Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #315
A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds……
On January 27th and 28th, the British firm of Spink & Son, Ltd. will conduct an auction at their New York office, 145 West 57 St., 18th floor. This event features a very wide assortment of coins and other numismatic items, plus consignments of autographs and historical documents. Modestly priced, interesting coins in this auction are present topics.
Many items in this auction are not very expensive, in the context of live coin auctions. Beginners and experienced collectors with limited budgets may choose from newsworthy offerings of very scarce, historically significant and/or unusually interesting items.
The former Spink-Smythe and Spink-Shreves entities conducted events at this same location. Smythe, which specialized in paper money and other collectible paper items, and Shreves, a company that dealt in rare stamps, were assimilated into the London based Spink firm, which also has offices in Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore.
This sale in New York has such a wide assortment that it is not easy to preview. The focus is on items that a large number of auction participants or new bidders can afford, most of which range in value from $100 to $1000. Additionally, coin and patterns discussed herein tend to be distinctive in some way, many of which are curious conversation pieces.
Also, this auction is characterized by an extensive collection of medals and other items relating to the violent conflict in Ireland from 1916 to 1921. There will be an extensive offering of medals awarded to people who fought on both sides of the conflict. Generally, this auction features a wide assortment of medals from various time periods and different societies around the world. Even so, the discussion here is about coins, not medals.
A moderately-priced billon (mostly silver) price from the fifth crusade has considerable historical significance. According to the Wikipedia article, “the fifth crusade (1213–1221) was an attempt by Catholic Europeans to reacquire Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land by first conquering the powerful Ayyubid State in Egypt.” Around 1174, Saladin began the Ayyubid Dynasty. My impression is that invading Catholic European forces strategized that a military stronghold on the northern part of the Nile river would enable the crusaders to secure Jerusalem and the surrounding area, the so called “Holy Land.”
John of Brienne, who had been crowned King of Jerusalem in 1210, was a central figure in the fifth crusade. The John of Brienne, Damietta Deniers may have been struck in Egypt in 1219 or, more likely, in 1220. The one in this auction net grades VG-08 or so, with the detail-level of a higher grade. Though very imperfectly struck, it has honest wear and natural toning. This coin is appealing overall.
Over the last ten years, such Damietta Deniers have tended to sell for amounts ranging from $78 to $529. This piece is certainly worth a price in the middle.
My guess is that condition and eye appeal are the primary determinants of differences in price among Damietta Deniers. As for whether some die pairings are worth substantial premiums, interested collectors should consult experts who have studied the series. Other coins of the crusades in this auction are not as impressive as this one, though are historically significant and inexpensive.
Rare & Exciting Danish Silver Penny
In theory, Canute V Magnussen, also known as Knud or Cnut, was King of Denmark from 1146 to 1157. In reality, though, he was involved in continual conflicts and frequently made deals with other royals. He never really had clear title as king of all the Danish societies of the time period. His brief life of around twenty-eight years was characterized by constant conflict and frequent changes in the balance of power in the region.
Sven, a rival for the Danish throne, is also known as Sweyn or Svend. It was arranged for Sven to be Canute’s co-ruler in 1152 in a compromise plan that was never fully implemented. Sven may have assassinated Canute in 1157, though it is more likely that Canute was killed by one of Sven’s followers at the ‘Bloodfast at Roskilde.’ A party that was originally planned to celebrate a peaceful unification of Denmark turned into a bloodbath.
At the time of his death at the party, Canute was deputy king to Valdemar I who had been the most powerful leader in Denmark for three years. Though perhaps King of Denmark by law, Canute was often in the shadow of Sven or Valdemar I.
Official coins of Canute’s fragile regime were probably not all that common during his lifetime and certainly are rare now. The Canute V “penning” in this auction, which the cataloguer says weighs 0.63 grams, has substantial design detail. Unfortunately, it was struck on a malformed flan and developed serious edge problems later. Even so, there are no serious contact marks or scratches on the obverse or reverse. The toning is natural and much of the original detail is evident. There is probably no question as to its identity. Undoubtedly, most collections of medieval Danish coins are missing a penny of Canute V, a tragic character whose short life would certainly be a fun topic for an action-adventure movie.
While fighting in numerous battles, struggling to retain power as a king or co-ruler, and frequently under siege, it is believed that Canute V did find time to date some of the most dynamic noblewomen in northern Europe before marrying Princess Helena of Sweden circa 1156. Though Helena had no children, Canute fathered at least seven.
Prince Valdemar, son of Canute V, was perhaps named after Canute’s rival and colleague, Valdemar I, who became the undisputed king of Denmark after Canute’s death and the slaying of Sven a short time later. Canute’s son, Valdemar, is also known as Waldemar Knudsen. He became Bishop of Schleswig and Prince-Archbishop of Bremen, a very important position in medieval times.
At least three of Canute’s daughters had noteworthy marriages in European history. Jutta, also known as Brigitte, married Bernard, Count of Anhalt, who was later Duke of Saxony.
