By Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
The upcoming Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money from Stack’s Bowers Galleries will see numerous highlights cross the auction block, including many exciting rarities that seldom present themselves.
A perfect example of this is a type last offered as a part of our Frontenac Sale (Bowers and Merena, November 1991). Featuring the normal design for the current (at the time) New Brunswick 20 Cents on the reverse, an incredibly rare obituary “pattern” utilizes a special, rather moving obverse commemorating the life of an engraver who passed away at a far too early age (lot 40099). Reading “G. W. WYON / OBIT / MARCH 27th 1862 / ÆTAT / 26 YEARS” in five lines, this piece poses an intriguing question: why would an issue seemingly commemorative in nature exhibit an ordinary coin type reverse?
George William Wyon was a member of the engraving family well known by collectors of British coins and medals, as well as those under British dominion. This particular Wyon was the son of James Wyon (1804-1868), who became a resident engraver in London in 1851 upon the death of his cousin William Wyon (1795-1851). Both George (1834-1862) and his brother Henry (1834-1856) served along with their father, James, as engravers, although both sadly predeceased him. When James retired, it was George who succeeded him as a resident engraver at the mint–a position that he held for just two years (1860-1862) before his untimely death at the age of just 26 (as conveyed on this piece). According to George Bowman, “…no definite data on the designer or engraver of this reverse appears to exist, but this medalet strongly suggests the name of George William Wyon as the artist.”
It is quite likely that the design for this New Brunswick 20 Cents was created by George William Wyon, rather than by cousin and fellow engraver Leonard Charles Wyon (1826-1891, son of the aforementioned William Wyon). This would then serve as the basis for the “medal” in question, as the New Brunswick design may have been the final work by George William Wyon before his death in 1862. Therefore, it is a tribute to his craft and an exceedingly rare and important one at that.
Bowman knew of just one example of this extraordinary type (the Brushfield Sale, 1945), which he subsequently presented to the Chateau de Ramezay Museum in Montreal. An additional specimen was sold in a New Netherlands Coin Co. sale in 1960, and then again three years later in a Hans M.F. Schulman auction. No other examples have been located in major auctions over the last two decades, during which time some rather important collections of Canadian coinage have crossed the auction block. Here is a desirable piece that conveys the human side of engraving and those behind the designs that we all strive to collect.
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.
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We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our fall Hong Kong Auction in September and our Official Auction of the 2022 NYINC. Additionally, we are accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be in October. 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.