Lot 1008 – James I, third coinage, rose ryal, mm. spur rowel (1619-1620)
A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds …..
Analysis regarding scarce coins, markets, and coin collecting #350
As part of a major sale on September 30, 2016, St. James Auctions in London will offer a Rose-Ryal, 30 Shilling gold coin from the third period (1619-25) of coinage of King James I. Although surviving large gold coins of King James I tend to exhibit sharp and extensive design detail, this particular coin is exceptional in this regard. Additionally, this is a rare coin with much historical significance. In this article, the prior history of such majestic gold coins is covered and auction results for other Rose-Ryals of this type are discussed.
Assuming that the pedigree listing in the St. James catalogue is accurate, this same coin was in several important auctions dating back to a Sotheby’s event in 1821! Reportedly, this Rose-Ryal was formerly in the Hyman Montagu Collection, one of the five all-time greatest sets of English coins ever assembled, and in the famous Watters Collection, which also included the Childs-Pogue 1804 silver dollar. Glendinings auctioned the C. E. Watters Collection in London in 1917.
Gold Nobles Before Gold Sovereigns
Rose-Ryals are fascinating coins that had a special role in the history of English coinage. They are the successors of the majestic Gold Sovereigns, which are rarer and historically more important than the British Sovereigns that have been struck since 1818.
Indeed, to understand the meaning of a Rose-Ryal, there is need to reflect upon the history of the Gold Sovereign coin. Parts of this history were covered in my articles on Gold Sovereigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII and Mary I.
The Gold Sovereign is a coin denomination that was instituted to serve more of a political purpose than an economic one, though Gold Sovereigns were used as money and did circulate (mostly in large transactions). In an era long before credit cards, debit cards and personal checking accounts became common, merchants often demanded payment in gold coins for large transactions. Also, buyers impressed sellers and observers by paying with Gold Sovereigns.
King Henry VII introduced the first Gold Sovereign. It’s not clear to historians exactly when the first were struck, but certainly it was sometime between 1488 and 1492.
Before Gold Sovereigns, the Gold Noble was considered a large and impressive gold coin, which was a great source of pride for the people of England. A Gold Noble coin, however, is notably smaller than a Gold Sovereign.
The history of the Gold Noble, the Ryal and the Gold Sovereign are intertwined. The Gold Noble was introduced by Edward III in 1344.
By the 1460s, rising market values for gold as a metal were such that the 80-pence (“6/8”) Gold Noble was no longer practical. King Edward IV then modified the system of coinage and introduced two new gold denominations. The Edward IV Ryal, which is also called a Rose-Noble, had a face value of 10 shillings (120 pence) and was specified to weigh 120 grains (a quarter of a Troy ounce) – a little more than the specified weight of the the last of the Gold Nobles, which had been debased. The Gold Nobles of the mid-1400s each contained much less gold than the first Gold Nobles in 1344.
During the 1460s, the Edward IV Ryal (Rose-Noble) somewhat fulfilled the original role of the Gold Noble and the Gold Angel was introduced to fulfill the role the Gold Noble had been serving in the mid-1400s. The Gold Angel had the same nominal denomination as the Gold Noble, 80 pence (6s 8d).
Although these coins had major political overtones and implications, the purposes of the Gold Noble and the Gold Angel were primarily economic. Gold Sovereigns, in contrast, were more explicitly political in nature.
When Henry Tudor became King Henry VII in 1485, he was the victor of a conflict between two branches of the royal family that had been raging for decades and was to continue. This conflict, the “War of the Roses“, was not always violent. It was often characterized by peaceful power struggles, conspiracies and espionage. It was destabilizing.
The royals of the “House of Lancaster” and their allies were known as “red roses”. The royal family members of the “House of York” and their respective supporters were “white roses”.
Henry VII, a red rose, was not exactly foremost in a traditional line of succession and his ascendancy to the throne was very controversial. Some white roses attempted to usurp his regime. There was a need for Henry VII to emphasize his view that he was the sole, legitimate king of England and to solidify his support.
Henry VII married Princess Elizabeth of York. She was the daughter of King Richard IV and a niece of King Richard III, Henry’s rivals. A red rose thus married a white rose. Moreover, she was nearly at the top of the royal hierarchy. Elizabeth herself had a plausible claim to the throne.
On coins and on flags, the symbol of the “House of Tudor” was a combination of a white rose and a red rose. This image of combined roses is central to the reverse design of the Gold Sovereigns of Henry VII and was very important to the people of England, who were weary of domestic power struggles and political uprisings.
Gold Sovereign from a Red Rose
From the 1400s to the early 1600s, the gold percentage of a Gold Sovereign ranged from slightly above 90% to nearly 100%. So called “fine” gold was nearly 100% pure.
I refer to percentages here, as the archaic terminology for ratios and fineness of that time period is confusing to many.