Hildegard, daughter of Canute V, married Jaromar I, Prince of Rugia (Rügen). Jaromar I was in power for decades and brought Christianity to a fairly large society that had previously adhered to a pagan religion.
Jaromar I was not Danish, nor was he an enthusiastic Christian before forming an alliance with Denmark. He was a member of a Slavic tribe and his marriage to Hildegard played an important role in expanding Christianity and Danish influence. After marrying Hildegard and allying himself with Denmark, Jaromar I changed the balance of power in the region.
Prince Jaromar I also was briefly regent to the young Duke of Pomerania, then a large, industrious and important society. The area that previously was Pomerania is now divided between Germany and Poland. It seems that Jaromar I was the leading proponent of Danish interests in a key region in Europe, which was home to several major ports, including Gdansk.
Admittedly, I am not sure of all these historical points and my guess is that some historians have alternate interpretations. There is much that is unknown now about events in Medieval Europe. The conflicts and game of thrones in which Canute V starred, however, are well documented.
French Coins and Patterns
There are an appealing group of French pieces in this auction. A 20 sols issue at the ‘Siege of Lille’ in 1708 is noteworthy. The defeat of the French at Lille was a major turning point in the War of Spanish Succession. It is amazing that France fared as well as she did in a war against the so-called “Grand Alliance” of Great Britain, Hapsburg Austria and the Dutch Republic. In any event, this apparently copper coin is NGC graded as AU-55 and is particularly attractive for the grade.
Though now part of France, the region of Provence had a long history of autonomy or of being semi-independent. Raymond V, also known as Raimond, was Marquis of Provence, Count of Toulouse and Duke of Narbonne from 1148 to 1194. He was in charge of much of Provence. Deniers, small silver coins, of the era were struck under his reign, though some were struck under the rule of his son, Raymond VI.
Though non-gradable by U.S. standards, the denier of Provence in this auction is sharp with pleasing natural toning. The russet-gray-brown fields contrast well with tan-gray design elements. It is an appealing and curious coin from a somewhat forgotten government. It could sell for less than $125.
An undated gold coin from the reign of King Charles VII caught my attention, Friedberg reference #291. This Ecu d’or (‘gold crown’), which the cataloguer indicates was struck in 1423, is decent and attractive, with the details of an extremely fine to AU grade.
The sale catalogue lists the weight of this gold crown at “3.79” grams. If so, it would be lighter than a U.S. quarter eagle ($2.5 gold coin).
One Decime and One Centime patterns from 1840 are impressive and not very costly. Each has a laureate head left design on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse. The One Decime, known to specialists as Mazard #1114, is conservatively graded MS-62 by NGC and has a sticker of approval from “WINGS.”
The bronze One Centime French pattern in this auction is NGC graded MS-64. Though dark, this coin scores very highly in both the originality and technical categories. I believe that the Goldbergs auctioned this same piece in September 2015 for $123.
An 1848 pattern 10 Centimes piece is intriguing, in “white metal.” Though the NGC certification of MS-63 is fair enough, a SP-62 certification may have been more suitable. Either way, it will cost only a small fraction of the value of a remotely similar or analogous U.S. pattern from the middle of the 19th century
An 1848 pattern 10 Centimes piece in copper “by Rogat” is interesting. There is a little too much unwanted green material for the stated 62 grade, though 60 would be fair and, again, French patterns cost just fractions of the values of U.S. patterns.
A NGC graded MS-62 piece of the same variety was in the Goldbergs sale of September 2015. It could possibly be the same exact pattern. The price realized then was $141.
The coolest patterns in the auction are inexpensive. Three pieces from 1929 are all struck in an entertaining alloy, referred to as “Aluminum-Bronze” in the catalogue. All three are NGC graded as MS-64. The second could certainly be fairly referred to as grading ‘MS-64+,’ possibly higher.
The first 1929 pattern, “by Morlon,” a 10 Francs piece, features a head of liberty on the obverse. The reverse is a little similar to that of a U.S. Mercury dime. The second, which is “by Popineau,” also 10 Francs, has a distinctively capped head on the obverse and two branches with leaves on the reverse that sort of form a shape like the letter ‘V.’
The 20 Francs 1929 pattern “by Turin” seems to be of the same or almost the same design as the regular issue 68% silver 20 Francs coins that were minted from 1929 to 1939. It is cool to see a silver denomination in ‘aluminum-bronze.’ Although this piece has more contact marks than the just mentioned 10 Francs patterns, it is attractive and is a distinctive piece for collectors to show their friends.
An excellent regular issue French coin in this sale is a 50 Francs 1855 gold piece of Napoleon III. The ‘A’ mintmark refers to the Paris Mint. According to data in Krause Publications, it has almost as much gold as a U.S. eagle ($10 coin) of the same time period. Rich luster and frosty design elements cause this specific coin to stand out. It is NGC graded MS-64 and has a WINGS sticker of approval. A solid MS-64 grade U.S. ‘No Motto’ eagle would have probably retail for more than a dozen times as much as the retail value of this French coin, which certainly grades at least in the middle of the MS-64 range.
