfect tale to feature, and even drew an allusion to other golden coinage of its era, such as the nobles from England.
What adds to the present example’s appeal (estimated at $90,000 to $120,000 USD) is that it is seemingly unique and completely unrivaled. While the type is known in silver (as a taler), the use of gold in such a large piece indicates its extremely special status. Clearly, it is an iconic piece destined for the most advanced gold cabinet or religious-themed collection.
To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions through January 15, 2021, for our April 2021 Hong Kong auction. Our next CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction will cross the block in February 2021. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.