At various times, changes in monetary conditions and policies resulted in changes in the weight and/or gold percentage of Gold Sovereigns. Originally, these coins were intended to be nearly 100% gold and to each weigh exactly one-half of a Troy ounce (240 grains = 15.55 grams).
Generally, unchanging specifications for coin denominations prove impractical over time. The value of gold bullion fluctuates, as does the value of a nation’s currency.
During some periods, actual weight fell to around two-fifths of a Troy ounce (192 grains). The Gold Sovereigns of the third coinage of Henry VIII, son of Henry VII, and the posthumous Henry VIII issues under King Edward VI (1547-53) were not quite faithful to the original concept of the Gold Sovereign circa 1490. In 1553, however, Queen Mary I revived the Gold Sovereign concept of her grandfather, Henry VII, though with a portrait of herself, of course. Mary’s half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), continued the tradition of issuing 30 Shilling Gold Sovereigns of the general design introduced by King Henry VII circa 1490.
Essentially, all the Tudor monarchs issued Gold Sovereigns with the ‘shield on white and red roses’ reverse design. With the death of the childless Elizabeth I in 1603, the Tudor dynasty ended.
King James VI of Scotland then became King James I of England. Although James I was the first king of the “House of Stuart”, a new dynasty, it is astonishing that historians do not emphasize James’ lineal linkage to King Henry VII, the first Tudor king.
The parents of King James I were cousins. They were Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. In this context, the Scottish last name “Stewart” and the English last name “Stuart” are equivalent. Both parents of King James I were grandchildren of Margaret Tudor, a daughter of King Henry VII.
Margaret Tudor was Princess of England by birth and Queen of Scotland by marriage. She married the Scottish king James IV in 1503 and was the mother of Scottish king James V. After the death of her first husband in 1513, she remarried. Margaret Tudor and her second husband, the Sixth Earl of Angus, are the parents of Countess Margaret Douglas, who is the mother of Lord Darnley, also known as Henry Stewart and the father of King James I.
Therefore, King James I was a great-great-grandson twice over of King Henry VII of England, a red rose, and Elizabeth of York, a white rose. The rose metaphors directly relate to coins as the first 30 Shilling coins under King James I (S-2613) featured the ‘shield on white and red roses’ reverse design, and was very similar overall to the first Gold Sovereign, issued by King Henry VII circa 1490.
In a meaningful sense, the “Rose-Ryal” (Spink #2613) coined during the period from 1604 to 1619 is really a majestic Gold Sovereign, the last of a species, and should not have been called a Rose-Ryal. The large diameter, the 30 Shilling denomination, the nearly 100% purity, the specified weight of notably more than two-fifths a Troy ounce, the artistry of the obverse and the ‘shield on roses’ reverse altogether qualify the first (S-2613) “Rose-Ryal” type (1604-19) as a Gold Sovereign in the traditions of all the Tudor monarchs.
Rose-Ryal in Upcoming Auction
The Rose-Ryals of 1619-25 (S-2632 and S-2633) feature a distinctive reverse design, with rose design elements employed in a novel manner. These Rose-Ryals constitute a new design type, which dates from 1619 to 1625 or so.
The S-2632 Rose-Ryal that St. James will auction on September 30 is not certified and I have never seen it. Many of the other English gold coins, from the 1300s to the 1600s, in this same auction are NGC-certified.
While this coin is almost certainly uncirculated, no one expects a coin from the 1600s to be nearly perfect. From interpretations of published images, it would not make sense to hypothesize as to how this coin would be or should be graded in accordance with U.S. standards. It is apparent, however, that this coin has exceptional detail and almost zero contact marks.
Past Auction Results
In 2005, the Goldbergs auctioned a Rose-Ryal of this same (S-2632) variety that was NGC-graded as “MS-65.” [left] This was in the famous “Cheshire Collection” and realized $41,400 USD. Market prices for such coins continued to rise from 2005 until the middle of 2008 and again in recent years.
On May 26, 2008, the Terner-Millennia (S-2633) Rose-Ryal, with Trefoil mintmark, was auctioned by the Goldbergs for $48,300. It was NGC-graded as MS-63.
This Terner-Millennia Rose-Ryal was acquired by Paul Broughton and auctioned by Spink in London on March 22, 2016, as part of Broughton’s collection. The price realized is ambiguous as different buyers paid different VAT and other fees. The total amount paid by the buyer was at least £38,400. At the close of trading on March 22, one British pound was worth about $1.42 USD. So this coin then sold for at least $54,528 six months ago.
This Cook Collection Rose-Ryal was struck with the same spur rowel mintmark as the coin in the upcoming St. James auction. It does, though, appear to be a different coin. On the Cook coin, the dentils above RE in REX are well formed, while they are faint and incomplete on the coin to be offered this month. On the Cook coin. the letters in JACOBVS (Latin for James) have imperfections, while these letters are amazingly sharp on the coin that St. James will auction. There are additional differences.