Hong Kong Tenth of One Cent
A neat, small coin in this sale that is appealing in subtle ways is a Hong Kong copper piece with a hole in the center. It is dated 1866 and has a denomination of one “MIL”! Ten mils equal one cent, an equation which was also true in the early United States though the corresponding American denomination is spelled a little differently, ‘mill’ or ‘mille.’ In the early 1800s in the U.S, it was not rare for prices of goods or tax levies to be listed in mills.
On this Hong Kong coin, there are Chinese characters on the obverse and English words on the reverse. This is a one-year subtype of a two year type. The ‘MIL’ of 1865 is subtly different in design than that of 1866.
The NGC certification of ‘MS-62BN’ is beside the point that this coin scores very high in the category of originality. This nearly 150 year old 1866 MIL has probably never been chemically modified or cleaned in any way! The natural deep brown color and rich luster are appealing.
While the run of Canadian coins in this auction is not extensive, this run contains coins that are popular with collectors and none that are especially expensive. An 1858 cent that is NGC certified as ‘MS-63RB’ is pleasing.
The 1891 ‘small date’ cent varieties are much scarcer than 1891 ‘large date’ cents! There are two in this auction. An 1891 ‘small date’ with ‘small leaves’ is NGC certified ‘MS-64RB’ and will command attention. A small date 1891 with “large leaves” is not nearly as nice, though is even scarcer than the ‘small date, small leaves’ variety. It is graded as MS-61 by NGC. Even collectors of Canadian cents ‘by date’ often consider the ‘small date’ varieties to have the status of distinct dates.
A ‘large date’ 1891 with ‘large leaves’ is less consequential, though may be sufficient for many collectors. The NGC graded ‘MS-62RB’ coin of this variety in this auction should cost much less than the just mentioned 1891 ‘small date’ cents.
Canadian silver dollars dating from 1936 to 1967 are enormously popular with coin buyers. Representatives of better dates may cost thousands of dollars. Some of the NGC graded MS-62 or MS-63 pieces in this auction are dramatically less costly than certified MS-64 to MS-66 coins of the same respective issues.
An NGC graded MS-62 1945 is strictly uncirculated, has nice natural toning, and is attractive overall. The contact marks are not upsetting. A certified MS-64 1945 would probably cost more than twice as much as the price this coin will realize.
A 1948 dollar that is NGC graded MS-63 caught my attention. In August 2014, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a 1948 with the same certification for $1880. The one in this sale may very well be a more attractive coin and may sell for less than one-third the price of a certified “MS-65” 1948 silver dollar.
Also in this auction, a PCGS graded MS-65 1947 Canadian quarter is flashy and a true gem. These are believed to be condition rarities, though there is not much information available regarding the number of gem Canadian quarters extant. Collectors of uncirculated Canadian coins tend not to be quite as focused on gem quality as many collectors of 20th century U.S. coins.
In this sale, there are more than a few neat British coins that cost from $200 to $800 each. A Halfgroat (twopence) silver coin of King James I is very much original. It was minted in 1603 or 1604. The pleasing natural toning developed over centuries. It is NGC graded AU-58, choice for the grade, and exceptional for such a coin in any grade.
A 1697 Sixpence of William III is lustrous and lively. The PCGS grade of MS-63 is fair.
Despite some notable imperfections, a 1708 Shilling of Queen Anne is collectible and pleasant. Indeed, the light toning is attractive. At least, it has the details of an extremely fine grade coin and could receive a numerical grade from PCGS or NGC, if submitted.
A 1796 Guinea of George III is NGC graded AU-50, with a WINGS sticker. Though moderately to heavily cleaned decades or centuries ago, it has naturally retoned. It is a neat gold coin that can be had at a modest price in the context of rare gold coins.
Most of the Bank of England pieces in this sale are pleasing, especially the 1½ shilling 1811, which is excellent. Though common, an 1887 Gothic Florin (two shilling) is NGC graded MS-65 and has pleasantly toned.
In this sale, there are many Queen Victoria copper pennies from the middle of the 19th century. Some of these are much better than average for surviving EF to AU grade coins of this series.
A 1927 six silver coin set of special strikings is significant, a choice set. These are not Proofs in accordance with criteria used in the U.S., though are not business strikes either. They are cool. In the context of the history of British coinage, such a 1927 set is important, partly because new subtypes of coins were then introduced.
Overall, this sale contains a large number of not very costly coins that are truly interesting or otherwise very distinctive. Medals and paper items caught my attention as well. A personal check signed by Robert Louis Stevenson and a long letter to Lady Hamilton from Admiral Lord Nelson are being offered.
©2016 Greg Reynolds