On March 22, 2016, Spink sold Paul Broughton’s S-2632 Rose-Ryal, which has probably never been sent to NGC or PCGS. It realized £36,000 (not including VAT, if applicable). Therefore, this second Broughton Collection Rose-Ryal of the 1619-25 period brought at least the equivalent of $51,120.
According to the cataloguer for Spink, this Broughton coin was earlier in two Stack’s (NY) sales, including the sale in 1981 of Harold Bareford’s English coins. Apparently, this Bareford-Broughton Rose-Ryal was also in the Samuel King Collection, and was auctioned by Spink in May 2005. The Samuel King Collection is legendary.
Like the coin that the St. James firm will auction in a few days, Broughton’s coin has a spur rowel mintmark and does exhibit sharp detail. From images, however, the Broughton coin appears to be different from the coin that will soon be offered later this month.
On August 13, 2013, in Rosemont, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned two (S-2632) 1619-25 era Rose-Ryals, along with two (S-1613) earlier James I pieces, all from the Thomas Law Collection [Right]. All four were uncertified (to my recollection, however, all of the pre-1650 coins in the Thomas Law Collection were not certified). The Law Collection was the most extensive set of British gold coins that I have ever seen, perhaps the most extensive ever to have been auctioned in the United States.
The first Law S-2632 Rose-Ryal was catalogued as “Choice Extremely Fine,” perhaps via a European grading standard. This is clearly a Choice Uncirculated coin. There is no doubt about it. A “MS-64” grade assignment for this coin from one of the two leading grading services would not be surprising at all.
This Rose-Ryal has the same spur rowel mintmark as the coin that St. James will auction, though is certainly a different coin. They both have exceptional detail. This Law Collection piece brought $44,062.50.
The second Law Collection S-2632 Rose-Ryal, that one with a lis mintmark, is not nearly of the same quality as the first. It is not even in the same league, yet it did not bring all that much less, $35,250, a strong price at the time.
On January 14, 2014, in New York, Heritage auctioned the cream of the European coins in the Eric P. Newman Collection, and other items from that collection. The Newman Collection S-2632 has a lis mintmark and was said by the cataloguer to have been struck in 1623 or ’24.
The Newman Collection Rose-Ryal was authenticated at NGC and said to have the details of an uncirculated coin, with scratches on the reverse. In my opinion, the scratches on the reverse appear worse in actuality than they do in published images. Also, this coin has been lightly mounted, which is not unusual for pre-1800 British gold, especially large pieces. It is otherwise mostly original and features a nice golden color, which is not too bright. This is a neat coin that would fit into a set of coins that are gradable. A bidder from Southern Europe captured this Rose-Ryal for $31,725.
This year, at the New York International (NYINC) in January, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS graded AU-55 (S-2632) Rose-Ryal for $32,900. It seems to have a thistle mintmark and the “standard” Spink reference suggests that it was minted between 1621 and 1623. For a circulated gold coin that’s nearly four hundred years old, it is impressive.
Although subject to a medium liquid cleaning long ago, this Rose-Ryal has naturally retoned in a nice manner. There are colors that are not apparent in the catalogue images. The coin is a tan gold overall, with greenish tints about the center and reddish hues in the obverse fields. The reverse is not as attractive, though it features red and russet tints, with a slight green shade here and there. And even though it’s not dynamic, this coin is mostly original and pleasing.
This PCGS-graded AU-55 Rose-Ryal scores high in the technical category. The few hairlines on the obverse and edge imperfections are very minor, hardly worth mentioning. The $32,900 result is a fair retail price, and a better value than the $31,725 paid for the just-mentioned Newman coin.
Also this year, on January 4, Heritage auctioned an NGC-graded EF-45 S-2632 Rose-Ryal for $14,100. I examined it and am not commenting on this coin here. In January 2010, Heritage auctioned the exact same coin, with the same serial number from NGC, for $12,650.
The S-2633 variety is very similar to the S-2632, though rarer. The most apparent difference in design is that there are open fields near the head of King James on S-2633 Rose-Ryals where the same areas are characterized by ornaments on Rose-Ryals of the S-2632 variety.
Rose-Ryals of the S-2633 variety do not appear often. The Terner-Millennia-Broughton piece was already mentioned. Back in 2006, Heritage auctioned an NGC-graded AU-55 Rose-Ryal of this S-2633 variety for $17,250.
In sum, Rose-Ryals minted from 1619 to 1625 could be worth anywhere from $8,000 to $80,000, depending upon the physical characteristics of the respective coin. Coins of the S-2633 are worth somewhat more than the S-2632, if all other factors are, more or less, equal. It is plausible, though unlikely, that rarer mint marks of the S-2632 are worth significant premiums.
Like the Gold Sovereigns before them, King James I Rose-Ryals are large, politically imposing coins. Importantly, King James I was also Scottish King James VI and he added a Latin term for Great Britain to the design of coins. In addition to showcasing the respective issuing monarch, Gold Sovereigns of the Tudors and James I Rose-Ryals embody themes of unity, legitimacy and confidence.
© 2016 Greg Reynolds
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